I started writing WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE September 14, 2009.
I’d just returned from vacation, and had an unbelievable amount of work on my plate. I was getting ready to shoot the video for the OWN Network, so my thoughts were not exactly on writing as much as what I would wear. I was revising THE COLD ROOM, which was three books ago. I was starting to work on THE IMMORTALS, and slightly fleshing out a concept for SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH. I was not thinking four books from that moment. Not at all. And yet, I was in the car, and heard a song by Tori Amos called “Welcome to England.”
And I saw Taylor stepping off a plane at Heathrow, into the waiting arms of Memphis Highsmythe. You may remember Highsmythe from THE COLD ROOM, the wounded Scottish Viscount who joined the Metropolitan Police of London – New Scotland Yard – a man who in many ways mirrors Taylor – the privileged upbringing, eschewing their parents’ wealth and influence to strike out on their own, a sense on longing, of solitude, even when surrounded by loved ones.
I was curious about why she would do such a thing, but knew I’d have to explore the idea. So I made myself some notes and put the idea away so I could focus on what was at hand.
But ideas like this, so big, so different, wend their way into your psyche. From that moment forward, I was writing toward this book, even though I wasn’t consciously doing so.
When it was time to start working on Dead Lie, I knew much more about the reasons for Taylor’s flight to England.
She’s been grievously injured. She’s not healing. She can’t work. She is deathly afraid of what all of this means.
And most importantly, she can’t talk.
Having a mute protagonist was terrifying for me. Dialogue is a hugely important part of my books, the interplay between Taylor and her team, her lover, the victims of the crimes she investigates – it’s not something I wanted to take from her. But I had to. She had to be forced into a corner and fight her way out. Not fight against a villain, but against herself.
And I wanted it to be more than that. This tale is very much a version of the classic fish out of water, a person set into an environment that is unfamiliar, unsettling. I knew I wanted to set the book in Memphis’s world, London and Scotland, with the Scottish Highlands as the backdrop, at Memphis’s ancestral home. His haunted castle. His Manderley.
Suddenly, I was writing a gothic. In the vein of Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Complete with a questionable housekeeper, an errant friend, a dead first wife, and a serious case of PTSD.
I went to Scotland twice while writing Dead Lie. I thought I wanted to stay in a haunted castle, to see a ghost. I sought out some of the places I thought would be perfect, old castles turned into hotels, places with a history of hauntings on the Scottish Register, Culloden Moor, where my ancestors died fighting for freedom.
Culloden was ethereal and sad, absolutely. Blair Castle was old and rundown. Dunrobin was closed for a family event. Our wonderful little hotel in Inverness was decidedly not haunted.
We had all but given up. My husband is also of Scottish descent, so we decided to go see his family’s old castle. Tulloch.
And that’s where things got a little spooky.
Looking back now, I’m not sure exactly what presence was lingering around that place. All I know is the minute we walked past the foyer, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I got cold. It was deathly quiet, but the silence screamed. Screamed in agony and frustration and horror.
I felt it in my bones.
Man, I hightailed it out of there lickety-split. We were supposed to have tea, and we bailed and left with no really good explanation outside of, “Thanks, changed our minds.” I’m sure they get that a lot.
When I uploaded the pictures from that day, there is a very clear shape in one of the windows that we both knew were empty.
Thus ended the great ghost hunt.
But Taylor didn’t have the luxury of walking away from her invisible demons. WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE explores that descent into madness brought about by fear and loss and the unknown surrounding you.
I hope it chills you to the bone.
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