Posts Tagged ‘gothic fantasy’

Fantasy Trilogy, The Morrow Secrets, like Tolkien’s Middle Earth: Dark and Supernatural

May 16th, 2015


 Bone Room 1-0015 Stars! A Great Story!

Tallitha Mouldson dreams of escaping her domineering Great Aunt and the confines of the east wing of Winderling Spires, a huge sprawling house in a land called Wycham Elva. She longs to explore the rest of the weird old house and uncover its secrets.

Then circumstances give her the chance, not only explore the house, but to go on a quest through dark mysterious places that will test her resolve to its limits.

I loved reading this story, loved Winderling Spires and its cast of dark characters.I also enjoyed the journey to the even darker Hellstone Tors. The plot is good, the characters are great. The world that Susan McNally has created is comparable to Tolkien’s Middle Earth in its depth and imagination. In fact this could well be Susan McNally’s ‘Hobbit’ that I can see leading on to much larger works. Five stars for this book. You will not want to put this book down and you will not want it to end.

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Perfect for Halloween! YA Fantasy – The Shadow of the Swarm – Book Two in The Morrow Secrets Trilogy

October 2nd, 2014
The Shadow of the Swarm

The Shadow of the Swarm

 The Shadow of the Swarm – paperback version released on Amazon today

‘A perfectly bewitching tale to get you in the mood for Halloween!’

‘Spooky Gothic fantasy with a twist of horror’

5* I loved this book from start to finish! Packed with adventure, mystery and magic this is the stuff of dark mythical kingdoms and well imagined fantasy worlds where witches, ghosts and strange creatures abound. It is a great read for all ages especially for those who love dark fairy tales. Tallitha is a great heroine with a strong determination to survive and unravel the secrets that inhabit her weird family. The plot is gripping and leads the reader on a journey full of scary twists and spooky turns into the occult and supernatural. Now I want book 3!

A must for fantasy and YA lovers!

The Spider's Turret5 Stars! Another cracking story from Susan (Amazon) …I loved the first book and couldn’t wait for this one, I was not disappointed. It is just as intriguing, sinister and riveting as it’s predecessor. The characters are excellent. I like the way Tallitha is plucky but can also feel nervous…it’s much more real than a hero who is all gung-ho and brave. The shroves repulse me….can’t imagine why anyone would have them in the same house…I can smell them from the description….yuck! It is well written and holds ones interest all the time. As with the prequel Susan leaves us with a cliff hanger of an ending…now we have a year to wait for the final book….that is my only criticism!….

5 Stars! A brilliant sequel! (Amazon) …This is the second of Susan McNally’s Morrow Secrets books – the first one came out last year – and it’s just as good as the first one. It’s centred around the same main character and she’s joined not only by lots of the other characters from the first book but by new ones too. They’re all brought brilliantly to life and have more fantastic adventures. I don’t want to give anything anyway but there are some new locations which are unlike anything I’ve encountered before – spooky gothic indeed. Read it!.. Caedryl, Lapis & Muprid 

Goodreads 5* Review …’This is an amazing second book in The Morrow Secrets story and I loved it. It is even more sinister than the first with witches, ghouls and the occult. Tallitha’s adventures continue in the strange land of Breedoor. More characters, more twists and turns plus the supernatural abounds. A cracking good read!’…   Find out what happens to Tallitha and Tyaas in the next instalment of their spellbinding adventure.. Trapped in the dark castle at Hellstone Tors… surrounded by witches and shroves, trapped by the Morrow Swarm, Tallitha






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5* for The Morrow Secrets: Dark YA Gothic Fantasy

August 16th, 2014

Winderling Spires5* Imaginative and Exciting Gothic Tale (16th August 2014, Amazon USA & Goodreads)

Wow, what a surprise! I found this little gothic gem via Twitter and didn’t know what to expect when I started reading.

First off, I love when fantasy books have maps and illustrations to give you a sense of the surroundings, a feel for a strange new world. And strange, but wonderful it is!

