interview with k.b. goddard
When I first went online with my writing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d spent so long quietly assuming that some publisher or literary agent would hear about me and track me down. When I first went onto social media to set up my stall, I felt like a bit of a failure. Luckily, as time went on, I got to meet a lot of interesting and fantastic writers.
I first became aware of K.B. Goddard through Shadows at the Door and Twitter. Intrigued by her ghoulish combination of insightful characters, graceful prose and old fashioned ghost story scares, I was soon hooked on her writing. Last month I was fortunate enough to be allowed an early preview of her new novella ‘The Girl with The Roses’. When I offered to post a review, I also asked if I could send a few questions her way as well. Thankfully, she had the time to answer them.
CL: I absolutely love the idea of The Haunted Auctions. It’s a great device for telling multiple stories and it perfectly suits your writing style. Where did Thornhill and Swift first come from?
KBG: There are a mixture of influences in the concept really. I was keen to find an idea that could provide a connecting thread between stories, with a view to creating a possible series. At the same time, I wanted the stories to be able to stand alone. The idea for the auctions was an amalgamation of ideas. I read the Arthur Conan Doyle story ‘Lot 249’ which featured a mummy bought from an auction. Then there was ‘The Diary of Mr Poynter’ by M. R. James. I also stumbled across articles about items with curses attached to them, for example, I read one about a ring worn by Rudolph Valentino in one of his films that was said to be cursed. I just find the idea of a haunted/cursed object fascinating, and I’m intrigued to explore how and why these objects got their reputations and why anyone would either risk or want to own them. In my mind, I could see figures stepping out of the fog on a gas lit street, late at night on their way to bid on one of these objects at a semi-secretive auction.
CL: This story has given me a new phobia of statues holding roses. Are there any real life inspirations for Charlotte Salt’s unfortunate story?
KBG: Yes! There is actually a statue known as Fair Flora in Derbyshire - I’ve never been to see her myself, however - There are several different versions of her story but some claim she has been known to come to life. So although the story itself was my creation I did take inspiration from Flora.
CL: I’m quite lazy when it comes to research. When did you first begin to research your stories and do you research to find details for a particular story or is it more a case of researching to find inspiration for starting stories?
KBG: Well, I knew when I started writing historical ghost stories I’d need to research the era and especially its connection with the supernatural. That’s not always about the specific historical detail you put into the books but about understanding the mindset of the characters you are creating. To understand why they feel the way they do, what effect their society might have on their feelings and their actions. I wanted to have some grasp of how the supernatural helped or hindered these people for whom death was an ever present danger, to a far greater extent than today.
Although I’m always fascinated by history I can sometimes find research a bit frustrating, mainly because I can’t find the detail I want when I want it. I have a bit of a mixed approach to research. When I’m writing a story, I sometimes find I need to stop and check some particular detail. I don’t want to bog my books down in research but at the same time, I am always concerned I’ll make some huge anachronistic blunder. Between stories, on the other hand, I keep books on local ghost stories around. I search the internet looking at “real life” ghost stories for that spark of inspiration. There’s often an intriguing detail or point of curiosity that can be explored in fiction.
CL: As its firmly grounded within the world of the classic ghost story, it’s easy to imagine an illustrated version of ‘The Girl with The Roses’. Are there any moments or images you’d like to see an illustration for and a particular style you’d want used for them?
KBG: I don’t want to give too much away about the book but there is a moment towards the end where something happens to the statue. I think an atmospheric, flickery GIF of that moment could be beautiful, and a bit freaky. A nice mix of old and new. But also an old fashioned black and white illustration, like the Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand, would be lovely.
CL: When I heard you were setting your story for the Shadows at the Door Anthology in Eyam, I was curious to see if you’d use one of the many recorded stories in that little town’s history as a starting point. Are there any real life hauntings, myths or crimes you’d love to adapt into a story one day?
KBG: Well, in fairness I should say the story wasn’t actually set in Eyam itself; it was a fictional village, but Eyam and its neighbour Stoney Middleton did provide the inspiration for the landscape and for the discovery of a body in a cave. Back in the 1700’s there really was a body found in a cave between Eyam and Stoney Middleton, in entirely different circumstances I must add! So, I suppose in a way I already have adapted one local crime. But Derbyshire is just full of ghosts and legends waiting to be adapted.
CL: All the characters in your stories feel incredibly authentic. I was wondering if you’ve ever been tempted to write a story from a character’s point of view in a full Derbyshire accent?
KBG: It’s an interesting question. On the one hand, it is tempting to set one here and make it feel more regional but it does present difficulties. When Mark Nixon said he wanted us to set our stories in our home regions I realised I was going to have to give some real thought to the way my characters would speak. My characters in ‘A Macabre Melody’ were working class. In most of my other stories, the main characters have been more middle class. Although I have always tried to make alterations to the speech patterns and expressions of the characters to show the difference in class I hadn’t attempted actually writing dialect before. It was challenging because I wanted the characters to sound authentic, but I was also conscious of the fact that this was an international collection and it needed to not appear so alien on the page that people didn’t understand it. It was definitely a balancing act but an enjoyable one. So yes, it’s something I’m open to.
CL: Your stories have a wonderful growing sense of atmospheric dread. When you’re writing them do you work from a plan and know where you’re leading the reader or is it more a case of discovering the end as you reach it yourself during the first draft?
KBG: Usually I like to know the ending myself before I start, otherwise, I tend to get a bit lost and run out of steam. That said I often change the route on the way or take a detour when something isn’t quite working. I aim to end at the same destination though. Sometimes I also have key scenes in mind that might have taken shape in my head before the beginning or the end and they act as sort of mile posts along the way.
CL: Which writers have most influenced you work over the years?
KBG: Conan Doyle, I’d say all those Sherlock Holmes stories I read as a teenager are what got me sounding like a Victorian when I wrote and led me to try doing it deliberately. Some of Conan Doyle’s supernatural fiction is excellent too. M. R. James is an obvious one, he was one of those writers who taught me to love the bizarre and mysterious side of the supernatural and he created some really memorable ghost stories without having to resort to blood and guts.
CL: I can see your stories working brilliantly in a theatre. Have you ever considered adapting your work for the stage?
KBG: Thank you for saying that. That is actually a huge compliment because I just love the theatre. I have considered having a go at stage writing, or perhaps radio drama writing. I did study scriptwriting as part of my Open University degree and I thought then it was something I’d like to explore in the future. I also studied performing arts as a teenager and I was just left with this love of the theatre (not that I get to go very often). So, to have my work performed on stage would be hugely exciting for me.
CL: Can you give us any clues or hints about the next item that’s coming up for auction at Thornhill and Swift?
KBG: ‘The Girl with The Roses’ is very much a toe in the water for the auctions. I wanted to see how people responded to the concept before rolling out a full auction catalogue, so to speak. However, I do have a list of potential items to include. Watch this space…
I’d like to thank K.B. for taking some time to give me some really great answers for this interview. Remember, you can find her work all available online, she has a story in the Shadows at the Door Anthology and also has been featured on both The Wicked Library and The Lift podcasts.
Her new book ‘The Girl with The Roses’ is well worth pre-ordering. Not too sure? There’s a review on The Blank Page from a couple of weeks ago. I’ve also put some links below for pre-ordering the e-book on Amazon and Kobo, along with the link to Feed A Read for ordering the hardback, paperback and also her volume of ‘12 Ghostly Tales’ in a hardback edition. Another purchase I can highly recommend. That should keep you all busy for a while.