Archive for the ‘Gothic Influences’ Category

Writing Book 3 in The Morrow Secrets Trilogy, “The Dark Spell”

July 1st, 2014

8741_495390240481323_579824652_nWhen I began writing The Morrow Secrets I didn’t have a plan and hadn’t decided that it would be a trilogy but as the story evolved I knew that Tallitha and Tyaas were destined for many more adventures after they reached the dark castle at Hellstone Tors.

My writing style has evolved from those first rough drafts. I am a writer who naturally lets things develop from inside the plot and the characters. Initially I had an idea for a girl trapped in a sinister family, desperate to escape from her strange relations, to unearth the family secrets and to leave the eerie house of Winderling Spires behind … but to go where? Curiosity got the cat… so to speak ( or rather Tallitha) and so the story developed and the characters took over. The whole experience has been a roller coaster journey that I have loved.

I created over 50 characters in Book 1 and this number grew significantly in Book 2, The Shadow of the Swarm. But what would Book 3 be like? What would the characters do, where would they take me? Believe me, I let them have their head and the third book evolved in the same way.

ghostsThe Dark Spell has been more difficult to write than the first two with many changes, tweaks and rewrites. There have been periods of procrastination when the task ahead felt daunting. Magically however whenever I sat at my computer and re-read the last chapter, off I would go, back into Tallitha’s world and the realm of magic and make-believe.

I ask myself, how does this process happen? Where does my inspiration come from? Quite honestly I have no idea other than I love my characters, am inspired by old film stills and my Gothic, fantasy setting.

Perhaps the final book in a trilogy is always difficult to write, or perhaps it’s because I don’t want to end my time with Tallitha and Tyaas, Sybilla, Ruker, Snowdroppe and Marlin to name but a few.

I would love to know what other writers think. I know that G.R.R. Martin has spoken of his mammoth task in bringing The Game of Thrones to a conclusion and he has many more characters than I do.

the-woman-in-black-review-e1353327177531During this process I have written into the wee small hours often obsessing about my characters as I fall asleep. They lead me here and there, down a number of dead ends; plot lines that don’t work; having to rewrite scenes and kill off a ‘number of my favourite darlings’. That was painful and oddly it took a long time to get there but I did it in the end and they have been exercised.

The Dark Spell is almost, almost finished.

My second edit has been gruelling.

The story is dark and creepy; a Gothic fantasy with a smattering of the supernatural, paranormal and the occult; witches and more, ghouls and ghosts and a few tears.

time-of-their-lives-seanceFor those of you who loved the first 2 books in The Morrow Secrets, hold on for book 3.

I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Halloween Delight! The Morrow Secrets – 13 5* Reviews

October 29th, 2013


New 5* Review on AmazonThe Morrow Secrets

I read The Morrow Secrets for the first time last month, thinking that it would be a little time pass read on my daily commute to work. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I spent hours reading this at every possible opportunity I could find until I finished. It really needed to be several chapters longer; it was entertaining to no end.

It was extremely refreshing to read about the trials and challenges a young girl, like Tallitha, faces throughout the story, and how she stands up to them and overcomes these anomalies – finding the answers to her questions with wit and clever perception.

The story is overflowing with such imaginative description that you almost feel like you are physically inside of Winderling Spires, watching secret after secret unravel in front of you – it’s just that gripping!

Susan McNally has a terrific sense of timing, which she perfectly utilises to enhance the twist and turns of this remarkable, thrilling mystery – it’s hard to believe she’s a new author! I advise everyone, adults included, to take a chance on this book because I can guarantee that it will not disappoint. I failed to put this book down, even at work – I was cheekily trying to read it under my desk at one point! It will no doubt leave you in a similar state of suspense.

Though a story for teenagers, The Morrow Secrets is nothing short of a mystery marvel! The second book, The Shadow of the Swarm is soon to be released and I, for one, cannot wait and have already pre-ordered it!