CaveThe author of THE MORROW SECRETS created a wicked and creepy mystery with well-developed and bizarre characters and a fantastic, richly detailed world. The novel takes you on an adventurous journey starting at the protagonists’ eerie home of Winderling Spires and continuing across the fantastic lands of Wicham Elva all the way beyond the borders of dark and looming Breedoor. Susan McNally kept me in suspense throughout the book all the way to the very last sentence. I’m anxious to find out how the journey continues!


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The Morrow Secrets: More 5 Star Reviews for Gothic Fantasy

June 4th, 2014

The Black Hound5.0 out of 5 stars

Haunting gothic tale, 1 Jun 2014

This review is from: The Morrow Secrets (Book One: The Morrow Secrets Trilogy) (Paperback)

This haunting gothic tale about the Morrow family and the secret hidden within the family history is a book worth while reading. The main character Tallitha Morrow is a fearless, head strong girl that will not take no for an answer. Together with her little brother Tyaas she decides to unravel the family secret. In order to do this they embark on a magical, dark and dangerous journey through an underworld kingdom with strange and terrifying creatures.

Although the book is mainly written for young adults, anyone who likes a well written, imaginative and adventurous gothic tale will enjoy this book.

Caedryl, Lapis & Muprid5.0 out of 5 stars

A brilliant sequel! 2 May 2014

Shadow of the Swarm (Book 2: The Morrow Secrets Trilogy) (Hardcover)

This is the second of Susan McNally’s Morrow Secrets books – the first one came out last year – and it’s just as good as the first one. It’s centred around the same main character and she’s joined not only by lots of the other characters from the first book but by new ones too. They’re all brought brilliantly to life and have more fantastic adventures. I don’t want to give anything anyway but there are some new locations that are unlike anything I’ve encountered before – spooky gothic indeed. Read it!

5.0 out of 5 stars

The Entrance to Startling CavesA Fun Read for Everybody, May 31, 2014

This review is from: The Morrow Secrets Trilogy – Book 1 (ebook edition) (Kindle Edition)

There are many things to admire about Susan McNally’s book, “The Morrow Secrets,” which I picked up last week. First, I love that the protagonist is a strong female character with many dimensions to her personality. That’s something sorely lacking in speculative literature and I’m glad to see it addressed in McNally’s writing, which addresses this without coming across as heavy-handed. Second, I like that while this book seems especially geared towards YA readers, it has a “certain something” that makes it a good, fun read for everybody. In that sense, it reminds me of the Harry Potter books, though McNally’s story and writing style feel unique. I enjoyed the illustrations, as well, and I’m anxious to read more of McNally’s work!

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Author Blog Interview: The Morrow Secrets Trilogy: Gothic Fantasy Trilogy

May 22nd, 2014

Interview with Susan McNally (for Melissa Holden)Caedryl, Lapis & Muprid


What got you into writing?


It was a complete moment of inspiration when a number of ideas that had been mulling around in my head came together and I just had to start writing. I am a bookworm and like many people thought I might write a book one day but it was only when I began writing The Morrow Secrets that I became absolutely gripped. I had found my genre – Gothic fantasy or Young Adult fiction, I discovered I loved creating mysterious, fantasy worlds. Having done that and cut my teeth on fantasy, I do think at some point I will move on to horror or more adult fantasy.

As a child I loved getting lost in make-believe worlds such as the Narnia books, The Hobbit and The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

I wanted to recreate that excitement as a writer – the joy of not being able to put a book down, so that the reader was desperate to turn the page and find out what was happening next.The Spider's Turret



What’s your favourite book and why?


That’s a difficult question as there are so many books I love for very different reasons. Can I have three books?


Then I would choose Dracula for its creepy atmosphere and the wonderful way Bram Stoker describes the Count and his castle. I first read it in my late teens under the blankets at university. It was so scary, one night I slept with the light on!


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – what a story and what a storyteller! A master of characterization and a genius at naming his characters for example Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, immediately the reader knows that Uriah is going to be underhanded and sneaky just from his name.


