I have a very long and ever-growing “To Be Read List”. Many months ago I added a book called Crone by Jeannie Wycherley after she graciously agreed to be spotlighted on this blog for Women in Horror Month, read that post here. I was just about to read Crone when I saw on FaceBook that Jeannie was releasing a new book. With an interesting premise and amazing cover, my attention was hooked, and I began reading the second it hit my iPad.
I am now a devoted Jeannie Wycherley fan. I tossed my current Stephen King read on the floor of my office and read Beyond the Veil every chance I got. My family had to eat pizza and hot dogs for a couple nights because I Could. Not. Stop. Reading. And I’m not even the least bit sorry.
An unlikely trio, a cop, a near-death experiencer, and a physic girl who lives in a cemetery are thrown together in the midst of a horrible crime. United in grief and horror they must face a terrifying soul warrior who will stop at nothing to collect a wayward soul, even murder! The creep factor is a solid ten, the characters (I adored them!) are a 10, the plot with eerie twists is a definite 10!
This book does everything right. From deep, believable characters to story pacing, to spinetingling suspense, and outright terror!
If you like spooky, suspenseful, mysterious tales with characters that you will be immediately invested in, this is the ticket for you!
Jeannie stopped by to answer some of my burning questions. Excuse me if I squeal in delight.
I have been stalking…er…I mean following you on social media for some time now. So, I hope this isn’t creepy, but can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m a Brit living on the coast in East Devon in the south west of the UK. Previously I worked in education, and I have a PhD in modern and contemporary history. I’m married with three dogs, love cop shows and spy movies (James Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible) and popular sci-fi (Star Wars and Star Trek). I enjoy cooking and make a lot of one-pot meals (curry, chili, soups, etc.). I have an obsession with the forest and love British wildlife.
What led you to become a writer?
I always wanted to write, but somewhere along the line I thought that being a grown up meant holding down a soul-destroying and energy sapping career. I was in a creative wasteland, and after some counselling realised I needed art in my life more than I had supposed. I had some time off sick over the summer of 2012 and enrolled in a writing bootcamp with The Writer’s Playground. It was fantastic and started a habit of writing every day.
The things I wrote were pretty bad in the beginning, but the feeling of exploring the world using words totally fulfilled me. I kept at it and when I was offered redundancy I accepted– mainly so I could spend more time with my dog! I didn’t have much luck finding alternative work I wanted to do, so I began copywriting. I wrote for clients in the morning and myself in the afternoon, and that’s how it all started!
I had a long apprenticeship – writing constantly – and had numerous short stories accepted here and there, before embarking on novel writing. I queried a few agents for Crone, but I’m ridiculously impatient and the process is so slow, I opted to self-publish.
One of the reasons I choose self-publishing as well. I read across genres and was curious what genre or genres you write in.
Horror and dark fantasy is where my heart lies. I love the weird, and I totally relish venturing into shadowy places – both within the mind, and in a given locality or environment. I have also written some erotica and a little erotic horror (as Betty Gabriel), and have ventured into dystopia (which I love). I also wrote a love story earlier this year. It’s a great story, but I doubt I’ll write many more of those.
I don’t want to be pigeon holed and I see myself as a story teller, but I do appreciate people who read my work may get a little confused if I genre hop too much.
What is it about those genres that intrigue you most?
There is so much about the world that is scary, and so many infinite scenarios to battle the monsters that lurk within us and around us. Plus I really love to put female characters into dicey situations and see how they react. Women are so much stronger than horror tropes (both literary and film) would have us believe. I want to work with strong women characters and find something unique that readers haven’t come across before.
I absolutely loved Beyond the Veil. It is such a unique premise with amazing characters. Where did you get the idea for the story and the characters?
Beyond the Veil grew from a sad situation. A wonderful friend of mine passed away far too young after a brave battle with cancer, and her husband made the announcement by telling us she had ‘stepped beyond the veil’.
That expression wouldn’t let me go, and I explored it for a while. I had a wonderful image in my head of a veil curtain, and I wondered what would happen if someone attempted to step back through. But also, is there just one door to the beyond? Doesn’t it get crowded? What happens if there is a mix-up? Is there anyone controlling who goes through? I did some free writing around that (some of which ends up in the prologue), and the plot came to me quite quickly. Originally I envisaged a novella, then maybe 60,000 words, but the story took over and I ended up with a full-length novel.
