My Inspiration for So Pretty by Ronnie Turner

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So Pretty

By Ronnie Turner

Set in the small town of Rye, So Pretty is contemporary gothic novel that follows Teddy Colne, the son of a serial killer who has spent his life trying to conceal his identity. But when he takes work at an old curiosity shop wreathed in dark secrets, he meets a lonely single mother, with devastating consequences…

If you’ve read So Pretty, you might know my protagonist Teddy takes work at an curiosity shop called Berry & Vincent, where secrets bloom, and all who know it, fear it. What partly inspired this is my life in the South West, where I have come across countless curio shops strewn across its coastal towns. Some feel more like museums, the items on display not for sale, not truly there for your perusal, simply to exist as part of a collection.

They are stuffed with the usual everyday bric-a-brac. Toys, books, beads and baubles. But occasionally, you spot something strange, something jarring, and you wonder where it’s from, how it surfaced there. I find these places fascinating. A chaotic tangle of life behind their doors. These shops actually sell stories, gathering and giving them to whoever comes with money in their pockets. The trinkets, music boxes, jewellery, they all came from someone. How far have they travelled? What lives have they been a part of? Where will they go next?

There’s something unsettling about entering into these dark, tight spaces. The proprietors are often very quiet, keeping to themselves, to their shadows. It’s intimidating, and I’ve felt that I shouldn’t be inside. However, these shops have always felt rich with ideas  – food for the imagination and the perfect location for a story to be set. And this is where the next piece of inspiration comes from.

For a short period of time, I lived near Crediton in Devon. It’s a beautiful, bustling town with second-hand shops and cafés and an independent bookshop called The Bookery (please do check it out if you are ever down that way.) It’s a treasure trove. In Crediton, I remember seeing a Tudor building, ragged and abandoned, on the high-street. The name Berry & Vincent was still very much clear above the door. I knew I wanted to use this establishment in a story, to adapt it and make it into something macabre. It had potential to really be something. At the time I just didn’t know what. Fast-forward several years, it became a curio shop in a draft of my book, with a proprietor who listens but never speaks, full of secrets sharp enough to cut and stories bursting to escape its doors.

Berry & Vincent is still there today.

The third piece of inspiration comes from an interest in nature versus nurture. Are we able to escape the bonds of our blood? Do our genetics infiltrate and determine our lives? Or can our environment and upbringing change our fate? It’s a question I enjoyed exploring in So Pretty. Both of my characters, Teddy and Ada, come from very different backgrounds. He is the son of a serial killer, but he was raised by a kind and loving mother. She is the daughter of wealthy and respected doctors but her upbringing was bleak and cruel. Can either of them survive unscathed? Will something dormant come to the surface?

*

My path to publication has been a winding one. I’ve been writing books for a long time (mostly very poor ones) and then when I was eighteen, I began submitting them and attending festivals, pitching to agents. I signed with my literary agency, DHH, around this time. But it was actually a few years earlier that I met Karen, my publisher, for the first time. We met at the Penzance Literary Festival, and I remember the entire room being in awe of her when she was speaking about her authors. They were rapt. She is a powerhouse. And I love everything she does. In 2020, So Pretty went out on submission to editors. Karen included.

Profile photo of author Ronnie Turner in side profile

And I signed with Orenda Books.

It has been a wonderful winding path but there has been some synchronicity to it, I think. How wonderful that I met Karen so young and then years later, she becomes my publisher. We make a great team, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Orenda family.

It’s been very rewarding reading the reviews for So Pretty and knowing readers have enjoyed it. A great book blogger described it as being like ‘a dark fairy tale’ and I think this sums it up very well. I wanted the book to have an air of mystery, of strangeness, so that when you finish reading, you need a moment to come back to the real world.

(c) Ronnie Turner

About So Pretty:

A young man arrives in a small town, hoping to leave his past behind him, but everything changes when he takes a job in a peculiar old shop, and meets a lonely single mother … A chillingly hypnotic gothic thriller and a Mesmerising study of identity and obsession.

Fear blisters through this town like a fever…

So Pretty, a book by Ronnie Turner, featuring, in black and white, a peacock feather, a partially eaten apple and an open lipstick

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

‘This chilling gothic tale explores the dark corners of identity … beautifully written and a real page-turner’ C J Cooke

‘Dark, lyrical and intriguing’ Fiona Cummins

‘Like Stephen King on crack … the most accomplished book I’ve read this year. Dark, gothic as hell, and genuinely scary, Turner has managed to portray loneliness, obsession, and monster-worship in one neat little package. I dare you to open it’ M W Craven

Order your copy online here.

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