About Rhona Whiteford
What inspires me to write? People and places, to begin with, reading stories endlessly, being an avid watcher of TV drama, film and of course, theatre. They’re all grist to my mill.
I love old or unusual buildings and once inside I wonder who lived or worked there and what happened in their lives. Along with the buildings I’m inspired by landscape and atmosphere – wild beaches, dark forest, inner city glass and chrome or dense slum housing. The people in my stories exist in these places and each setting, the landscape, the climate, the season, affects their lives and the action of the story. I like to have significant animals present in my books as they’re a vital part of my life.
I’ve been writing continuously for 37 years and will admit it’s an obsession now. I began writing educational resources for primary teachers, children and parents. I then moved on to children’s fiction for that age group and am now immersed in fiction for adults.
History inspires me. The way people lived is endlessly fascinating. I’m drawn to the early medieval period in Britain, the Victorians and the early 20th century. My debut adult fiction was Breaking points, a murder set in an inner-city Manchester primary school. Tensions can be high in a small community…
I’m also very interested in the supernatural and how different characters react to the idea. I like Einstein’s view: ‘The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.’
My family and I spent many years holidaying in a cottage on an isolated beach in Aberffraw, Anglesey. This village was once the main Llys of Prince Llewelyn the Great, and with the history, the view and Einstein’s philosophy it didn’t take long to think of a story. I wrote The house between time, a time slip novel set in the present and in 13th century Anglesey. I’ve planned a prequel for this and have already written the first chapter. I’ll get onto that once I’ve finished the book I’m working on presently.
I’m completing a three-book series, Legacy. A series wasn’t planned. I began by writing a Victorian thriller with supernatural overtones, A bouquet of Nightshade. It’s set in 1895 in Manchester and the main character is a young woman, Sophia. She’s an undertaker and also clairvoyant. That summer a killer stalks the city preying on other young professional women and it’s Sophia’s gift that helps unmask him. Her maid and confident is Alice, a miner’s daughter from Wigan. Readers asked what happened to Alice later on, how her life worked out. Another story grew.
Twenty years later it was WW1 when Alice reappeared. She’d become a nurse and in 1915 was given her first post as matron at Haigh Hall, Wigan. Lord Crawford, The Earl of Balcarres did actually allow the Hall to be used as an Auxiliary Hospital in both wars. In this story, Alice is now a close friend of Sophia and enlists her help as a medium because one of the house maids at the Hall, Florrie, is possessed by an evil presence. Furthermore, one of Alice’s patients is an army captain suffering from shell-shock. A legacy of ghosts is a wartime romance and a ghost story.
When this book was finished I couldn’t desert Alice, Sophia and, Florrie, so they’re together in 1940 in WW2, during the Manchester Christmas blitz. And it’s together they confront the enemy within, the dreaded Fifth Column, as well as supernatural presences at Ordsall Hall, Salford.
I’m three quarters of the way through writing this.
Where do I write? In my office at an old mahogany desk with loads of drawers. I have a beautiful view, but it doesn’t distract me, it’s simply good to have, as are the two very large dogs who keep a sleeping watch while I work.
How do I write? Exclusively on screen (a very big one). I make notes on paper or post-it notes but think things through while washing up or ironing, or in bed in the dark – not sleeping. I re-read what I’ve written all the time. I like to do a lot of historical research using different sources, the internet, books and visiting the places I write about.
When do I write? Whenever I can, every day, a few hours or more. I never stare into space, pondering; I go and do something else for a minute or an hour and come back.
Favourite book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Favourite place: home
Favourite animals: dogs and horses
Favourite artist: Botticelli, Rembrandt, the Pre-Raphaelites
Favourite music: Mozart, Elvis and Blue Grass