Monday, 16 September 2013

Old Fashioned Story, Old Fashioned Books, and Spirit Houses

Die Booth has been a supporter of all things Mortlock from day 1 and writes a mean, creepy tale too! So when I heard she was promoting her new work, Spirit Houses, I jumped at the chance of offering her a guest blog spot:

Die Booth lives in Chester in a tiny house with four fire-places and enjoys old things, funny noises and exploring dark places. Die’s work has featured in three Cheshire Prize for Literature anthologies and has most recently appeared in The Fiction Desk, Litro, ‘For All Eternity’ from Dark Opus Press and Prime’s ‘Bloody Fabulous’ anthology amongst others. You can also read several of Die’s stories in the 2011 anthology ‘Re-Vamp’ co-edited by L.C. Hu. Forthcoming work is due to appear in ‘Gothic Blue Book III’ from Burial Day Books and ‘The Art of Fairytales’ edited by Sarah Pasifull Grant.
Die’s first novel ‘Spirit Houses’, a supernatural tale of action, adventure and excellent Scotch, is out now.

About Spirit Houses 

How far would you go for your career?

How far would you go for love?
How far would you go for the truth?

This is the time of the evening when the Things come. 
As the trees close ranks and colours all merge into one colour, the Things start to stir - to dislocate their joints and stretch their limbs; rearranging themselves into new images for the twilight, they taste the air with prehensile tongues. That's what Manda's father used to
tell her. He knew how little Manda loved to hear of the paranaturals. She got that fascination from her mother, he'd say back then. After, he'd say she got that fascination from her mother, but he'd say it differently…

When Manda’s lab partner Daniel Forbes goes missing presumed dead it’s just another normal day at University Hospital. But the circumstances of his disappearance aren’t quite as straightforward as they seem and take Manda and her colleagues at the Department of Paranatural Medicine on a journey across planes and to the fringes of death to find the truth.

Die's Post

My novel Spirit Houses is quite an old-fashioned tale. I intended right from the start that it should be, and I don’t just mean the fact that it’s set in a sort of alternate-universe 1920s England. I wanted the whole thing to have an authentic, vintage flavour, so I tried to steep the entire project in that atmosphere. The chapter header illustrations were done in a line-art style from around that period. The cover, although a bit more contemporary, was designed from old medical textbook illustrations, to look like engraving. I tried to give the book trailers a vintage feel, and all the advertising too. But the main thing I made sure I did was to use as much primary source material for research as possible.

It’s easier than ever these days for a writer to access primary source material - by which I mean, information about a period actually written in that period. What once might have involved visits to libraries or archives to view texts or artefacts that are usually locked away, now often only requires a search around the internet to view photographs and scans, or transcriptions of contemporary accounts.
Sometimes really good research material isn’t difficult to find at all. I managed to pick up a two volume set of a 1904 Hazlitt’s ‘The Dictionary of Myths and Folklore’ in a charity shop for a few pounds and it’s been a wonderful research tool for helping to write Spirit Houses - rather than relying on a modern re-telling of the myths and legends I was writing about, I could go straight to the turn-of-the-century version.

I also visited as many inspiring places as I could. These ranged from the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh (the inspiration for the University Hospital) and Snowshill Manor with its wonderful atmosphere and incredible and beautiful collection. I also frequently visited the Wellcome Collection in London, a museum which houses (amongst other exhibits) a fascinating historical and cultural medicine section which provided me with endless inspiration and some useful facts for my story. The other place that was essential to Spirit Houses was the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall. It was there I saw my first spirit house and learnt all about them. Southeast Asian countries also have spirit houses, which, in that culture, are shrines to the protective spirit of a place. The English spirit house however dates back to folklore tradition. If a person suspected their house of being haunted by a bothersome spirit, then they would make a spirit house. These usually took the form of a glass bottle that would be filled with matchsticks, feathers, beads, sand - even hundreds and thousands - sometimes in very intricate formation. When the bottle was filled, the ghost would be invited into it as a substitute home, rather than continuing to reside in the house it had been haunting - the more intricate the contents of the spirit house the better, as it was believed that this would keep the ghost busier! The bottle would then be stoppered, to keep the ghost inside.

You can see examples of English spirit houses on the Museum of Witchcraft’s website, such as this one made from a lacemaker’s globe:

Spirit Houses by Die Booth is available to buy online now at:




Die's Website is here!

Die is appearing on these websites too:

Mon 16th Sept: LC Hu
Tues 17th Sept: Kevin G Bufton
Wed 18th Sept: Keeper Of The Snails
Thurs 19th Sept: J.T.Wilson
Fri     20th Sept: The Horror Tree