Friday, 8 October 2010

The lady by the lake

Most things I have written have had some one specific starting point. This is often visual. I will see an image and that image will resonate somehow. It is not simply that the image will suggest a story - although often it does - it is that the image itself speaks to me in some way. It is as if it is already an illustration to a story - as if it carries a story with it.

This is a page I tore from a magazine years ago - more years ago than I care to remember. I have habitually kept such pages since I was at school. Mostly they were kept as possible reference for illustrations. In the days before Google Images, I wanted to have quick access to a visual library, so I kept such pages in my filing cabinet labelled as 'Politicians - British' or 'Landscape - Italian' and so on.

There were always pictures I kept though, that did not easily fall into any specific category. They were just pictures I kept because I did not want to throw them away. Google Images has made the keeping of much reference obsolete and in any case I am no longer an illustrator in that way. My days of being asked to do a portrait of a pop star or the US President at short notice are well and truly over, thank goodness.

Anyway - this picture (I don't know the photographer, but it is obviously early) is one of those hard-to-categorise pictures that I find hard to throw away. There are lots of things I like about it, not least the fact that because the woman is standing so far back from the edge of the lake, she appears to have no reflection. That and the lovely glow she is giving off gives the picture a haunting quality. Who is she? Where is she? That sweep of dark water and the ancient house. . .

If The Dead of Winter has one single beginning in my my mind, it was twenty years or so ago, when I first saw this picture.


  1. Hi Chris
    This comment is not related to the post above in any way. But. I bought 'Tales of Terror from the Black Ship' in paperback whilst travelling in Ireland, and was hoping to be able to download more of your books onto my Kindle. Unfortunately, digital sales of your books are prohibited to US customers. Why is this? As a US citizen, resident in China, planning to tour SE Asia by bike and read scary stories in a tent, I would love to buy your books, but I can't! They were unavailable in all the US bookstores I went to too.
    Why can't they see us, Ethan?

  2. Hi Matthew. The quick answer to this question is that I have no idea. I will try to find out from someone who does though and get back to you. Watch this space.

    I get slightly tearful about the fact that Bloomsbury have not managed to sell in the States, given the appreciation there is over there for classic ghost stories. But that's outside of my control sadly. The US wing of Bloomsbury decided not to go ahead with Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth because they had experienced disappointing sales on The Black Ship. You should be able to get Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror in a US edition though.

  3. Hi Matthew - I've just had a quick look at US Amazon and if you go to Chris Priestley at the Kindle store all the Tales of Terror books are there to download. You may have already done that to find that it doesn't work. Let me know. Hopefully we can sort it out. And hope you enjoy the books if you can get them!

    Best wishes

  4. Thanks for the quick response!
    You're right, many of your books are listed on the US amazon site, but because I'm registered as a US customer I get the additional "This title is not available for customers from: United States" that you as a UK customer that is likely logged in do not get :(
    I figured it was something to do with publishing rights. I don't really know much about this, obviously, but it seems that it shouldn't cost the publisher anything to offer the book *digitally* on amazon to the US. Is there a fee to offer digital distribution to consumers in the US? ... who would even get that money?
    Anyway, seems I won't be able get any of your other books before I leave for my trip, but I enjoyed The Black Ship, and I hope to read more of your work in the future. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Good Luck!

  5. That's OK and I'll ask around and see if we can't figure it out. What I don't understand is why the US Amazon site offers the Kindle downloads with a dollar price if Americans can't buy them. Who else is going to buy a copy of the book from the US site in dollars?

  6. A haunting photograph indeed. I am immediately put in mind of Miss Jessel from 'Turn of the Screw'!

  7. Hi Matthew - I asked about the problem with Amazon US and there did seem to be an issue there. It seems to have been a problem with the release date of the downloadable version. The relevant parties have been informed and I'd ask you to keep checking back. I know that doesn't solve your immediate problem but thanks for getting in touch and alerting us to that problem. Much appreciated.

  8. Hi,
    I was invited to be a guest reader in my daughter's 5th grade class. As Halloween is around the corner, I thought your book would be perfect. I read Gerald and ended to 22 students in stunned silence. Finally, a girl timidly raised her hand and asked "this is fiction, right?" What followed was chatter and questions that finally had to be ended well before they were ready. I gifted the book to the class and out of 22 students, it has 18 holds. They had some extra time the other day and the students requested the teacher to read another chapter. They are so excited about your book! I realize you live in England, but is there ever a time you are in Seattle? Would you consider, if I set it up, skyping into the classroom for a "meet the author" kind of thing, even if just for a few minutes. I know you must be very busy, but you have lit some sort of fire with these kids, and we would love to keep fanning it. Please let me know if you would even consider this, and I will make it happen. Thank you so much for such wonderful reading - we can't wait to read Uncle M's next! Bridget

  9. Thank you so much for leaving this comment. It is wonderful to know that the books are being enjoyed so far from home. Sorry it has taken me so long to publish your comment - I have been whizzing about doing promotional stuff for the new book and frantically getting the next things edited.

    In answer to your question I have no plans to get to Seattle - I wish I did. I have never done anything with Skype and it seems a bit scary to me! If you send me another comment with your email in it (I won't publish it obviously) then we can get in contact and discuss what we can do. Thanks again Bridget.