Three old houses that inspired the settings and a part of the plot of Treacle Moon: House No. 3 is Townend, Farmhouse.

The last house out of the three, Townend Farmhouse in the Lake District, I only came across recently. I was in the final stages of editing Treacle Moon, reading and re-reading to sift out all the mistakes (as all my followers on here know, I have dyslexia so editing is quite a task and I don’t like sending books to a professional editor until the book is nearly perfect 😀 ). I was also still tweaking scenes I was not 100% happy with. At this time, there was a room … I will call it, a sticky room … in my imaginary house.

It’s very normal for authors to have sticky points in books, but it is usually with the plot. It is usually when the story you initially thought of ends up forcing a character to do something out of character, and so you need to come up with a different story direction. Or when you are missing the step change to take the story line from one point to another. But, no, this was a “sticky” room. I have never had that before.

IMG_3365Most of the scenes in my character’s house take place in the parlour/dining room, a room like the one in Swarthmoor Hall. A  room with different uses, unlike those found in upper class homes. There was another of these diverse rooms in Townend Farmhouse. A room where the family would have gathered to eat in the evening, where the women may have sat down to spin or sew in the afternoons, and to entertain themselves after dinner by reading or playing music and singing.

Other scenes take place in a bedchamber, like the bedchambers in Swarthmoor and Townend.

But I wanted a smaller more intimate setting for other scenes that needed to take place in a downstairs room. I wanted a room that was kept for a particular use, so that it wouldn’t be a busy space. This room could then have been deliberately preserved to keep a moment in time in place.

Initially the room was an office.

I have used offices before, but this is more fitting for a character who is steward, and the furniture I have seen in these settings in real life does not fit with intimate window-seat conversations. The descriptions just did not feel right.

DSC_0022In the Marlow Intrigues a lot of the most emotional scenes happen in the library.  Which I have always pictured as being very like the library at Stourhead. But of course this is no good for my lost-in-time manor house which was created in a different era and much smaller than the Duke of Pembroke’s Palladian Mansion.

There is a smaller room at Swarthmoor, but that isn’t really definable by any standard description. There are chairs against the wall and a writing desk, and that is it. My mind just would not turn that image into what I wanted the room to be. That room felt stark, a place for working not living in. I needed a comfortable space, where people would spend happy times but not a separate parlour because it would not be right for the period of the house.

I changed all references in the book to call the room a study, trying to think of it more like Byron’s rooms at Newstead Abbey, which I have been using as an inspiration for Lord Bridges small personal space.

But again, that just did not fit what I thought would be right for this lost-in-time manor house. It was too modern for that period, and it still didn’t feel like an intimate happy space. Again, it felt like a working room, and a masculine space, that would have been preserved for the use of the men in the house. I wanted a female character to feel just as at home there.

Then we visited Townend and yet again I am walking around a middle-class house, with dark oak panelling and rooms packed full of a preserved way of life that is whispering stories. Even before we walked into the house my thoughts were flowing with the issues of this “sticky” room. Because I had been working on Treacle Moon in the car while we were travelling.

Where as Swarthmoor added a sense of peace and happiness into my old house, Townend spoke of a busy way of life and a bustling atmosphere. It seemed to bring the people to life not just the spaces. Where that was most apparent, though, was in the very small library. It is tiny by comparison to Stourhead, probably less than a tenth of the size, more like a small bedroom. But this little library at Townend feels as if it was a family hub. It really was about what it felt like not what it looked like.

Literally in a second, just leaning in to look at the room, because you can’t even walk into the room as the books there are so rare, and I fell in love with that library. I knew I had found the perfect little room for the more intimate scenes in Treacle Moon. It had never even occurred to me until that moment that a middle class family would have built up a small library like this. But it was obviously a treasured space, where people in the house hid out to seek quiet, comfortable moments. It was the room I had been trying to, and failing to, imagine.

So there is not too much more to say about the library, because before I decided to share my figurative journey in development of the house in Treacle Moon, I had already shared the details in a post on this blog: A beautiful family library full of historical treasure.

IMG_4700But I will add that I did  allow other little things I discovered at Townend to creep into the story. For instance the weaver’s bowl lighting. I could imagine how, in a dark house, where people would not have been able to afford to burn beeswax candles all the time, and so would have used tallow/reed candles, how much of an atmosphere the light reflected by a large bowl of water would add. So you will find that light mentioned in one middle-of-the-night scene.

However, macon was too obscure, even though I loved discovering that they used to smoke a sheep’s, aka mutton, leg, just like bacon.

So, having given you an insight into the real houses and homes behind my fictional home, I hope you will feel as if you can really see my characters walking about and sitting in the rooms in the scenes in my lost-in-time middle class home in Treacle Moon.