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Posted in books for 9-14 year olds, Creepy, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Influences, Halloween, Supernatural, Susan McNally, The Morrow Secrets | Comments (0)

Gothic Fantasy Novel, The Morrow Secrets is Published! Perfect Spooky Thriller for Halloween

October 6th, 2013

The Morrow SecretsSusan McNally – The debut Gothic author

A childhood spent roaming the rugged landscapes of the Lake District and theYorkshire Dales, exploring the castles of Northumberland and investigating the wonderfully secluded island of Lindisfarne clearly left a lasting impression on author Susan McNally. Her debut novel, The Morrow Secrets, invites readers into an alternative world,

depicted with a spellbinding vibrancy and inspired by the many pretty landscapes and peculiar quirks from her happy upbringing. But she hadn’t always wanted to be a children’s author. “I always wanted to write a novel but couldn’t find my genre until I began The Morrow Secrets,” she states.

A few years ago the purchase of a children’s illustration
by the artist Edward Ardizzone rekindled memories of her favourite childhood authors and her favourite childhood day. “We’d been to a place called Brimham Rocks in North Yorkshire for a picnic,” she says. “Later I went home, jumped in bed and I started reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I look back now and think life doesn’t get any better than that.”

Her early imagination was nourished by her parents and ignited her life-long love of fantasy and mystery genres. “My father told me many made up fairy stories about a princess that I named Varnaseen,” she tells us. This, along with a childhood love of literature, helped spark her vivid imagination. As a child she was surrounded by weird and wonderful characters. “My grandmother used to have a friend who would go into a trance and two or three times she predicted my mother’s future,” she laughs. “My mother liked having her fortune told too so I think my family was into spooky things.” Despite this decidedly eerie influence, Susan didn’t initially set out to write a work of Gothic


fiction. However, setting main character, Tallitha’s story in Winderling Spires, a “strange rambling house where you are never quite sure where the staircases might lead,” meant that “the Gothic atmosphere just fell into place.”

At the heart of her book lies the heroine, Tallitha Mouldson, a headstrong girl caught up in the sinister web of her eccentric family. Susan may have based aspects of Tallitha on a long tradition of inspiring females. “Women who defy convention, who are brave enough to step outside the confines

that society places on them, women who do rare and extraordinary things,” as she puts it. “I admire the musician Joni Mitchell, the Brontë Sisters, the suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, and in literature, Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games for contemporary readers. These are women who are compelled to do things that are outside the norm, challenging society.”

Susan wanted to defy the norms of literary convention too by focusing on strong female characters. “It is often boys in literature who get the adventurous plot lines and lead the story forwards. I wanted to challenge that stereotype.” However, in other respects she is very much your classic writer. This includes an almost fanatical love of writing. “I find writing quite compulsive at times. If I’m particularly gripped by a scene then I’ll get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and carry on writing”.

This passion for literature is something she thinks is important to share with the younger generation. “I think reading develops their inner world and their imagination
and helps children see the world from many different perspectives. Keen readers develop into clever articulate children. It also helps children empathise with the characters and their plight.” Susan sees the importance of reading, not just as escapism, but also as a tool for learning. The Morrow Secrets is “written in a way that will stretch children’s comprehension in relation to use of vocabulary.”

So what tips does she give to young aspiring writers?
“You have to write the book that you want to read,” says
Susan. “There is no point struggling to write something just
because it’s in vogue”. Equally, she says that there’s no point
labouring over something like some writers who have to sit
at their computer until they’ve written 1000 words a day,
however, “The more you write the more it flows… Get the
plot down on paper and even if the writing is not fantastic
first time round just keep on going because you can go back
and revise it”.

Get your copy of ‪#MorrowSecrets. Spooky new ‪#YA ‪#gothic trilogy! ‪@morrowsecrets


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A Gothic Fantasy of Spooky Delights!

September 3rd, 2013
Get your hands on a Copy of The Morrow Secrets –
Photo: Get your hands on a Copy of The Morrow Secrets -

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Posted in books for 9-14 year olds, Creepy, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Gothic Influences, Supernatural, Susan McNally, The Morrow Secrets, Witches | Comments (0)

The Morrow Secrets Trilogy: Book One – Out in Paperback

August 22nd, 2013

The Morrow Secrets

First Book in the Gothic TrilogyThe Morrow Secrets

4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

The Morrow Secrets is out in paperback on 3rd October 2013 on Amazon with 20 fabulous illustrations.

