Walter de la Mare and ‘The Listeners’

The most outwardly apparent influence on my own novel was Walter de la Mare’s enigmatic thirty-six-line poem ‘The Listeners’, which gave me the title, as well as a template for my own book’s atmosphere of strange solitude and its key location: a dilapidated cottage among the trees being gradually subsumed by the unrelenting forces of nature and time, and in which young William Abrehart explores.

I’ve just been going through some of my images and here are a few that I think capture something of the dreamlike qualities that pervades De la Mare’s poetry and short stories.

How Writers Centre Norwich scheme helped my writing

I’ve just written a blogpost for the Writers Centre Norwich website, as it’s coming up to the deadline (26 Feb) to apply for a place on their Escalator scheme – something I was lucky enough to be a part of a few years ago and can very much recommend.

You can read my piece here.

Norfolk in ruins

Last week I spent a very enjoyable day out in West Norfolk and the Fens with my friend Clive (who took the fantastic cover photo for my novel), as we poked around various old churches and ruined buildings. One of the churches we visited (which shall remain nameless for now) was very much the inspiration for the church in ‘The Listeners’, and revisiting it for the first time in several years was quite poignant.

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“I can feel the ice-white harshness that pours through the windows, like light inside a glasshouse, mesmerising me…”

The church organ was suitably gothic, but I couldn’t get a sound out of it, despite pumping the bellows in true William Abrehart style…

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If I had seen this ‘Table of Kindred and Affinity’ while researching the book I would have definitely have included it somehow, as it was absolutely perfect. This photo isn’t staged either, this is exactly how it was placed.

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To the side of the altar, I loved the way the light fell on this chair and lectern. I could imagine Reverend Thurtle standing there, but there was no sign of him, fortunately.

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Nearby were the remains of a ruined priory. Despite gazing longingly many times at them over the years, this was the first time I have managed to have a proper close-up look, courtesy of kind permission from the owners of the house whose grounds they stand in.

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After this – and the appearance of a timely ‘stormcock’ (Mistle Thrush) overhead – we headed west, deep into the Norfolk Fens, to explore two ruined churches and a ruined house. I was particularly drawn to this face, which contained so much character in its lichen and its weathering.

 

‘The Listeners’ now available to purchase

Exciting news!

The Listeners is now available to purchase online at Amazon in hardback (ISBN: 978-1781331132, rrp £15.99), paperback (ISBN: 978-1781331064, rrp £9.99) and on Kindle.

For anyone not able to come to either of the launch events (at Writers’ Centre Norwich’s Christmas Party at The Arts Centre at 7.30pm on 2 Dec, or at Kett’s Books, Wymondham, between 6.00-8.00pm on 4 Dec, signed copies are also available from a number of bookshops in Norfolk including The Book Hive, Waterstones and Jarrolds in Norwich and Kett’s Books.