Her new YA ghost story is perfect for Halloween week, so I invited Bryony Allen to guest post at FLY HIGH to  tell us everything about it. There's a chance to win the e-book or kindle book of The Assembly Room for readers commenting this post and adding their own e-mail address. The giveaway contest is open worldwide and ends November 7th.

So, why did I write The Assembly Room?

The book is my third novel with my current UK independent publisher, Pneuma Springs, but it's my second in the YA genre. The story came in to being thanks to an old building that is  - believe it or not  - actually called 'The Assembly Room' . The building lies on the outskirts of the village of Hitcham in Suffolk, England. It was on passing this building over the years every time I go to see my parents that the seeds of the book started to take shape in my head. Just looking at the building makes the mind start to wonder what kind of history it may have had; well it does for me at least.
In  my research for the book I looked at the local history in the area as well as land registry records and found that the building (now a little bit derelict) was built in the early 1800's and had been used as a reading room and also a community hall. Its Gothic features are certainly reminiscent of the time period.

The reality is that it is now used as a storage area for its current owner who also owns and lives in an adjacent cottage, and the actual area of land around the place itself was formerly used as a commercial garage in the mid 20th century.

I've always had a fascination with the idea of the paranormal and ghosts. Following some further research and reading, it became apparent to me that the village of Hitcham lay within what is known as the 'Witch Finders corridor', so there was some kind of poignant past to the area. This all dates back to 1645 and an infamous period of witch-finding and trials in England. During this time the well known characters of Matthew Hopkins and his side-kick, John Stearne, were in their element touring around the East of England accusing and trying many people for crimes of witchcraft. Often these accusations were the results of other villagers not getting along or bearing a grudge with the accused person; medieval bullying if you like. In a time period when trust between people was at its lowest point because of civil war and the rise of Puritanism within the church, it was easy for people to fall victim to what was probably one of the worst miscarriages of justice not only in England but also around the globe. It could be said that the witch-finders were essentially conmen preying on people's hates and fears just for monetary gain and extra status in society.

By mixing my imagination with the historical facts (as far as is documented) about the witch-hunts, my idea for the story gained momentum and materialised with my main protagonist in the form of Merryn Stearne; a typical fourteen year old English girl but one with a family heritage she doesn't know about. I wanted to use the paranormal to manipulate her into experiencing the witch hunts through her dreams. I also wanted there to be a hint of romance to keep the story balanced and, hopefully, more appealing to a teen readership. This led to my second protagonist, Merryn's neighbour and school friend Jamie Foster. I didn't want the story to be like a school history lesson, I wanted it to be entertaining as well mysterious. The result of this is that Merryn and Jamie become closer and embark on a journey together that will reveal a dark past in Merryn's family which leads back to the days of John Stearne; yes he's a distant relative! There's also some appeasing to be done but I won't say anymore here, you have to read the book!

My journey so far through publishing so far has been a pleasant one. I've had some really great comments for my work from people worldwide too. It's a great feeling as a writer to know that someone I don't know say in the UK, US or Australia has picked up one of my books, read it and  said, 'Wow, I really enjoyed that'. I'd always been a very keen reader from a young age and have always loved to write stories. However, making the leap from simply writing as a hobby to that of being a published writer, is something that takes time and a lot of commitment, especially when you also happen to be a teacher, mum and wife. I've been through the other things many writers have also been through, submitting to agents and publishers only to get the obligatory rejection slips, giving in to doubt. It seems to be part of the territory unfortunately and, given that fiction writing is also an extremely competitive beast anyway, it seems inevitable that these things happen. I've been lucky with my publisher who is very supportive and offers up good advice. They are not a big publisher but they do embrace the future direction that it seems publishing is taking so that's a good thing. There are many more options open to people that want to be writers these days than there's ever been.

The best advice I can give though to any potential writers reading this post who want to be in my shoes is to write because you love it and need to do it, not for money (let that come later when you are a best seller!). If there is a story you simply must tell, do it but don't rush it out there in a flash. Take time over your creation, get feedback and then go over it again with a fine eye and re-write as required to iron everything out, not to mention grammar and spelling mistakes. Another really good thing to do is to read it aloud. If it doesn't make sense when you are reading it, there's a good chance it won't make sense to your reader. Remember that reading is a subjective business but you are the writer after all and if you really don't agree with a particular critique then make an informed judgement as to how you incorporate any changes.
If you decide to take the plunge and read my books I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.

Thanks again to Maria Grazia for inviting me to contribute to her lovely blog. Happy Reading.

 Bryony Allen

 The book

The ghosts of The Assembly Room have been waiting for someone to unlock their secrets, and Merryn Stearne has arrived. For 14 year old Merryn, the future should have been perfect - a new home in the idyllic Suffolk countryside and romance with the gorgeous boy next door, Jamie. If only the past would stop interfering with the present. Dreams of medieval witchcraft trials become terrifyingly real and Merryn realises there is a mystery to be solved. With Jamie's help, she uncovers the truth about her ancestor's role in the Suffolk witch hunts of 1645. But can they stop the curse that threatens to ruin the Stearne family once again, or are the forces of the past too strong?

The author

Bryony Allen was born in Enfield (UK) in 1968, but spent her formative years in the North East. She returned to the South of the country to study for a degree in English and Drama followed by teacher training in Cambridge. Now settled in Suffolk with her husband and four children her hobbies include reading, writing and supporting her local football team, Ipswich Town.
Bryony writes Adult and Young Adult fiction and has also been a primary and middle school teacher and SENCo for 18 years. Her witty and humorous debut adult novel 'Mystery, Deceit and a School Inspector' was based on some true experiences as well as those embedded in the imagination.
Her debut Young Adult book 'OTOLI' is an engrossing mystery story of bullying, friendship and revenge with a twist of the paranormal. This was published on the 28th April 2011 by UK Independent publisher, Pneuma Springs. 5% of all sales of OTOLI will be donated to the national charity 'Bullying UK', part of the 'Family Lives' group on an on going basis. OTOLI was entered in 'The People's Book Prize' Spring 2012 collection. http://www.peoplesbookprize.com/book.php?id=728

Book Trailer

Read an interview with Bryony Allen


Alicia said...

You're right, that does sound like the perfect Halloween book, I'm debating whether or not I'm going to go out, and this seems like a great reason to stay indoors :).

Thanks for having the interview!

dmr8888 at yahoo dot com

Na said...

I've always been fascinated with the paranormals as well. I've never encountered ghosts but that is what's good about books :) I hope your Halloween went well.