I have posted elsewhere that the inspiration for this story originated in a nightmare I had, where I was in Stromness Museum, unrolling an old painting. The picture showed a drowning (or drowned) girl in a lake, or some other body of dark green water. Macabre enough in its own way, but not especially scary, just an odd dream. The nightmare came when she opened her eyes, and the terror in them jolted me awake.
This isn't the first time a dream of mine has triggered off a story. Indeed, there are some plot lines tacked to a board above my desk that testify to the vivid clarity of some of my most frightening nightmares. They'll all get written one of these days, but for now it's Grace's turn.
As my dream had been set in Stromness Museum, I suppose it was only natural that I would turn to the Orkneys for my settings. I created my own island - Arnsay -a sort of mash-up between the Orkney Mainland and the island of Hoy, with variations to suit the story.
I have visited Orkney many times. There is a magic about those islands, off the north coast of Scotland. Away from the main towns of Kirkwall and Stromness, an aura of calm, timelessness and peace surrounds you. The light is different there too. There are days when it is positively silver; shimmering and mystical. And then there's the history. The tall standing stones at Brodgar form a perfect circle, built around 2500-2000BC. For centuries people made their way there for reasons we cannot be certain of. To worship perhaps. Maybe to honour their dead - there are burial mounds all around there. As at Stonehenge and Avebury, their counterparts hundreds of miles to the south, visitors come to touch the stones, to meditate and try and make some form of contact with their power. Some even marry there.
The Neolithic village of Skara Brae, uncovered during a massive storm in 1850, with its network of interconnecting passageways and remnants of stone furniture, requires little imagination to recreate the everyday lives of the people who lived here some 5000 years ago, and deserted their village at around the time the standing stones were being erected. One house in particular is so well preserved you can see the stone dresser, beds, central hearth, storage cupboards. You could almost move in!
There are lakes aplenty - both salt and fresh water - and standing by the calm waters, with the ever-present wind blowing through my hair, I watch kittiwakes and arctic terns swooping down, before rising high in the sky. I see oystercatchers feeding, their orange-red bills providing a vivid splash of colour. There are puffins, fulmars, guillemots and skuas and a whole host of birds rarely seen elsewhere in the U.K. They add to the uniqueness of this unspoiled landscape.
Many stories have been told and written of these islands and will continue to be, as their beauty and majesty captures generation after generation.
But only part of Saving Grace Devine is set up there.
Another part of the story takes place in Edinburgh - one of my favourite places. This city has a fascinating history, both above and below ground. There's the old city and the new one (dating from Georgian times). In the Old City (in the vicinity of the Royal Mile), beneath what is now ground level, lies a network of narrow streets, known as Closes, where people were born, lived, worked and died. It is said the infamous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare hid their bodies down here. Persistent stories of plague, murder and hauntings abound. And in Mary King's Close, a lost and lonely little ghost girl searches for her missing doll...
The Real Mary King's Close is a tourist attraction, and an absolute must for anyone even vaguely interested in history in general and/or hauntings in particular. Four hundred years of human habitation have left their mark and the whole place is brimfull of atmosphere. Whenever I've visited there, I have had the distinct impression I was being watched; that something lurked in the shadows, just out of my range of vision. Something evil. Menacing. Needless to say, part of my story had to be set there.
My main character - Alex Fletcher - finds herself cast back in time to the Edinburgh of 1912, with its unfamiliar sights and sounds. In a well to do part of the city, who knows what lurks behind the elegant facades? There, evil awaits her, and her very soul is in peril.
Can the living help the dead...and at what cost?
When Alex Fletcher finds a painting of a drowned girl, she’s unnerved. When the girl in the painting opens her eyes, she is terrified. And when the girl appears to her as an apparition and begs her for help, Alex can’t refuse.
and you might find these links interesting;