It's that time of year again! Re-reading our favourite Christmas books every year is as exciting for us as hanging the decorations (and way more exciting than shopping for stocking fillers). Discovering a new festive story is such a treat, so we were thrilled to stumble across The Ghost Locket, which we are sharing with our Cockatoo subscribers this month. Set in contemporary London but with a distinctly historical feel, The Ghost Locket is a thrilling, spooky ghost story with a difference. It's packed with empathy, mystery and some unexpected twists - and we love Lolli, the lead character, who we were rooting for from start to finish. Here author Allison Rushby tells us what inspired the book and which festive ghost stories she recommends you read next.
What inspired you to write The Ghost Locket?
A few years ago, I had a magical Christmas in London. Because I’ve been lucky enough to visit London many times, on this trip, I asked friends to give me tips for more off-beat experiences. Someone told me I had to go to Dennis Severs’ House. I looked it up and it seemed a curious place – a sort of “not” museum. It was more of an art installation – a house that told a story. The reviews were mixed. People either seemed to love it or loathe it! There was a special Christmas installation over the Christmas period, so I bought a ticket to go. I was a bit worried as I queued to enter. Would I love this place, or loathe it? Well, I needn’t have worried. On stepping inside, I was entranced. With no electricity, lit only by candlelight, it was like stepping into an oil painting, or into the past itself. You must tour the house in silence as an audio track plays, which makes you believe the residents of the house are moving about, though always unseen. I was enthralled and I knew immediately that I would set a book in a place just like this. And I did. The house in The Ghost Locket is not the same as Dennis Severs’ House, but it’s similar in many ways.
What research did you do for the book and did you learn anything that surprised you?
I had to do some research into Spitalfields, which was interesting, but what was truly fascinating was the research I had to do into mesmerism. I had no idea that mesmerism had been used during surgery or used by spiritualists.
Are any of the characters or locations inspired by real people or places?
Apart from the house itself, the locket and its connection to Queen Victoria was inspired by her strong interest in spiritualism.
What is your favourite thing about Christmas?
Being Australian, we have a very different sort of Christmas. It’s usually blisteringly hot. My family tend to gather to celebrate at my house as I have both air-conditioning and a pool, and both these things are definitely required if you’re also going to turn the oven on and cook a turkey! That said, one of the big drawcards to an Australian Christmas is not turning the oven on at all and eating prawns and ham and mangos and all the other lovely in-season stone fruit. We usually finish off with ice-cream Christmas pudding.
Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Lolli?
I think by the end of The Ghost Locket we can all see that the future is looking very bright for Lolli. It will be full of “family” (the new one she and Freya will create for themselves). I can see her being more mindful of the spirits around her as she grows up and being a better person for it, too.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I have a dedicated study and usually write on my laptop beside another big screen. On the screen, I’ll play all sorts of things from YouTube. Like walking tours of the area I’m writing about, or I’ll do writing sprints alongside other writers/people who are studying. It can be a bit lonely being a writer, so this is a great way to feel a little bit more connected and to motivate myself!
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
I actually write for all sorts of age groups, from early readers, right up to adults. But I have to admit that Middle Grade (for readers of around 8-12 years), is my absolute favourite age group to write for. There’s just something so special about writing for this group of readers. We form such strong, lasting connections to books at this age and I know the books I adored at this age are still my true comfort reads.
What other Christmas books (or ghost stories) would you recommend our subscribers’ read next?
I loved Kate Milford’s Ghosts of Greenglass House, which is a wonderful combination of both Christmas and ghosts! My favourite ghost book of all time, however, would have to be a non-fiction title I borrowed from my school library countless times as a child. I saw recently that it’s been re-released and quickly bought a copy. It was such a joyous experience to read it again and I couldn’t believe how well I could recall the text and illustrations. It’s called The World of the Unknown: Ghosts, by Christopher Maynard.
Copies of our The Ghost Locket pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!
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