As authors we are bound to find inspiration based on our own life experiences and I sometimes wonder what prompted me to base the theme of my second novel ‘VISIONS’ around the restoration of a Country House. I have a feeling some of my ideas must have been aroused, when I first met my husband Peter, whose home is the Grade II Listed cottage which we live in now – which has been in Peter’s family for 5 generations. Built in the early 1700’s this cottage is possibly over 300 years old, yet Peter managed to save his ancestral home when the house underwent an extensive restoration 1991.
This included such things as installing a damp course, treating the timbers for dry rot and infestations of death watch beetle. The entire property was re-roofed and new floorboards were installed, the walls were rendered with plaster to protect them from further deterioration. In the upstairs, there are still problems with the walls where the plaster has blown in places and a few years ago we had to have a new ceiling built. But the problems did not end there, which drew us into a battle with our local council in 2002.
Another problem we faced, was an increasing amount of traffic outside as England’s roads became even more over populated with cars. In addition, our house lies at a lower level than many of our neighbours, which caused a bit of flooding and then some serious decay in the door and frame. Further more, since we could not park our car on our property, we were forced to use the only available space outside on the road. But with more and more traffic pouring up and down our road in both directions, our car was frequently hit and also became a cause of several accidents. In the end, we applied for planning permission to convert the front of our house into a driveway, with a soak-away to prevent flooding.
Despite overwhelming support from those living in our neighbourhood, our application was refused. The council decided that taking two metres out of our front boundary wall, to widen the access would ‘destroy the streetscape’ of our road! We became ensnared in a long and arduous battle with the council and after two long years, when it was refused a second time, we eventually won, when the permission was granted on appeal.
So all this became another force of inspiration, which would find its way into my book! We were passionate about our home and all we wanted, was to preserve it.
The ideas came gradually – but once the overall plot of ‘Visions’, was in my head, I then embarked on some pretty hefty research. Initially, from the local library, where I came away laden down with books on architecture, but also from spending hours on the internet and in real life discussions with various builders, surveyors and financiers.
Naturally I am delighted that this is all finally bearing fruit. ‘Visions’ is well on the way to being complete and I have yet to include a most memorable phrase from one of the officers who threatened my husband, with the words ‘he could make future applications difficult’ should we fail to comply with correct council procedures. In fact we endured enough of their dirty tricks and shenanigans to inspire me to write 4 books!
A little about ‘Visions’
Visions is a psychological thriller set in rural England throughout the 1980s.
At the heart of an idyllic country village, English gentleman, James Barton-Wells and his two children, discover their ancestral home, Westbourne House, is in need of extensive restoration. But their plight attracts the attention of a ruthless property developer, Perry Hampton, desperate to acquire the property so that he can develop it into a luxury hotel to serve the corporate market. At the same time, one of Perry’s property deals runs into problems when he fails to comply with planning law – thus bankrupting a local construction firm. This in turn, drives one of its employees, Charlie Bailey and his family into terrible poverty.
The lives of two families are about entwine when they both find a common friend in a Eleanor Chapman, a mysterious outcast from London – the only person who can possibly save them from their cold-blooded enemies. But the Hamptons have no mercy, an evil family driven by ambition and greed, who will stop at nothing to gain power, as they weave their web of deadly deceit.
Extract from ‘Visions’ 1
But as he moved across the length of the roof, towards the central and eastern sections, he soon began to realise with a sinking heart, that the survey’s findings had been no exaggeration. In some parts, the timbers were dry and intact – whilst in others, he discovered the tell-tale bore holes which showed further evidence of beetle infestation. As he ran his hand over the surface of the wood, he was dimly reassured that there would be no further spread of this type of infestation, now the timbers had been treated with chemicals. But in some places, the wood was crumbly – and as Charlie continued to feel his way across, the state of the other areas of timber proved beyond doubt, that the damp was still in evidence too. He grasped hold of one of the beams and squeezed it, feeling the slight give of the wood, its pliable sponginess and the cool moisture which impregnated its deep inner structure.
Extract from ‘Visions’ 2
Rowena poured him a glass of wine and frowned.
“Aren’t you even just slightly concerned?” she snapped at him. “This is not funny, Perry!”
“Oh, but it is!” Perry insisted, accepting the glass, from where he tapped it against her own. “Have you never heard the expression of ‘keeping your friends close, but your enemies even closer?’” He narrowed his eyes. “Well right now, my enemies are all together in one place – which is exactly where I want them to be…”
Rowena’s expression did not change as she gazed at him coolly.
“Isn’t this going to this affect your game plan?” she challenged him.
“Not at all,” Perry replied, throwing her a smile. “In fact, if you think about it, my dear, this game is about to become a lot more interesting!