To pre-order your copy click below:

The Morrow Secrets

ISBN-13: 978-1782260356

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Posted in books for 9-14 year olds, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Gothic Influences, Spooky, Supernatural, The Morrow Secrets, Uncategorized | Comments (0)

5 Star Review for Dark Gothic Fantasy

September 18th, 2012

The Morrow Secrets

The Morrow Secrets by Susan McNally

My rating:

didn't like it it was ok liked it really liked it it was amazing (my current rating)

shelf: read

The Morrow Secrets (Book 1)
by Susan McNally(Goodreads Author)


Mallory- Mallory Heart Reviews‘s review

Sep 17, 12
5 of 5 stars false

bookshelves: september-2012-reads, september-reading-challenge-ntoyab

Recommended to Mallory- by: Susan McNally
Read on September 16, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1
Review of The Morrow Secrets by Susan McNallyA delightful fantasy of truly epic proportions, “The Morrow Secrets” is only the first in a series “starring” young Tallitha Mouldson, a girl who lives in a fancy but bizarre mansion that would give the Winchester House a run for its money, in terms of closed-off wings, staircases that lead nowhere, hidden passages, concealed ladders and stairs, suites no one living can locate, and more. Tallitha has a young brother Tyass, a mother Snowdroppe who is often “away” and when she is present is very controlling, a father whose focus is intoxication-and a Grandmother and 2 Great-Aunts, one of whom is the “head” of household, plus her mother’s cousin Esmeralda (kind of a spooky lady herself), and Tallitha and Tyass’ “cousin” Benedict, a clumsy although studious child.Tallitha almost simultaneously rejects her “duty” to become the eventual Morrow head, and discovers that her Great-Aunt, who is Grand Morrow, had a daughter who went missing decades ago. Tallitha and Tyass decide to go adventuring, to locate the missing Asenathe, and make her return to Winderling Spires to be heir. Esmeralda, who has often attempted such a journey, accompanies, and the children insist on Benedict’s presence too. What they find will include many varieties of danger, plus new friendships, and a denouement that will turn their world inside out and upside down.Author Susan McNally has an incredible imagination and has populated this alternate world with wonderful characters, not just the human ones, but all of the other species and creatures involved. Aimed at YA readers, older adult readers will enjoy it just as much, and I predict and recommend a wide audience.The author provided me with a review e-book copy on Sept. 4 2012 in exchange for my fair and impartial review.

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The Supernatural : Paranormal Influences on Writing a Young Adult Gothic Trilogy

September 5th, 2012

As a young girl, not only did I adore the Addams Family (, Bewitched

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

( and the Munsters ( but as a teenager I got into the Hammer Dracula movies (  in a big way – going to see the double bills at my local cinema on a Sunday Night! Fright Night!

Did this obsession come first or was I predisposed to the cult of the macabre and the Gothic? I have already written about my great aunt who went into a trance and foretold my birth but my mother was also superstitious and this must have rubbed off on me. She would always cross a travelling woman’s hand with silver and take the clump of heather from her, having had her fortune told into the bargain. Looking back she was superstitious about many things… black cats, not walking under ladders and repeating a rhyme on the first day of every month… just for luck. I still carry around a tiny black cat that she gave to me. So I was brought up in a family where the women believed in things they couldn’t explain.

Then as a teenager I had some weird experiences of my own. Once I was levitated by my friends… it didn’t happen to anyone else, only me. I opened my eyes.. I felt weightless and my friends had lifted me about 4 feet in the air. In the summer holidays, when I was 14 or 15 we started to play with a home made Ouija board… it was completely addictive and the results grew more ominous day by day until the outcomes were terrifying. Somehow we began to summon long dead spirits, strange words appeared on the makeshift board and when I looked these up in the dictionary we found that they were black magic voodoo curses. I began to be scared of going into the dining room when my friends weren’t around. One day the Ouija board was moving so quickly, the skies darkened and clattered with thunder and then the lights flickered in the room and we ran from the house screaming. We stopped playing with the spirits after that, I do believe we had contacted something beyond our understanding…

About 4 years later I was alone at my boyfriend’s house and I heard someone making a terrible noise downstairs – it sounded like someone dropping a cutlery drawer onto the stone kitchen floor. His mother, a very down-to-earth farmer’s wife later told me that there were spirits abroad, they were unhappy that the family was leaving the farm after six or seven generations of living there….Then a week later she whispered that something had hurt her arm, grabbing her violently in the dark passageway.. but no one was there, she too was all alone in the dark house.

