One of the secret surprises about being a writer is that you don’t always end up with the same idea you started with.
When I started writing The Serpent House I had two ideas in mind. I wanted to write about the medieval leper hospital that lies, buried by history, under the streets where I live.
I also wanted to write something based on the lives of my three great-aunts who worked in service, Downton Abbey-style, at the turn of the twentieth century.
As I began to write, it came to me that my main character Annie had lost her hair. Alopecia is something I know about from my own childhood and I know how traumatic it can be.
And then the snakes crept in – or maybe that should be slithered. This happened rather against my will, as I’m terrified of them. Did you know, though, that snakes are regularly used in medicine and this was the case even back in the Dark Ages? They were clearly meant to be part of this story.
So when a friend asked me why I wrote about something that frightened me, I realised that this fear gave an extra power to the writing. And the presence of the creatures moved the story on in ways I didn’t plan, like a game of snakes and ladders, but which always felt right.
Now that readers are about to get their hands on it, I’m very excited to hear what they have to say about it. I’m hoping readers will find it scary, funny and above all, exciting and worth turning the pages.
Wish me – and Annie! – luck!