It’s been a year since I chose Kate Galley as the winner of my latest mentoring competition. During that time Kate has worked tirelessly on her manuscript, plotting, planning, and revising. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and any of you who have written a book will know it takes as long as it takes and there really is no point rushing. We’ve talked about various ideas along the way, Kate’s original concept, as they invariably do, taking her in new directions. A year into her journey, I invited her share with you the brilliant opening and a little bit about herself and her book - THE STONE HOUSE.
An avid reader all my life, I started to write The Stone House after completing a short online writing course with Curtis Brown. I live in the Chilterns with my husband and children, and divide my time between my job as a hairdresser, my family and my writing.
The Stone House
When Anna Chapman learns of her mother’s death, she feels compelled to return to the remote house on Dartmoor she left seventeen years before.
Jodie Miller thinks she’s found the perfect place to hide, but the snow won’t last forever, and who will come for her when it thaws?
Whenever I allow myself to think about my mother she comes to me in a series of monochrome vignettes. Her porcelain skin is paper thin, stretched high across the bones of her cheeks. Carefully arranged flicks of hair kiss her forehead and jaw. There is always a sweep of colour on her lips and a faintly vacant expression in her eyes. She is a 1950’s starlet.
When I was six years old, the conventional life I’d been living with my mother and father in Bristol was unexpectedly packed up, and on a grim day in late autumn we left for Dartmoor. The isolated house set at the end of a single-track lane emerged from the land like a great stone monster, born from its bleak surroundings. I was told it was a move designed to improve our situation, and this had worked well for my father who wore his joy like a brand new suit. My mother, not so much. I sat at my window for days wondering if there were other children living nearby, whether I would see them walking across the field to come and play with me, but that was before I learned the locals called our house the Behemoth.
Even at the tender age of six I felt a transience to our lives. It wasn’t just the house, it was us. We weren’t much of a family, we were three separate people vying for attention, my mother the neediest of all. My father was devoted to her, all his time spent in pursuit of her happiness. She didn’t work or bake or read, and was often too tired to take me out, and there were occasions, when my father was away, she’d slip out for hours, leaving me wondering where she was. She wasn’t anything like the other mothers at school, but she was beautiful, and in my eyes that made her exceptional.
That’s how I still picture her, in that house. In the kitchen, sipping something cold and sparkling, her smile as brittle as the glass she held. In the bath with one arm draped elegantly over the edge, her makeup perfect despite the moisture dripping from the tiles. In the garden on the bench, under the apple tree, staring out across the moor. But that was before the voices arrived in her head. Before she began to blame me for my father’s death.