Hi everyone and thanks for popping by to check this the latest post about Welsh Crime Writers, including writers that choose to set their works in this beautiful land. Today it’s the turn of Thorne Moore to tell us about her Wales, her writing and, finally, her books. Over to you, Thorne.
MY WALES I know Wales has plenty of gritty settings for crime in cities, docks and former mining communities, but my Wales is the relentlessly rural one of North Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. No major towns, let alone cities, no holiday resorts, and the villages are more like hamlets or sometimes just a scattering of farms with a tiny church popping up in the middle of a field. There are no motorways, although there is a one mile stretch of dual carriageway around Cardigan. No major industries anymore, except for tourism and farming. Two trains a day (one in the middle of the night), connecting with the Irish ferry at Fishguard, but otherwise it’s a area sealed off from the rest of the world by sea and hills. The coast is a mixture of towering cliffs and wide empty beaches, the lowland is a patchwork of forests and tiny fields, the highlands are open moors, with wild ponies and standing stones.
A fantastic place if you love walking. Maybe not so good if you like noisy nightlife, unless you’re thinking of owls and foxes. What the area does have is history. Not the history of great and glorious events (give or take the odd French invasion), but just layer upon layer of the everyday stuff, poking through the surface, reminding you, always, that you are walking with ghosts of bronze-age settlers, iron-age warriors, Romans, Medieval princes, Tudor squires, civil war partisans, quarrymen and seamen, eighteenth century Methodists and nineteenth century toll-gate protesters. They’ve all left their mark and there hasn’t been anything major in the 20th or 21st century to bury them out of sight. Turn any corner and you’ll find a ruined castle, or a towering Celtic cross or a prehistoric burial chamber. I have set historical crime mysteries here, but the real inspiration is the feeling that there is nothing new. Human emotions are elemental and for good or ill they’ve been played out here in isolated pockets for hundreds, or thousands, of years. It was, it is and it will be, and you won’t escape.
My Writing Life
My problem is that I have never wanted to do anything except write. I finally got published when I was 58, but I spent the previous 40 years trying and I brazenly ignored any suggestion to look for another career. I try not to think how much money I might have made if I’d followed my headmaster’s advice and become a lawyer. I did eventually take a law degree through the Open University and it was invaluable, not in getting me a highly paid profession, but in teaching me to edit and cut all my flowery language down to the barest essentials. I had to write essays with word limits, and every word over the limit was ignored. Since the summary of my arguments always came at the end, I had make sure I made every point in the minimum number of words. Once I had my law degree, I went back to writing fiction – but with less words. I’m not sure how many books I’ve written and discarded. It’s all part of the learning process. I started off writing fantasy, then science fiction, then short stories and finally turned to psychological crime, although, to be honest, they have been the same genre in my head: stories about people ripped out of their comfort zone by traumatic events that force them to confront issues they’d much rather ignore. And there’s nothing so traumatic as murder. I don’t treat it as a crime puzzle to be solved but as a wrecking ball smashing into people’s lives. I am a morning person. I can’t write late at night at all, so I usually do the actual writing first thing in the morning. But I usually work out what I’m going to write when taking a walk after dinner. It has to be pretty foul weather that stops me walking. Its my time for getting things straight, by evening light in the summer, by moonlight in the winter. It is amazing how many problems can sort themselves into perfect order as I walk.
My first published novel, A Time For Silence, was inspired by a derelict cottage down in a wooded valley at the end of my garden. There are plenty of such cottages around and you can’t come across one without wondering what might have happened in them. Houses have always fascinated me because they enshrine something of everyone who has ever lived in them. They have seen births, marriages and deaths, triumphs and tragedies all hidden behind curtains.Perfect material for domestic dramas. I was told about a murder that allegedly happened in another cottage in the vicinity. Everyone, including the police, knew who did it, but no one was ever charged. I thought such a thing could only happen in isolate communities like the ones around me. I tried to find evidence that the story was true and I never did, but I did comeacross a newspaper report of a young girl being sentenced to approved school for the crime ofattempting suicide. Her story and the rumour of the murder combined to give me the plot for A Time For Silence, in which a contemporary woman comes across the cottage, Cwmderwen, where her grandparents, John and Gwen Owen, had lived – and where her grandfather John was murdered. She sets out to discover why the murder was never solved, perpetually misunderstanding the evidence she finds, but her investigations are interwoven with the tale of her grandmother and the true story of what really happened.
Gwenllian Lewis married John Owen in 1933. Seventy-five years later, their granddaughter Sarah comes upon the ruined cottage where they had once farmed, and the discovery inspires her to investigate her family history. But when she unearths a shocking secret, her interest becomes an obsession. Escaping from her own tragedy, she immerses herself in an older one; a tragedy that overturns her fantasies of an idyllic past, for the story of Gwen and her husband John Owen was anything but idyllic. When the full unpalatable truth dawns on Sarah, she finds herself rethinking her own life. Available here
To compliment A Time For Silence, my latest novel, The Covenant, takes the story of the Owen family back a couple of generations, still in the cottage of Cwmderwen, where John Owen’s aunt Leah grows up believing that her duty requires absolute loyalty to God, family and, most of all, their few acres. It’s a burden that will either lead to murder or escape.
In 1883, Leah is nine and full of hope, brightest of the Owens who farm the land of Cwmderwen. But tragedy leaves her loving family fatally wounded, turning her father’s mindand killing dreams.Leah is ruled by duty, to God, to her family, and to the farm that is sucking the life out of her—the farm to which she is bound by a covenant of blood. Her withered dreams fix on her niece and nephew, Annie and John. At all costs, John Owen must inherit the tenancy of their precious 24 acres, 1 rood and 8 perches. But what sort of man has she helped to create? Is there hope for any of them, or is Cwmderwen’s poison too strong? The future is carved in stone… Or is it?
Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, but studied history at Aberystwyth and, nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to run a restaurant with her sister, Liz, and a miniature furniture craft business. She now writes full time.She has had four novels published by Honno, A Time For Silence and The Covenant set in Pembrokeshire, and Motherlove and The Unravelling set in Lyford, a fictional version of Luton. Another novel, Shadows, set in a derelict Pembrokeshire mansion, is published by Lume, along with its companion Long Shadows, which has three historical mysteries set in the same property over seven centuries.
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