Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked at length about my latest novel The Thistlewood Curse; what inspired it, the history behind it, short excerpts, discussion on the cover, and so forth.
This article will focus on the themes of the story. What was I trying to explore, or to say, in The Thistlewood Curse?
The most honest answer would be nothing at all. I don’t believe any story should be written with an intentional message. Such endeavours tend to come off as tedious, condescending sermons. Instead, the primary motive for writing the novel was to create a suspenseful, gripping tale of supernatural mystery and horror.
That said, what is important to any writer will be inherent in the stories they tell. I had initially thought The Thistlewood Curse to be a tale of terror, but as the writing progressed it became less deliberately frightening and bloody (although there is still plenty of that), and more reflective, more melancholic, more sombre and ultimately more a tale of faith and coming to terms with grief in the face of the inexplicable.
The novel also flirts with contemporary concerns such as human trafficking, although more as a springboard exploring how the sins of past generations can be revisited upon the present in classic Greek tragedy style, rather than a deep expose of a very serious current problem. Themes of witchcraft also crop up, though again more as a plot device rather than a serious look at what goes on in covens. I doubt very much that astral projection could be used in real life the way it is used in The Thistlewood Curse, but who knows?
In subsequent drafts, the story evolved further, adding an element of religious oppression into the mix in a backstory I had originally intended to keep a mystery. However, my amazing and brilliantly honest wife persuaded me that these elements were needed to provide stronger emotional context for what was otherwise a clever but somewhat cold supernatural whodunit. I was happy to add these chapters into a now extended act one, because religious oppression is a key recurrent theme in my work in any case, and I can now see that keeping that part out for the sake of getting to the main plot quicker would have been a mistake. In fact, the reverse is true. I believe with this element now in the novel it makes the mystery all the more compelling, because the reader now cares far more about the two main characters.
Here is the blurb from the back of The Thistlewood Curse:
Can a ghost murder the living?
Lawrence Crane’s powers of astral projection are put to the ultimate test when he and his lifelong friend Detective Laura Buchan investigate a mysterious death on Lundy Island.
Sensing a dark power at work, they attempt to identify a human assassin under the control of supernatural evil.
But can they escape a terrifying, centuries-old curse?
You can download or buy print copies of The Thistlewood Curse from Amazon here.