Ellis is losing track of time.
Following her mother’s marriage to a famous rock star, Ellis moves to a crumbling old mansion in the wilds of Scotland. Far away from her friends and familiarity, she finds waves of anxiety rolling in and threatening to capsize her. But when she finds herself whisked back to the world of 1912 where she meets lonely servant girl Flora, Ellis finally feels like she’s home. But living in the past might not be as perfect as it seems.
Interview with Karen McCombie
After 80+ books, do you ever get bored or struggle to find inspiration for stories?
Nope. Stories are all around. Or at least snippets that can turn into stories. And it also helps that I write for different genres and ages. For example, after I was absorbed in the writing of history mystery ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’, I dived straight into a little project for an educational publisher; an early reader about a boy with a pet stone. Variety freshens up my brain, I think.
Why did you want to write ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’?
When my then-new editor Lauren and I met up (over tea and cake), we chatted in general about story ideas. She happened to say, “Have you ever considered writing a time-slip novel?” I hadn’t, but thought it sounded fun. I’d also just come back from holiday in the Highlands, and really wanted to use that as a backdrop to a writing project sometime. At that point, something just clicked into place.
You recently wrote about how your daughter finds her way into a lot of your books (click this link to read the here full post), and that her experiences with anxiety channelled your writing about Ellis’s anxiety struggles in ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’. How do you cope with anxiety affecting a family member?
I read a ton of stuff in books and online. I took advice from parents of teens who’d been through the same thing. I remembered my own insecurities at that age. My daughter and I talked through it all, trying out different strategies. The most important things I wanted her to know was a) I was listening and b) to the best of her ability, she shouldn’t allow the Anxiety Monster to spoil TOO much of the Fun Stuff. (See below.)
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I sound quite confident, but I carry around a wee wobbly shy version of me inside. Sometimes the shy girl shows up and trips me up, but for the most part, I tell her to shush – she’s not allowed to spoil my fun.
I’m going to give you a free platform to talk about anything – GO!
I adore teenagers. I was one. I have one. I write for them. But that weird pursed-lip thing teenage girls are doing in selfies… what’s that all about? They look like goldfish who’ve just eaten very vinegary crisps. And ‘bae’… No. Just no. #grrr
Tea or coffee.
Both, but not together in the same cup. (Bleurgh…)
Do you remember the first time you saw one of your books in a book shop? What did you do?
I can remember the first time I saw someone LOOKING at a copy of one of my books, in the local WHSmith. I felt very red-faced and wibbly and didn’t know what to do. But then I went over to the girl and said, “Er, excuse me, but that’s my book!”. Her response? “Oh, sorry! Here…” and handed the book to me. Doh.
What’s the perfect cure for a bad day?
A meander, fresh air, a yak with a friend. Oh, and crisps.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Packing up my laptop, as I’m just about to do after I e-mail this to you, and going to the café at the local garden centre where I can write surrounded by flowers.
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
“Can you sign this contract to have your book turned into a TV series…?”
Karen McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat.
Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!
Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.
Find out more at www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!
The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall Book Review
There is something very reassuring about sitting down with a Karen McCombie book. You know you’re in safe hands, and of course The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall was no exception.
Reading The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall was very much a case of me snuggled up on the sofa turning the pages until the very end of the book. It’s an engaging story and I could picture everything perfectly. While I probably wouldn’t want to visit Wilderwood Hall during the refurbishments you can sign me up for a weekend trip after the Johnstone family have finished fixing it up.
Ellis was an interesting character to read. It’s always a bit harder to me to judge when protagonists are holding up mirrors to my everyday life. Anxiety is experienced differently by people, as is how we deal with it. What I liked about The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall is that it wasn’t the point of the story (as much as I appreciate books that deal with this subject).