MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SARAH ENGLAND
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Occult Horror, and Dark Psychological Thrillers with a supernatural element.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
I have the Father of Lies trilogy, which is pure occult horror.
Father of Lies, 2. Tanners Dell, and 3, Magda. After that there is an off-shoot, which delves deeply into traditional witchcraft, called The Owlmen. I have also written a supernatural thriller called, The Soprano, and most recently – out now, is Hidden Company, a dark psychological thriller. All are set in isolated rural areas in the UK.
The idea for Father of Lies came after meeting a lady who has what used to be called multiple personality disorder (now DID). I was a magazine writer at the time and had a background in nursing and psychiatry – but after meeting her I began to do research into what she had suffered – satanic ritual abuse, and later, cases of possession. 90% of DID cases are as a direct result of child abuse, but she had been subjected to something even worse. I won’t go into too much detail here but we are talking about things like burning upside down crosses on the soles of a child’s feet!! Needless to say, the research I did, including many hours with this lady who was, and remains, ill were highly disturbing and affected me deeply.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I started reading whole adult novels at around the age of 7. My mother was an English teacher and we had a lot of wet, cold holidays in a caravan! She would hand over her Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer books – historical romance..lol…and I devoured them even at that young age. After that it was a deep love of Thomas Hardy and the Brontes, followed by Susan Hill, and in my teens – James Herbert. I have always been an avid reader and would have loved to study English and work in publishing. Alas, as a teen I went off the rails and it was a case of, back in the seventies, ‘what shall we do with her?’ I kind of ended up doing nursing, and after that I worked in pharmaceuticals specialising in psychiatry, which I love. With regard to this particular genre… well I am just drawn to the dark side. I find it the most glitteringly fascinating of all…
What kind of research did you do for this book?
During the writing of Father of Lies I had some research on my bookshelf which scared the living daylights out of me. I began to have some unnerving paranormal experiences and couldnt’ write the book except in very small sessions and always in full daylight. I gave the books to a friend and she burned them because the entire concept freaked her out… that kind of ‘when you look at or become interested in the satanic or the dark side, it looks back and becomes interested in you….’ I wrote many more after that and I am going down some pretty hair-raising paths… but thankfully I have guidance now from a traditional witch based in North America, Raven Wood – and she has helped me see the witchcraft and the dark arts in a whole new way. And with my latest, Hidden Company, I’m exploring the supernatural on levels I did not previously know existed. So, in a nutshell… things develop, and over the last few years I have found a home in writing occult horror and thrillers… it is an endlessly fascinating subject – and I find beauty in the darkness, in the writing of it, and in the images I hope to convey. I should add that the more I read and understand on the subject the less fearful I have become!
I think horror is constantly popular because fear of the unknown is perhaps our greatest fear. No one knows what happens after death and there have been so many strange tales and events over thousands of years the world over, to leave us constantly intrigued. It is also a safe fear – reading about it or watching it…. and part of our range of emotions. Personally I am not afraid of or moved by the world of zombies and the apocalypse. And am not into blood and gore or torture. I like my horror subtle and preferably intelligent – ie intriguing. I also like a darned good spooky ghost story. I think the UK lends itself so well to the spooky….. thinking of MR James and Susan Hill… and even the Brontes… Perhaps it is the drear weather, or the moors, mountains and forests… or the old houses and pagan traditions, but I love all that. My favourite horror authors are those who convey that level of creeping dread, whose prose is beautiful and whose characters I can believe in. I’d go for Susan Hill, James Herbert and MR James. I also love Edgar Allen Poe and some of Stephen King’s. I draw from the gothic and from the Brontes and Hardy too… in terms of locality and bringing in the weather! Most of mine are set in the north of England on the moors… be it the Peak District and South Yorkshire, or the North Staffs Moors… the latest being in the heart of mountainous Wales. All the places are remote, isolated…. incestuous if you like… and secretive. Shudders….
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Out of the Father of Lies trilogy I like the first one the best – Father of Lies. I love the psychiatrist’s descent into total demonic madness…..
Was it always meant to become a series?
No – it was supposed to be one book. It was actually the readers who demanded to know more…
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Yes. Hidden Company is launched on the 26th December.
A dark psychological thriller set in a Victorian asylum in the heart of Wales.
Warning – contains highly disturbing material!