So perhaps that’s the reason I am constantly drawn to the mysterious, the Gothic and the macabre and books with brilliant sinister twists and turns… a haunted house and weird eccentric characters always adds to the plot line as far as I’m concerned! When writing I become completely lost and absorbed  in Winderling Spires, imagining the secret rooms in the enormous creepy house, the evil shroves and all the dark, mysterious places that Tallitha and her brother are desperate to explore…but of course more is revealed about the macabre Morrow family than Tallitha imagines and so begins her epic journey of mystery and spellbinding paranormal adventure.


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Posted in Creative Writing Process, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Gothic Influences, Magical Adventure, Supernatural, Susan McNally, Teen Fiction, The Morrow Secrets, Young Adult | Comments (0)

Dark, Gothic Fantasy Trilogy – Creative, Imaginative, Spellbinding!

September 3rd, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Gothic Fantasy – Creative, Imaginative, Spellbinding,September 2, 2012

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Morrow Secrets (The Morrow Trilogy Plus) (Kindle Edition)

Susan McNally has created a dark, imaginative world in which fantasy lovers will enjoy becoming lost. This is the first book of a trilogy, but I do believe you will be hooked.
Our heroine, Tallitha Mouldson, is a strong-willed girl who is determined to discover the secrets of the Morrow family dynasty. In doing so, she discovers frightening truths about her family and about herself. She will realize that she has powers that she never would believe she could possess. These powers find Tallitha becoming a pawn in a battle between good and evil. Who will win…?
Once you enter the haunting mansion of Winderling Spires, it will entrap you in its labyrinth of mystery. It is unlikely that you will want to escape from the descriptive language, accompanying drawings, and the frightening characters that reside there and in the lands beyond. Susan McNally introduces us to a world that we will want to return to again and again.

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Posted in books for 9-14 year olds, Dark Gothic Fantasy, Fantasy Trilogy, Gothic Fiction, Gothic Influences, New Children's Adventure Story, Teen Fiction, The Morrow Secrets, Young Adult | Comments (0)

Writing my Gothic, Fantasy Novel

August 30th, 2012

I had a great time talking to Viv Oyolu on the Dream Corner radio show about writing my Gothic, fantasy novel, “The Morrow Secrets”

This interview includes my experience of the creative writing process and my top favourite writing  tips for new and aspiring authors.

This is an excerpt from the broadcast including clips from the Gothic illustrations in the book

The Black Hound in Ragging Brows Forest

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Macabre Gothic Inspiration

August 28th, 2012


When I need inspiration I look at photos from this site “The Macabre and the Beautifully Grotesque”

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

Recently I visited the Western section of Highgate Cemetary in leafy North London  to do research for the next book in The Morrow Secrets series. Oh what a fantastic gothic haven! The cemetary is packed with ideas – the amazing Egyptian Avenue filled with family vaults leading to the a circle of gothic catacombs.

The Egyptian Avenue

It has the most amazing gothic illustrations and photographs from across the world

Many famous people are buried there: three women authors, George Eliot ( “Middlemarch”) d.1880; Radclyffe-Hall d.1943 who wrote “The Well of Loneliness” and Stella Webb d. 1989 better known as Stella Gibbons who wrote “Cold Comfort Farm” –

On the tour we heard about supernatural writers and films. Dracula has been filmed there and A Picture of Dorian Gray with Colin Firth.

As a writer I always take a camera and something to jot down ideas. In the late Victorian era families would often visit their dearly departed and take tea with them in the vaults!

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