Have you ever visited a house that seemed to hold secrets, if only they could be discovered? Have you longed to find out the true stories of people who lived there, but not known where to begin?
For Yorkshire author Leonie Pearce, a story from the past emerged almost by accident. After retiring from full-time teaching and theatre work, she studied Creative Writing in Lancaster and joined a local writers’ group near her home in Bentham.
‘I’d been reading Rebecca,’ said Leonie,’ and loved the way the novel begins with a dream about the house where the narrator lived. It’s very atmospheric, haunted by past events, and I wanted to see if I could write a description of a house full of secrets and stories. It was there in my imagination – the house in a crescent by the sea where my husband grew up, with his brothers and sisters and various eccentric lodgers.
‘When I read out the description to the writers in our group, they were fascinated by the ‘scary’ lady who lived in the basement. Where did she come from? Why did she seem strange? Why wouldn’t she speak? I realised that she was part of our family history and someone whose story needed to be told.
‘At that moment Violet, my narrator, came to life. In her quirky, honest voice she speaks from the shadows of social isolation:
‘My life has been a journey up the steep slopes of Make Sense Mountain. I have travelled rough tracks over the Hills of Hard Work and learned to fly through valleys of Dark Days to the shingly places of the Whispering Waves.’
Born in 1900, Violet loses family and friends and is treated as a social outcast. To be accepted, she creates a new identity for herself. Her story reflects the fate of many women in the early twentieth century and is sometimes heart breaking, sometimes darkly comic.
‘Some of the story came from my own childhood memories,’ said Leonie. ‘Some came from research into topics as diverse as tomato growing, the early film industry on the south coast, two world wars and a gruesome murder.’
‘The book has been published by Settle based company, 2QT, with a striking cover design by Charlotte Mouncey from Bentham. The advice of local friends has been invaluable in the writing process. They have commented that the final version of the book is quick and absorbing to read, the characters seem real, it’s ‘written with insight and compassion,’ and ‘moving without being sentimental.’
Moonlight Sonata: a Story of Life in the Shadows is available through Limestone Books in Settle, The Book Lounge in Kirkby Lonsdale, or from Amazon, in paperback (at £6.99) or as an e-book (at £3.99).