Today we welcome Sara Bain! The Ghost Tree evolved from a recorded account dating back to the 1600’s by Reverend Alexander Telfair about a poltergeist haunting his home. Make sure to read the link below – fascinating!
Five years after the death of his wife, MacAoidh Armstrong moves into a smallholding in southern Scotland with the intention of living a self-sufficient existence. In the nearby town solicitor Libby Butler is trying to find peace after her recent deadly brush with the unknown. On a hill by the steading stands The Ghost Tree: all that remains of the former Ringcroft of Stocking. Local legend says that when the last Ghost Tree dies, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return. Just days after MacAoidh moves in, he is forced to contend with a number of strange events that apparently defy explanation, and distance him from the local community. Turning to Libby for help, they find themselves challenged by a series of bizarre and terrifying occurrences which defy all logical and scientific explanation. As the phenomena become increasingly violent and lives are threatened, Libby must delve into closely guarded secrets to discover the reason for the present terror…and come to terms with her growing feelings for MacAoidh. Can she save the pragmatic Highlander from an ancient evil, and in doing so will she lose her heart?
How long have you been writing horror/thrillers and what drew you to the genre?
I am quintessentially a writer of fantasy fiction and have had a huge epic fantasy on the back burner for a number of years. This is the book I cut my teeth on as a writer and is what I call “very raw” as my style has changed considerably since I first began writing. I can’t count the amount of times I have rewritten my first book and still it never seems right.
Out of sheer frustration, I decided to write a shorter contemporary thriller but the fantasy element wouldn’t leave me. My first book, The Sleeping Warrior, is a crime thriller with a very subtle fantasy factor woven into the narrative and even some horror, which is a genre of fiction that fantasy lends itself to very well.
My father gave me my love for Hammer Horror movies and a morbid fascination in the paranormal has stalked me throughout my life. I have read so many horror books and watched so many movies of the genre that I feel I have become desensitised to those shocking moments that scare the pants off an unsuspecting person. That said, I still can’t watch The Exorcist!
I wanted to write a book that scared me. I deliberately wrote at night time with the door open behind me to get that feeling of something creeping up behind me. It worked to a fashion and I think that’s why there’s so much humour in The Ghost Tree as laughter helped me to dispel my fear. I cut the silly bits out after the book was written.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I am a journalist and came across the real Ghost Tree when I was researching stories for a running feature on haunted houses in Dumfries and Galloway for my newspaper. The tale of the Mackie or Rerrick Parish poltergeist has haunted me for over a decade. The chilling account of the ordeal of a farmer and his family in a steading near Auchencairn in 1695 was published in an account that same year by the minister who performed the grueling two-week-long exorcism of the poltergeist that plagued his house. Rev Alexander Telfair carefully recorded his account and got the signatories from 14 members of the clergy and community officials, all of whom personally witnessed the paranormal activity at the steading. You can read the account here.
I spoke to a number of experts on poltergeist and to some of the people in the locality. I also visited the tree with a spiritualist medium but he didn’t pick up anything of a paranormal nature. A few local people told me that the old tree on a hill on the subjects of the old steading is the last living remnant of the Mackie plantation. There were three trees in living memory but only this old gnarled oak survives. Local legend says when the last of the ghost trees die, the Rerrick Parish poltergeist will return.
The picture of the tree on the cover of my book is the real Ghost Tree. I took that picture about 12 years ago and, so I am to understand, the enduring old oak is still alive and well.
I always wondered, however, what would happen to an ordinary person if the last Ghost Tree did die and the poltergeist returned. What would that mean to a person who staunchly doesn’t believe that the spirits of the dead can come back to turn your life into a living hell.
I am very inquisitive by nature and feel compelled to research all theories and aspects of a subject before I reach a definitive conclusion. My search took me into spiritualism, psychology, sociology and even quantum physics.
The main problem in concluding the story was finding an answer to the existence of a paranormal dimension. By its very nature, the supernatural defies the existing canons of science and logic and my main character, who doesn’t believe in ghosts, is forced to re-think all his existing beliefs when baring the full brunt of the inexplicable.
It is a truly fascinating subject.
If you could erase one horror cliché, what would it be?
Don’t go into the woods. I absolutely hate that cliche. Anyone who has grown up with the story of Little Red Riding Hood will understand why.
What are you working on now?
I will soon have some spare time to work on the third and last book in the Libby Butler series.
Favorite horror movie and book?
My very favourite horror book is Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice. I love her beautiful descriptive prose, the way she can turn horror into an almost erotic journey of the soul and the way in which she can make anyone fall in love with her main characters, even though that character would probably want to eat you rather than have a drink in the pub with you.
An imaginative thinker with a career as diverse as the number of genres her fiction crosses, Sara Bain is one of those people who has the ability to write to any formula but chooses to adhere to none. She was brought up in London, qualified as an English barrister and pursued a career in legal publishing where she learned to produce academic texts and draft complex legal forms.
She then left the bright lights of the city and moved to Scotland where she worked as a journalist for a local newspaper for 15 years and learned to write facts as well as creative features. Sara has been a law lecturer, computer tutor and is an able photographer and graphic designer. She now has her own company which provides press and publicity services and currently works on media campaigns for a number of Scottish arts organisations. She is editor of The Nithsdale Times. When she finds some downtime, Sara writes fantasy and paranormal cross-genre fiction which includes elements of crime, romance, horror and humour. Her debut novel, The Sleeping Warrior, has been described as “talented”, “imaginative”, “remarkable” and “simply brilliant.”
Where to find Sara