1893, and nineteen year old Flora George is admitted to a remote asylum with no idea why she is there, what happened to her child, or how her wealthy family could have abandoned her to such a fate. However, within a short space of time it becomes apparent she must save herself from something far worse than that of a harsh regime.
2018, and forty-one year old Isobel Lee moves into the gatehouse of what was once the old asylum. A reluctant medium, it is with dismay she realises there is a terrible secret here – one desperate to be heard. Angry and upset, Isobel baulks at what she must now face. But with the help of local dark arts practitioner, Branwen, face it she must.
This is a dark story of human cruelty, folklore and superstition. But the human spirit can and will prevail…unless of course, the wrath of the fae is incited…
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
The names come to me… they kind of fit the character and also the era. In The Soprano, which is specific to a very small part of North Staffordshire, the names are those from memory, who lived in that area at that time. All of my books are very area specific, and as such the names chosen reflect that. I’d say names are hugely important. In the latest, Hidden Company, which is set in Wales, most of the names are Welsh, but the main ones are inspired by Edgar Allen Poe – some of his characters and some of his stories. Again – it just fits!
Where do your ideas come from?
My head. I am inspired by people and places, and drawn to specific kinds of research and reading – the rest takes form…
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Yes, Gothic! Gothic horror. My next book is extremely dark occult horror but the one after that I will swing back to the Victorian age. I love the dark, spookiness of this particular era in England.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The discipline of plotting.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I might try one… but I do spend all my time writing and am not good with the marketing side.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
The latest – Hidden Company
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Being free. Poor but free… and creative.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Writing … the books I need to write are forming a line… it will take me that long… I will never stop.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Well I have learned a lot and all the hard way! lol….. But I’d say read and read and read. Read the best and read the classics and read the bestsellers. Also, take time to learn the craft – it is hard…. mostly trial and error but a foundation course will hold you in good stead.
Finally, you’ve got to want to do it because there isn’t much money in it for most of us, and always pay for an editor. Everyone needs an editor!!!
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Well I was a nurse and then a medical rep. If I had the option of going back in time I would have worked in publishing, but if I wasn’t completely drawn to this then I’d say something like a healer… maybe a dermatologist or a facialist….I love all things to do with beauty too… so possibly an artist. As it was… yeah, I was a rep! gaaa…………..
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I do. Most are really wonderful. Occasionally there is someone very rude who says something like, 1* ‘I am sick of Tanners Dell’ (yet they bought book 4, which clearly stated what it was about!!!) or 1* ‘Ihaven’t read it yet.’ I have only responded to one, which was about 500 words long and pretty nasty… I am not sure what their problem was. But I have about 850 reviews just for the Father of Lies trilogy now and mostly they just blow me away. I kept going because of the readers. Most of my reviews are in the UK as the books are very English (and most recently Welsh) often including dialect… but honestly, I could have given up many times over, as there is no money in this and most doors have slammed in my face in the publishing world, but those readers kept me going… and still do.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Oh, the marketing. I try hard but the selling yourself bit is the devil’s own.
What are you working on now?
I have only just finished Hidden Company, which is out on the 26th December. The next one is lined up… I send out newsletters, which are via my website… http://www.sarahenglandauthor.co.uk and I will be sending one out early in the new year on this very subject.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
My favourite is Ellie Blake in The Owlmen. Poor Ellie was a medical rep (sigh) and lost her way in the world. She decides to pursue traditional witchcraft after moving to Tanners Dell, which was an old mill used for demonic practices (she didn’t know that when she bought it). Her transformation was both natural and powerful, with the help of Raven Wood, aforementioned…. Yes, I would have to say Ellie. Her journey was my journey in so many ways.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. The ideas are pure sparks. The execution, often extremely long hours and painstaking detail, wipes me out!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Yes. I am original. I am going where I don’t think any other horror or thriller writer has been… I am now, anyway. I have moved from demonology and psychiatry, to the dark arts and mixing both with history and localised areas in the north of England and Wales. I don’t copy anyone else and although I draw on my background in psychiatry and my fascination with all things occult, I research and learn and push boundaries as much as I can.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Shani Struthers, Gina Dickerson, Mark Tilbury – to name a few. Lots of us work together to try and help each other with promotion and reviews and encouragement.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
http://www.sarahenglandauthor.co.uk I have a newsletter sign up and a blog. Plus all the links to the books and a little about each are set out on individual pages.