Today on Rock Paper Spirit, I’m welcoming Fiona Glass, author of the paranormal romance novella Got Ghosts?. We’ve come to a beautiful English manor house for this interview, one that is actually from Got Ghosts?. It’s called Greystones Hall and dates back to medieval times. So, as someone who firmly believes that ghosts exist and walk among us, I thought I’d do a spot of ghost hunting.
Welcome Fiona! Tell us a bit about this novella.
Hi and thanks so much for letting me witter on about myself here – I really appreciate it! Hmm, where do I start? Well, Got Ghosts? is no ordinary ghost story, because the ghosts are actually the good guys. Well, most of them at any rate. Emily Price lives at Greystones Hall, and like most owners of beautiful ancient properties, she’s always short of cash for repairs and renovations. So when the hit TV show ‘Got Ghosts?’ asks to come and film at the house, she reluctantly agrees. Of course, nothing goes as planned and the show’s medium stirs up an unpleasant spirit who threatens Emily and her ‘family’ of ghosts. Can she, back-up medium Guy, and her beloved ghostly grandfather Gramps find out what the evil spirit wants before it’s too late? And what do a roomful of missing paintings have to do with the mystery?
That sounds like a great plot! What made you start writing paranormal romance? Were you drawn to it as a reader before you started writing?
Yes, I love anything creepy – quietly creepy rather than full-on horror and gore. One favourite which helped to inspire Got Ghosts? was Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer, which combines adventure and apparently ghostly monks in a really fun book, and I also love some of Mary Stewart’s romance-with-a-touch-of-supernatural novels like Thornyhold and Touch Not the Cat.
Imagine you’re at a medieval banquet. You can pick any three people of that era to join your table. Who do you choose? Bonus points for telling us which of them is most likely to start a food fight.
I prefer less well-known and quirkier people to the usual kings and queens. I’d love to meet a twelfth-century monk called Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote a book about the kings and queens of England, and chat to him about where he got his information from and whether he saw any difference between monarchs we see as real people, and the ones we now think of as myths. I’d also like to invite Lisa Gherardini, better known as the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa portrait, and ask her what someone had just said to her to make her smirk like that. Lastly, I think the architect/master mason who built Chesterfield parish church in Derbyshire. It’s famous for having a massive twist in the spire and I’d love find out how drunk he was, and why he didn’t just stop and have a re-think half way up.
As to the food fight, I think the Mona Lisa was the one who started that. She looks exactly as though she’s just chucked a cream bun at someone and is trying to pretend she hasn’t…
Uh, Fiona? That suit of armour at the end of the corridor just moved…on it’s own. Did you see it?
Oh, don’t worry, that’s just Sir Philip. He gets up and clanks about from time to time but he’s quite harmless really. As long as you avoid the swinging club– ooops, sorry about that. Have a hankie. There’s plasters in the bathroom cabinet.
Ouch. I’m going to stay calm. Speaking of staying calm, how do you deal with book reviews? Do you read them?
I do, because authors have to do a lot of their own marketing these days so I need to keep an eye on reviews so I can pass them on if they’re any good. After all, there’s nothing like word of mouth to encourage people to try new authors or books, especially if someone has really enjoyed my writing – and been kind enough to say so. And I’ve learned to cope with the occasional clunkers far better than I used to.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures? Do you make them purely fictitious or do you add in real facts?
All my characters are completely imaginary, even the historical ones. I occasionally use characteristics that I’ve seen in real people, but I mix them up and never, ever, make them recognisable. And although my books contain historical references, I don’t really write historical fiction as such, so there’s less need to put real-life characters such as kings and queens in them.
This manor house is gorgeous, but do you find it a bit chilly? Brrr. Anyway, you studied history, didn’t you? How much has that influenced your writing?
It’s freezing in winter when the rain gets in through the gaps in the roof. That’s why Emily was so keen to make a bit of money to repair the place, but look how that ended up! And yes, I studied (believe it or not) Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology at university. I don’t use it directly to write historical fiction, but I do find it helps enormously when I need to use historical themes in my books – if only to give me a starting point, and the knowledge of how to do further research.
Let’s go into the library and see what’s books the owner has. *sees a transparent white figure which quickly disappears* Aww, why did he leave? I was hoping to ask that ghost some questions too.
Do you know, I have absolutely no idea who that was! I’ll have to ask Emily’s grandfather – he knows all the ghosts round here. But new ghosts show up at Greystones Hall all the time and I’m constantly bumping into spirits I’ve never met before. It’s quite handy because it’s given me some ideas for a sequel to Got Ghosts that I’m currently playing around with.
Is there a particular book that has stayed with you throughout your life and is a lifelong favourite?
I couldn’t narrow it down to one, but the couple by Mary Stewart that I’ve already mentioned would be near the top of the list, along with Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand (a brilliant mix of historical and contemporary), and Mary Renault’s The Charioteer, and the Lymond chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. And The Lord of the Rings, and… oh dear, I seem to have listed pretty much the whole of Greystones Hall’s library by mistake…
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before you finish a book?
I tend to plunge straight into writing a book and then fact-check as I go along. For Got Ghosts I researched the equipment and methods a TV production company would use, as well as reading up on priest holes and other hiding places in medieval houses – and even the basics of exorcism! But a lot of my writing is based on people and the way they react to the events happening around them, and I don’t need as much research for that.
And because no Lacey interview is complete without this question, what’s your favourite biscuit?
Thanks, I’ll have a dark-chocolate-coated ginger biscuit if you’re offering…
Fiona, thank you so much for joining me on this tour of Greystones Hall. Can you finish by letting us know where we can find you online and where we can buy your books?
Sure. I tend to er, haunt the internet rather a lot and you can track me down on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog, where I ramble on about history, art, architecture, ghosts, my writing, and various trips out my husband and I have around our wonderful home county of Cumbria. You can also find out much more about me, my books and in particular where to buy Got Ghosts?, over at my website, www.fiona-glass.com.
Huge thanks to Lacey for posing such fun questions, and to everyone else for putting up with me!