The characters were interesting to me too. Originally, while plotting, I had Heidi as my main character, but the problem was her injuries (terrorist attack) meant she needed to be incredibly vulnerable. I couldn’t make her strong enough to carry the story and keep the essence of who she was and what made her tick.
I played with a female detective instead but the plot didn’t work. Also the Dan character was a young woman originally, but when I started exploring the relationships I knew I needed Adam Chapple as my detective, and to explore the father-son dynamic. I wanted some real multi-faceted and dynamic characteristics of them as individuals and within their relationship. Adam has a wonderful nurturing side that is real – no toxic masculinity here! Adam is a red-headed whisky drinking, running detective and is based on my brother!
So that brings me to Cassia Veysie. Wow. Where did she come from? I have found on several occasions that I’m writing away happily – sticking to my plot sheet – and a character pokes their head up, waves, and says, “Your story needs me!” It happened with Mr. Kephisto in Crone, a character by the name of Phineas in the forthcoming The Municipality of Lost Souls, and of course here we have Cassia in Beyond the Veil.
She totally steals the show. She was the strong and weird character I needed to balance out Adam’s rational common sense approach to the world. She’s also flawed in so many ways, over confident at the beginning, reduced to a bit of a mess after she bungles the séance. Over the course of the novel her mask breaks down, metaphorically and figuratively, as we see her losing the dramatic goth make-up and stepping into her powers.
I don’t know whether there will be a follow-up to Beyond the Veil, but certainly Cassia, Adam and Polly – another character I loved (I modelled her on the actress Gwendoline Christie who is my girl crush) may find themselves resurrected because I feel like there’s more to do with them.
I am going to hope for a follow-up. I agree with you, I ended the book feeling like there was more of the character’s stories to be told.
Past me pestering you for a follow-up (please don’t block me on FaceBook LOL) what’s next for you?
A slightly mixed bag. I spent a few months experimenting earlier this year. I wrote a love story (Keepers of the Flame) and I wrote a cozy witch mystery. My editor loves the cosy so much that she’s persuaded me to write a series. The first in the series is The Wonkiest Witch and will be out in October (pre-order up soon). I am plotting the second, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn, and will write that in September.
My next dark novel is The Municipality of Lost Souls, slated to go to the editor on September 1st for an October release, HOWEVER I want to make sure it’s perfect so may delay that release. It has a complicated ensemble cast so I need to make sure it works. I don’t want my readers to get confused – it makes sense to me, but then it would, wouldn’t it? Ha!
The Municipality of Lost Souls is a fantastic story – my favourite so far. It’s a kind of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn meets TV’s The Walking Dead but with ghosts instead of zombies (of course – because I love ghost stories). It is a bit of an homage to Charles Dickens (my literature hero) and it is set on the rocky coast of Durscombe (the same as Beyond the Veil) but in the autumn/winter of 1861 rather than now (I knew my background in history would come in useful one day LOL). We get to meet Cassia’s foremothers.
It’s a story about how social cohesion can rapidly break down when we look the other way and follows the fortunes of three ‘witchy’ cousins, Agatha Wick, Sally Parrett and the inimitable Amelia Fliss.
It’s such fun! In a scary Mary kind of way, of course.
Those sound amazing! See, now I’ll be too busy reading these to pester you too much for a follow-up to Beyond the Veil!
Being a horror author, I keep a running tally of things that scare people, so I have ideas on how to spook readers. What kinds of things scare you?
Politics. Brexit anyone? What a mess.
Ugh. It seems like a global time of political dumpster fires.
Heights! I freak out just climbing the stairs LOL. The first novel I wrote explored the whole height fear thing I have. I haven’t redrafted it yet, because it is a nasty piece, shocking in parts, but at some stage I will do some serious work on it, and publish it. It needs an audience.
Crowds and noise. I’m very introverted and get tired and stressed in social situations rather too quickly. I’m happiest in my study with only a snoring dog or two for company. My idea of hell is doing a presentation or a book signing. Happy to leave that to other authors. I know it’s not a particularly great idea to self-publish and hide your light under a bushel but I prefer to let my writing do the talking.
I hear you. I’m ridiculously shy. Doing all that mingling with folks is on my list of things I’m scared of, too!
Jeannie, I adore your writing and will try to wait patiently for anything and everything you write. Crone is my now current read, Stephen King will just have to wait. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I will stalk away and if you are a fan of strong female personas, interesting characters, dark stories, and other assorted deliciousness you should stalk her too!
Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!