Today is my stop on the blog tour for Lucy Inglis’s CROW MOUNTAIN and Helen Maslin’s DARKMERE! I recently read and loved both titles so happy to get the chance to chat to both authors about the books.
Kate Ormand: Hi Helen and Lucy! Lovely to have you both here to celebrate your books! Can you share the first line from DARKMERE and CROW MOUNTAIN?
Helen Maslin: ‘There was a girl in the water.’
Lucy Inglis: ‘You already possess everything necessary to become great.’
KO: And why is this perfect for your book?
HM: There are two heroines from two different timelines in Darkmere – and this line could refer to either of them. Their biggest battles both take place in water. The prologue is quite ambiguous because I didn’t want to give one character’s story more weight than the other and I wanted to leave readers with something to make up their own minds about.
LI: Crow Mountain is about two girls who start out living very controlled, claustrophobic lives, and spend a lot of time doubting themselves. The purpose of the story was for them to learn that they already have everything within them to start living their own lives.
KO: Both DARKMERE and CROW MOUNTAIN explore past and present characters, with events from both time periods linking to each other (which I think is genius and totally love!). What made you decide to write your story this way? Pros and cons?
HM: Ha! I didn’t know how tricky it would be when I started Darkmere. I love historical stories and I love contemporaries too – so I saw no reason not to write both!
I’m fascinated by the way historical scenes give depth to a contemporary story. Some of my favourite scenes in the Harry Potter series are the pensieve memories – when we see exactly why Snape is so unhappy or why Tom Riddle is so unhinged.
One of the best things about historical stories is the drama – witch burnings, religious crusades, duels, highwaymen, pirates – the list is endless (just ask George RR Martin!) The stakes were just so much higher in the past.
One of the biggest problems with historical stories is the lack of diverse characters and strong women – simply because they’ve always been denied a fair role in real life. It’s also hard to make historical characters relatable when they made decisions we simply wouldn’t make now. There’s a language barrier too – it can be tricky to write historical dialogue that’s both realistic and understandable. I know plenty of people who’ve given up with Wuthering Heights as soon as Joseph starts with all his ‘There’s nobbut t’ missis, and shoo’ll not open ’t an ye mak’ yer flaysome dins till neeght.’
I mean, what?
LI: Oooh! Tricky one. I wanted to write about Montana in 1867, because it was such a key time in the infancy of the state and the beginning, in earnest, of the buffalo massacre. But I also wanted to write a story about the modern West and issues affecting teenagers there, such as high school bullying, small town problems and the current policing issues. Pros are that you get two love stories, but the cons are that balancing the emotional impact of past and present can be a really hard thing to get right.
KO: How do you like your romance… Can you both share some of your favourite fictional couples?
HM: My favourite romances are between two people who come together as absolute equals – in confidence and courage and wit and temperament – oh, everything! Is that too much to ask? I want them to be so perfectly matched that neither would ever be happy with anyone else. That way, I’ll never have to worry about it all going wrong years after I’ve put the book down.
I love the passion and savagery of Heathcliff and Cathy as much as I love the quiet yearning of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth – they all tried to live without each other and it didn’t work. I love the wordless understanding and connection between Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick as much as I love the endless bickering of Sophie Hatter and Wizard Howl. None of them would fit with anyone else. I also love those dramatic fantasy romances – the attraction between Akiva and Karou is astral and they have to be together to save two different worlds. Celia Bowen and Marco are bound by unbreakable magic – and when they touch, the temperature of the room rises, chandeliers tremble and the air around them swirls like a tempest…*happy sigh*
LI: I’m not very good with relationships that are basically a girl mooning over a hot boy and then an accompanying story (naming no names!) I like romance that is rooted inside the story, and inside the characters, so I love Wuthering Heights, even though Heathcliff and Cathy are so awful, because their love consumes their lives, and the lives of others. I also don’t like things too shiny, so I have to love Amber St Clair and Bruce Carlton from Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber, mainly because of the chapters where she nurses him through the bubonic plague in all its gory glory!
KO: And to wrap up, can we end with a quote from each book?
HM: I think my favourite lines will always be the ones chosen by Jazz from Chicken House and printed onto a hundred Darkmere postcards…
‘Footsteps. Quiet but close. Someone was in the room with me.’
LI: ‘‘I don’t belong here,’ I said, my voice unsteady as I stood in the doorway, feet wetting the pale floorboards.’
CROW MOUNTAIN REVIEW
Present day: Hope visits Montana with her mum, Meredith, who is an environmental scientist. Hope and Meredith stay with the Crow family. While research keeps Meredith busy, Hope helps Cal Crow with chores, like caring for the animals. 1867: Emily is rescued by horse-trader, Nate, who takes her to a remote cabin where she recovers. While Emily is stuck at the cabin until Nate can return her to town, she helps with chores, meets his family, and is drawn into his way of life. The journey for both couples interlinks and I found it so interesting and enjoyable to flip between the two.
At first I didn’t care much for Hope, though I quite liked Cal. I absolutely loved Emily and Nate the whole way through, and I looked forward to their chapters. As I neared the end of the book, Hope and Cal did manage to win me over. And it turned out to be pretty spectacular. When I started reading, I didn’t think it would get me like it did. But emotional doesn’t even cover it. It was a beautiful book, and so cleverly done. I thought it was extraordinary.
While on holiday in Montana, Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, the two of them take shelter in a mountain cabin where Hope makes a strange discovery. More than a hundred years earlier, another English girl met a similar fate. Her rescuer: a horse-trader called Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.
Leo inherits a remote castle and invites Kate and friends to join him there for the summer. With music, bonfires, and a private beach, it seems like the perfect getaway for the gang. But as Kate and the others explore the old haunted castle, they begin to uncover its dark secrets—a suicide, a curse, and a string of deaths and disappearances. The castle suddenly seems like a sinister place and their deadly destination may include a few uninvited guests . . .
The way this is written is so clever, told in switching POV between Kate (present day) and Elinor (1800s). The castle’s past is really intriguing and Elinor’s chapters feed information about it into Kate’s. Instead of being simply shown, readers are handed the pieces of the puzzle and pointed in the right direction. This gives a real sense of involvement in both sides of the story as things slowly start to reveal themselves in each time period, and we discover how certain events influence each other.
The atmosphere of the castle could change so suddenly depending on the mood of Kate’s group. Then we’d go back to Elinor’s time (which I completely adored) and everything would shift again, creating more layers to the castle and its past, with its creaking doors, hidden bookshelves, tricks and levers, and underground tunnels. It’s a wondrous building with so much history, such a huge story to tell following generations of occupants, that it almost felt as if it was alive with all it held, all it’d witnessed, and all it’d taken.
An expertly crafted story with a breath-taking conclusion – genius!
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together – but instead, she’s drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.
Many thanks to Chicken House.
Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis are out now and published by Chicken House. For more information visit chickenhousebooks.com
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