A Basic Renovation and Driving in Neutral take place in the heat of summer. For Your Eyes Only is set in an early spring that is still in the clutch of winter… Oops. I’m seriously going to have to use Halloween as a backdrop for something I write. I bet you’re shocked that I haven’t done that, seeing how I’ve been going Hell Yeah Halloween for the last 14 days. Author Alison Stuart is on the Halloween-ish track. Her latest, Gather the Bones, is a ghost story!
I wonder how many of you know the Gilbert and Sullivan play “Ruddigore”? It’s my favourite of all their musicals because its about ghosts… the bad baronet who is haunted by the ghosts of his ancestors… I once got to play a village maiden, but that’s a whole other story.
Halloween is not such a popular holiday here in Australia. I didn’t really come across it until we lived in Singapore and I hung out with Americans. Of course the Chinese have a whole MONTH… around August… called THE HUNGRY GHOST MONTH. During this period the souls of your dead ancestors roam the streets and need to be propitiated with the burning of incense money and prayers… lots of prayers. It is a terrible month to get married or have children. It’s like Friday 13th every day for a month.
The origins of Halloween are lost in the commercial world of pumpkins and spectres but it was originally the festival of “All Hallows Even” – the night before All Hallows Day.
Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day.
The carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips!
But back to my favourite subject – ghosts. I LOVE ghost stories and wherever there is a ghost tour, you will generally find me trailing along behind the cloaked figure holding the lantern. Which is why I wanted to write a ghost story – GATHER THE BONES
In the end GATHER THE BONES is so much more than a ghost story… it is about war and the effect of war on individuals – two wars in fact (the Napoleonic and World War One) – and it has ghosts, some good and some bad and all ‘authentic’. All the paranormal experiences I inflicted on my hero and heroine, are derived from the “research” I did on ghost tours from New Orleans to Edinburgh.
And linking the whole thing together subliminally is Ruddigore – there are at least three separate references to Ruddigore in the book… “Duty, duty must be done, the rule applies to everyone,” Paul hums. Photographs of Charlie dressed as “Dick Dauntless” and of course the very title of the book is drawn from the iconic song “When the night wind howls…”WHEN the night wind howls
In the chimney cowls,
And the bat in the moonlight flies,
And the inky clouds,
Like funeral shrouds,
Sail over the midnight skies– When the footpads quail
At the night-bird’s wail,
And black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectre’s holiday–
Then is the ghost’s high noon! Ha! Ha! Then is the ghost’s high noon! As the sob of the breeze
Sweeps over the trees
And the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones
Are GATHERED THE BONES
That once were women and men…
So now you know where the title of my book comes from… Here’s a clip of the whole song to get you in the mood for Halloween!
AS A SPECIAL FOR HALLOWEEN, GATHER THE BONES IS ON SALE FOR ONE WEEK ONLY (13 October until 20 October) for just .99c. Get it quick!
The daughter of a career British army officer, Alison was brought up in Kenya in the dying days of the British Empire. The family moved to Australia and in her final year at University, where she was studying History and Law, Alison did the unthinkable (at least to those who knew her), she joined the Army Reserve. During a navigation exercise in officer training, a handsome young man offered to share his pencil with her, their eyes locked…and the rest is history.