My Inspiration for Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey.
By Jennifer Wilson
Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey was meant to be the second in the Kindred Spirits series, not the third, but when I sat down and started making notes about which ghosts would be amongst my ‘cast’, I’ll admit I was overwhelmed by the task, and looked about for an alternative, hence we travelled north to Edinburgh for book two instead. With two books completed though, I knew I had to tackle the big one, and head to Westminster.
The inspiration behind the overall concept of KS: Westminster Abbey is the same as for the previous two books in the series; which ghosts are likely to still be found in any given place, after all these years, and who would (or would not) get along together. Once the notion of Richard III and Anne Boleyn having quite a bit in common struck me for KS: Tower of London, I fell in love with the idea, and now find it difficult to visit any historical location without thinking about who might be loitering, waiting to surprise an unsuspecting tourist.
For Westminster Abbey, I spent a lot of time reading accounts of ghost stories, historical trivia, and lists of burials, to come up with a set of characters which would most inspire me. Elizabeth I was a given, as was her half-sister Mary I, and Mary, Queen of Scots, just to add a bit of tension into the mix. But, frustratingly, whoever else I looked at including, I kept coming back to Henry VII as my central male character. He was connected to so many of them, for starters, but also, he seemed a logical lead for the discussions and debates which would no doubt take place between so many noble and regal spirits. I tried so hard to avoid it; I really didn’t want to end up having sympathy for Henry Tudor! Still, if you’re going to add conflict for Henry Tudor, it does really only leave one interesting option…
For me, the greatest inspiration, after that initial idea has struck, comes from physically nosing around my chosen setting. I think it’s only once I get into a place, get a sense of it, that real inspiration can really start to flow, as I notice little nooks and crannies, or routes around a place. This, for me, means I can also add a sense of realism, as I think my biggest dread would be somebody saying “but you cannot walk from there to there” – even with ghosts as central characters, the geography has to be right! If I’m honest though, meandering about historical buildings and sites is never a hardship for me. It also means you stop yourself from making huge mistakes, like not realising you really cannot see much of Anne of Cleves’ tomb these days (much to her ghost’s annoyance).
Hardly any of my story ideas come to me whilst sitting at my desk. Yes, I’ll work up notes when I’m sat at home, adding in detail, but that initial buzz of a plot nearly always comes when I’m mid-visit. There’s just something a bit special about being in places where so many people have lived, loved, lost and died. It’s the practical side of things too, like making my way around the many spiral staircases of Linlithgow Palace earlier this year, and thinking (1) it must have taken an age to work out where everything was when you were new, and (2) this would not have been easy in a flowing gown and court shoes (it was tricky enough in jeans and trainers!). It means, when writing ‘straight’ historical fiction (i.e. none of my ghosts who don’t need to worry about such things), you have to be aware of the very real trip hazard, if your heroine suddenly needs to make a run for it.
It’s hard to talk about my inspiration without sounding a bit soppy and mystical, but I truly believe a place can do that to you, if you’re open to it. Just as when I was wandering around the Tower of London in a February blizzard, thinking about how it would have been to be there in the times without central heating, or how it would feel to hear the scaffold for your own death being built outside your window. I do truly believe that walls can talk, if you just start listening!
Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey
With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic.
Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn't all tempers and tantrums. Poets' Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages.
With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace?
The bestselling Kindred Spirits series continues within the ancient walls of Westminster Abbey.
Jennifer C. Wilson
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her timeslip novella The Last Plantagenet? by Ocelot Press.