It’s rare that a first novel goes on to be published. Most authors have a manuscript in a drawer or in a file on a computer and I’m no different. My first novel was called Unearthed but it’s most definitely staying buried. Unlike the bodies that were discovered in my main character’s back garden. How did he know they were there? He saw their ghosts. In 2015 I won a critique for the synopsis and first three chapters of my novel. There were lots of positive comments but there was one thing that stood out – lose the ghosts. My writing tutor had also hinted that ghosts and crime didn’t mix. So I removed the ghosts but the story didn’t work as well without them. There were a few authors who successfully combined crime with the supernatural at the time, such as James Oswald and his Inspector McLean series and Caroline Mitchell with her DC Jennifer Knight books. Nowadays, crossover genres are popular so I like to think that I was just ahead of my time. Two I’d recommend now are The Lingering by SJI Holliday and The House of Ghosts by WC Ryan.
My books are set in Wiltshire, a county steeped in ghostly goings-on. Unsurprising really, as it’s home to Stonehenge and the standing stones at Avebury. In 1643, Wiltshire was caught up in the ravages of the English Civil War and one returning soldier is reputed to have killed his wife, Florrie, after discovering she’d been unfaithful. He put her body in the village well. That well is now inside The Red Lion pub in Avebury, one of the most haunted places in Wiltshire. Castle Coombe is a very picturesque village in the county. Parsonage Wood lays behind it and it’s a tranquil place to walk in on a warm summer’s evening. However, only the brave or stupid enter it on a winter’s night, as the sound that reverberates around isn’t the wind in the trees but rather the sound of disembodied voices.
My new book, Broken Girls, features a ghost story, although I didn’t set out to include one. It’s sort of important to the plot but it’s not a spoiler to tell you about it. The story itself isn’t that remarkable but I only heard about it through a chance encounter. When I started Broken Girls, I needed a crime scene and after creating fictional villages for my debut, Last Seen, I wanted an actual location in Wiltshire. Using Google maps, I found exactly what I was looking for – a woodland with access. Through the wonders of streetview, I was able to see some of the surrounding pathways and what looked like a road. A research trip was required. With three children in tow (not a good idea), we headed off to Wiltshire to stay with friends and find the woodland.
Streetview hadn’t prepared us for the pot holes that littered the lane and we have a funny video of us driving down it with the children squealing every time we hit one. I’ve since discovered that it’s probably a private road and we shouldn’t have gone down there – oops! The lane goes across a little bridge over the railway and then from there it’s a track which lead to the woods. It became clear very quickly, that the woods were definitely private property so we had the good sense not to go into them.
The track though was amazing. It was like stepping into a fantasy world. Banks rose up on both sides and it looked as though the trees, balancing on the top, could tumble down onto the track at any point. Exposed tree roots threaded down like locks of hair. But most exciting of all, there was a hole in the bank which I now know is called Holy Man’s Cave. All sorts of ideas were conjuring up in my mind as I thought through my story.
A dog barking interrupted my reverie. A woman was approaching with her two dogs. I’m quite shy saying hello to strangers but thankfully my husband isn’t. After saying hello to each other he asked if she was local and knew anything about the area. I quickly explained why we were asking, although at that point, without a publisher or an agent, it felt quite presumptuous to say I was writing a book. But she was most helpful. She had recently retired to Wiltshire from London but she already knew quite a lot about the area.
‘Have you heard about the ghost?’ she asked. She proceeded to tell us the story of Seymour Wroughton. There used to be a big house in the woods which he owned. One night in 1789, Wroughton was very drunk and rode his carriage and four houses down the track in a wild fashion. The carriage overturned and Seymour Wroughton broke his neck. Legend has it that a headless horseman still rides his carriage and four horses down the track at night. When I researched it more, I discovered that the area was also known as Maggots Wood. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect place if I’d tried.
I knew I had to feature this story in my book somehow and I’ve managed to weave it in. Obviously, I wrote all this before I had a publishing deal. My editor did have some reservations but I’ve managed to persuade her to keep it in. So I finally get my ghost story and a genuine Wiltshire one at that.
(c) Joy Kluver
About Broken Girls:
Brambles catch her dress, scratch her legs, pierce her feet. To escape, she’d had no option but to go barefoot. They’d been laughing together a few minutes before, but things can change in the blink of an eye…
The woman is dark-haired and young, judging by the short red dress. Any other signs of her identity have been erased during her long wait to be found, but it’s clear she was strangled: this was a passionate and personal murder.
D.I. Bernadette Noel knows that every second counts if she is to catch this killer, but she has no leads – until the discovery that the dead woman’s rings match a stolen property report, and the rings’ owner mentions Rosa, her missing nanny.
Just when Bernie and her team think they’re getting somewhere, a shocking discovery about Rosa – and the news that another young girl has been abducted – changes everything the team thought they knew about the case.
Laura is only twelve, and her parents are beside themselves with worry – but Bernie has an additional fear. Laura’s home is right next to the woods where their murder victim was found: are the cases connected?
When Bernie notices similarities between descriptions of the man last seen with Rosa and someone Laura was messaging online, these fears grow stronger. But they still have no clear leads as to the identity of the culprit.
With few options left, and time running out, she makes a desperate plan to trap the predator. But any mistakes will mean another innocent life lost…
A gripping crime thriller with a nail-biting climax. If you like Angela Marsons, Val McDermid or Cara Hunter, you’ll love Joy Kluver.
Order your copy online here.