Meet the Author

Penny Hampson

I am jumping on board the blog blitz for Penny Hampson’s contemporary mystery/paranormal romance novel, The Unquiet Spirit, today. Many thanks to Penny who took the time to answer a few questions that I posed to her, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blitz. Let’s jump straight into the questions, and then I will share all the details of The Unquiet Spirit with you all.

I understand that before venturing into writing, you worked with rare books and historic manuscripts. This sounds like a dream come true to me! Can you tell us more about this please?

Yes, I worked for nineteen years in a world famous academic library dealing with historic manuscript collections and rare books. My job was to source suitable images from the collections for publishers, authors, and academics. It was fascinating work and enabled me to see firsthand not only some of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts but also letters and documents from famous people in history.

A special thrill for me was to handle a manuscript written by Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), the celebrated diarist and naval administrator. I’ve read all of his published diaries (the originals are held at the University of Cambridge) and I had always longed to see the originals, so when I came across this item — not a diary, alas, but an administrative document — it was amazing to see his actual handwriting.

I’ve also been privileged to see the exquisite hand embroidered cover of ‘The Miroir or Glasse of the synneful soul’ a manuscript translation made, written, and embroidered by Queen Elizabeth I when she was eleven years old, as a gift for her stepmother Queen Katherine Parr. 

However, my favourite manuscript has to be MS. Bodl. 264, an enormous tome dating from 1400, with many beautiful illuminations. What attracts me to this manuscript though is not  the marvellously coloured miniatures, but the tiny marginal figures and scenes that dance across the lower margins. Here you will find all sorts of curiosities – nuns in a wheelbarrow (yes, really), children playing games, women cooking, a Punch and Judy show, and knights on horseback training for combat. If you’d like to see this for yourself you’re in luck because it has all been digitised and is available online.

What was the inspiration behind The Unquiet Spirit, and what made you decide to set the book in Cornwall?

The inspiration for The Unquiet Spirit was a house I discovered on the internet. I was browsing at houses for sale (as one does) and a beautiful 17th century house popped up. Not one that I could afford or even in the right location, but there was something about it that really attracted me. It became my inspiration for The Beeches. I wondered what it would be like to live in such a house, and that was when the idea formed to create a character who unexpectedly inherits an old house from her godmother. And being such an old house it would surely have secrets and possibly a ghost.

I decided to locate my story in Cornwall, specifically Falmouth, because it’s a place that I love. Falmouth itself is a lovely vibrant town with a lot of history. It was an important hub for the packet ships that plied their way across the world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bringing news and passengers to British shores. Falmouth was the first place Royal Naval officer John Lapenotiere landed with the urgent dispatches about the victory of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death, and Lord Byron, the poet stayed in Falmouth in 1809, prior to heading off on the Lisbon packet ship to commence his Grand Tour.

Today Falmouth is still a fantastically vibrant place, with what I call a real community feel about it. I’m sure the extra buzz is due to not only the summer visitors, but also the student population of the local university, which specialises in the creative arts. In addition, Falmouth has a fabulous Maritime Museum, and I can certainly recommend the local studies library located inside the museum. There are lots of lovely coffee shops too – the one where Kate has breakfast is based on a favourite of mine. But, I hasten to add, the one where she spies on the art dealers’ is entirely a figment of my imagination!

I try to visit at least once a year, although this year has been a little difficult and I haven’t managed it yet.

What made you break away from the historic fiction you have previously written and move to a contemporary setting for this book?

It was my husband who encouraged me to write a contemporary story. He’s always been great at supporting and encouraging me, reading my work and offering constructive feedback. However, he’s not a great fan of carriages and bonnets, so I decided it was time to give him something he could really get into. I also wanted to test myself as a writer. I’ve written three historical novels now and feel reasonably comfortable in that genre, so it was a challenge to myself too.

There are also issues that I feel strongly about, ones that don’t easily fit in a historical novel. So with The Unquiet Spirit I was able to introduce elements of life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored. For instance, one of my characters suffers from a chronic illness, and I wanted to show how that can impact the whole family, something I have personal experience of as a carer.

Do you follow a set writing routine, or have a favourite space to write?

I don’t have a set routine for writing. I try to write everyday, but sometimes, because of other commitments, this isn’t always possible. I share a rather cramped office with my husband, so it can get a little difficult at times, especially when I am trying to write a tense, emotional scene and he is swearing at his computer (we both do that!). However,  the good news is that I have been promised a study of my own; our spare bedroom will hopefully be transformed into a super-duper writer’s workspace, with room for all my research books, maps, and other bits and pieces. 

What are your favourite books, either from now or from your childhood?

My favourite books? Well, for escapism I always go to Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels; well-written and historically accurate, they give me a lift when I’m feeling down. I also love crime fiction and stories that have a strong sense of place. Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels fit the bill here. I only visited Edinburgh a few times when I lived in Scotland but through his books I feel I know it so well. Because I worked in Oxford for many years, reading Colin Dexter’s Morse novels was a must; the plotting is so intricate and detailed, and again, there is that great sense of place. My favourite book from childhood has to be Peter Pan, even as a child I picked up on the sadness of the little boy who never wanted to grow up, and I always dreamed of being able to fly.

Thank you so much Penny for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. I am even more envious of your time spent with so many wonderful manuscripts now (folks, if you haven’t seen MS. Bodl. 264 that Penny mentions, go and have a look – I had a peek as I was writing this blog post and it is wonderful!).

So now, onto the all important book details.

The Unquiet Spirit Cover

BLURB:

A new beginning. A house with a past. A man with secrets.

It was a dream come true…that turned into a nightmare.

Kate Wilson thinks moving back to Cornwall might be the answer to her prayers. But it isn’t long before she begins to have doubts. Is the house she inherited from her godmother haunted? Or is she going out of her mind? With a stalker, threats, and attempted break-ins, Kate’s troubles multiply.

Then there’s her enigmatic neighbour, the brooding Tom Carbis; a man with secrets he doesn’t wish to share. Can she trust him when he says he wants to help?

In her quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding her, will Kate uncover more than she bargains for?

Set in beautiful Cornwall, The Unquiet Spirit is a gripping suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Fans of Barbara Erskine will enjoy this tale.

You can purchase your copy of The Unquiet Spirit HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Unquiet Spirit - Author photo April 2020 2 2 IMG_3862Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a  historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

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