As always, thank you for all your support, if you read these posts than I know you must be a real fan who likes to help others discover the books. I wish you well, and I hope you enjoy Treacle Moon as much as I loved writing it <3.

x

Jane

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Inspirations: From J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, John Fowles to The Brontë sisters and me

I never cease to be fascinated by the inspirations that send authors and artists imaginations spinning.

My own mind constantly absorbs information and I seek out opportunities for cropped-10562997_888718807805375_8533099977768604640_n.jpg inspiration and often write scenes that are set in real places. So, when I do things like standing on the harbour in Lyme Regis, I cannot help but image the moment when John Fowles watched the woman looking out to sea and the story of The French Lieutenant’s Woman began unravelling in his mind.

I particularly loved, discovering the inspirations behind Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, though. I didn’t know his inspirations at all until we visited The Vyne in Hampshire.

70192667528+RESIZED_thumb_460x00There, we discovered the gold ring with the Roman inscription, that had been found locally and shown to J. R. R. Tolkien. I could imagine him holding it and it did have a sense of glowing, with the mystery letters inscribed in the gold a bold statement. The 4th Century ring turned up in a ploughed field locally. It was not found as part of a planned excavation, it was just found, as though it wanted to be found. I wonder if you could see Tolkien’s mind spinning in the way he looked at it when he held it?

But it was not just the ring that he knew about and saw. Something else is held at The Vyne. A distance from where the ring was found, a Roman temple was excavated. The temple was built over a spring, so the spring itself was excavated. As part of their devotions, Romans would write down their prayers on small pieces of lead, mostly asking the god to do things. Then they would roll the soft lead up into a tiny scroll, so their words remained private, and throw their scroll into the holy spring. with an offering. One of these tiny lead rolls revealed a request to find a lost ring, and a curse on anyone who had stolen it. Sound familiar at all…

I love these little facts. There is no way anyone can prove that the ring and the scroll have any connection, but both ended up at The Vyne Tudor Mansion and because they were there they created such a fabulous idea for a series of books.

cropped-horse-from-bridge.jpgLike me, Tolkien was also inspired by places. The Wiltshire Downs with their undulating bare hills and the White Horse, that I grew up in the shadow of, sitting on my bedroom windowsill and staring at, appear to have formed the setting of many scenes in J. R. R. Tolkien’s books.

cropped-img_3802.jpgI won’t say anything about Jane Austen’s inspirations, because, as you know, I was so fascinated by that discovery that it became the inspiration of a whole book for me, in Jane the Authoress. But as much as she was inspired by some of the history of her wealthier relations, the Brontë sisters were inspired by the dark and brooding moor on their doorstep and by the wicked and sad life of their brother.

In the Lake District recently, when we went out for a boat trip on Coniston Water, as we cruised around the lake the guide pointed out sites that were the settings for the adventures of The Swallows and Amazons. I could clearly see that John Fowles was painting a picture in his books of a life he knew very well.

Beatrix Potter, though, is my favourite for inspirations in the Lake District. Her inspirations are easily relatable because she not only wrote them, but painted them. The paintings in her books, beyond the characters, replicate the places around where she lived. What is even more fascinating about her inspirations is that this year, I discovered that Beatrix did not live in the house where she depicted her characters in her books.

Hill Top Cottage in Sawrey Village, in the Lake District, was initially Beatrix’s holiday home. She spent a couple of weeks there at a time, but she couldn’t live there because it was not appropriate for a woman to live alone. Then she married and moved to live somewhere else in Sawrey with her husband and kept Hill Tip Cottage as place where she wrote. It makes it far more fascinating when you walk around the cottage just as she established it, with the understanding that it was created to be an inspiration for her books. What a wonderful novelty. It is also extremely brilliant that in her will she left the property and all its contents to charity with the stipulation that it must remain exactly as it was.

When we were walking around the house, because we have recently bought a IMG_4792grandfather clock, my husband now looks at them wherever he goes, and he said, ‘Has that clock always been on the stairs? I’ve never noticed it before.’

The answer is obviously yes…

I wonder if David Williams is doing that with his house for the characters for his children’s books? 😉 If not, he’s not as dedicated. Tee Hee.

The advantage, though, for todays authors, is that we have the internet. If we cannot go somewhere, we can find pictures and descriptions online. But perhaps if we do that, we miss out and our readers lose something.

My preference is still to use experiences, and I venture out to find experiences that spur my imagination. I explore what if feels like and sounds like to be there doing that. Physically being somewhere does help to get the words and images flowing. Although you know from this blog I read a lot of other peoples descriptions of life too. But, I also often share my inspirations in images on Pinterest and Instagram  if you want to take a look at the places and things that inspire me.

I will only mention one of my own inspirations in this post. A particularly special inspiration. Pepper, our Patterdale Terrier, has been an inspiration for every dog that I have written into my books. But Pippin who is in Treacle Moon that is released in June is the most Pepper like dog that I have written. Sadly we lost Pepper last month, so it seems fitting to mention him here.

Thank you for all your inspirations, Pepper.

2007 -2019

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