CC - It’s set in a quiet, rural corner of south-west England in the years after World War One. Though to the vast majority of the population stories of ghosts, vampires and devils are just legends, to Raf de Chastelaine, they’re his friends, foes or even family. When he isn’t working in his beloved garden, Raf is travelling the country dealing with all sorts of supernatural mischief in his own inimitable way.
EH - The Ghost Garden is set in a remote boys’ boarding school on the edge of Exmoor, where the ghosts of the past are trapped.
CC - Raf’s love of working outdoors may come as a surprise to readers when they find out more about his family and background. The Ghost Garden is a mystery in which the killers, victims and witnesses are all dead - but that doesn’t mean that they can’t still seek help or even face justice, in this world or the next.
EH - Cecily isn’t your usual feisty, badass, buttkicking paranormal heroine. She’s quiet and to many people appears meek. But beneath the surface, she’s a survivor with the ability to converse with the dead.
EH - I’m a fan of MR James as well! I like to think there’s some of MR James’ atmosphere in The Ghost Garden and the books we have planned for this series. We’re both historians who like rummaging through old documents, just like James did. Aside from ghost stories, among the first novels I ever read as a child were Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch stories. I’d just moved to a school in a creepy old Gothic house and often felt like the hapless, awkward Mildred Hubble. Sadly, though, I was never taught how to ride a broomstick but I did have a tabby cat.
CC - Yes! It’s book one of The de Chastelaine Chronicles, which will follow Raf and Cecily on their adventures in the realms of the unexplained.
EH - I’ve experienced lots of odd things in my time, so I’ll give you my greatest hits. Last year I was prodded on the shoulder in an empty cell in a historic prison. Then, when I was a teenager, my friend’s house was rather active, shall we say, and I still wonder if she had a poltergeist. About a year later, I moved into an old house and I often heard people on the stairs when there was no one around. One day a little girl dressed in clothing from the early 1900s ran past me. She was glowing and transparent! It turned out that around the same time, my stepsister kept hearing a little girl crying at night. Other people live there now and I wonder if they’ve met the little girl too.
CC - Lots and lots. From the period detail of the world we’ve created to the stories Raf tells Cecily of his experiences in wartime, it’s a world that’s steeped in reality and history.
EH - One of the characters is based on Hanging Judge Jeffreys, who is remembered for sending nearly 200 people to the gallows after an uprising in 1685. He embodies the figure of unyielding, merciless power, which is terrifying whether it’s perpetrated by the living or the dead.
CC - Of course! And we’ve already dipped into paranormal with our short story of a phantom rogue and a ghostly dandy trying to do a bit of matchmaking, The Captain’s Ghostly Gamble.
EH - We do rather like the paranormal. There’s so many creatures and tropes, and it’s fun to do something quite traditional with them and alternatively it’s fun to turn them upside down!