Finally Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which I first read at 15. I was transported into a dark, world with menacing characters, a love story and one without a happy ending. Also I am from North Yorkshire so I identified with the descriptions of landscape and the desolate moors.


CaveWhat’s your writing routine?


To be honest I don’t really have a routine although I write most days. I like writing late at night and sometimes into the wee small hours and I guess for my dark narrative this works.



Tell me about The Morrow Secrets?An Early Drawing of a Shrove


It’s a fantasy adventure about a headstrong girl called Tallitha who is determined to unearth the dark secrets of her sinister Morrow family. From the moment you step into Tallitha’s mysterious world and the weird old house of Winderling Spires the story takes you on a rollercoaster, an epic adventure across dangerous lands, full of eccentric characters with scary twists and turns. It’s a story of intrigue, betrayal and magic.


The book has 20 5* Star Reviews on Amazon and 27 5* Star Reviews on Goodreads


The second book, The Shadow of the Swarm has just been published and both books are available on Amazon.


The third book in the trilogy will be published in 2015.


You write YA Fantasy: what got you into this genre, and why do you love writing it?

As soon as I began writing my fantasy adventure story everything just fell into place. I find the experience of creating the make-believe worlds so fascinating and whenever I write it is like embarking on a fantastic journey, as you never know where you will end up. Its wonderful to be able to make up stories and have people read them and in many ways it’s like being a child again capturing the wonder and excitement of fairy stories and magic. That’s the best bit.

I love fantasy stories and movies. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are all time favourites and currently I am into Game of Thrones. Of course I love the Harry Potter movies and The Hunger Games. More in the Gothic genre I thoroughly enjoyed The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and the Hammer House of Horror movies.


The castle at Hellstone TorsWhat inspired your Trilogy, “The Morrow Secrets”?


It was a combination of ideas – I have always been fascinated with dark spooky houses, with family history and the influence that past generations have on the present and also that families sometimes have secrets they keep from their children. So it was all these things that came together. I began imagining what it would be like to be a girl, caught in the web of her strange family with a mysterious past; a curious girl who couldn’t leave the past alone, who was headstrong and determined to embark on a dangerous quest and that was the kernel that started the book. I also added in the supernatural, a bit of magic, peculiar creatures and an epic journey across dangerous lands.


I can trace the idea for The Morrow Secrets to when I saw a children’s book illustration and it reminded me of how I loved reading about make-believe worlds as a child. I had this intense desire to recreate the wonderful excitement of reading a magical fantasy adventure story. I also wanted a strong female character as the lead and so Tallitha came into being.


Much GrovellI have always loved horror films and scary books, big rambling houses with secrets to unearth. I didn’t intend to write Gothic fantasy, the book just wrote itself. Once I had decided on the setting and some of the characters the story just tumbled out, it was a very odd experience looking back.


I watched a Stephen King “You Tube” interview recently and he said virtually the same. That is what is odd about it – do writers all have this inexplicable experience where they leave their present world in their imagination and enter another one? The only way I can describe it is that there is a real joy in engaging in this creative process – I sit down at my desk, read over the last chapter and bingo more of the story pours out… the characters take over – it is a bit like magic.

As a writer I rarely plot story lines, I let them evolve.

As a series author, do you find it hard to keep the story fresh? What tips can you give aspiring authors about writing a series?

 When I started writing the first book I only vaguely thought it would be a trilogy, but I didn’t focus on that at all, it would have been too daunting a task to envisage writing nearly 300,000 words!

As a series author, or indeed any author you have to be gripped by your story, if you’re not, believe me the process of writing a book is just too hard. So I love my story and I have been compelled to write it, it is almost like an addiction when you’re so deeply into it you can’t wait to start writing again the next day. I can imagine my characters in any situation and I know their personality and how they will react to different events. One of my writing tips is to get to know your characters and what they will do… When you begin thinking about them before going to sleep and when you wake up in the morning … you’re there!

You have to write the book you want to read.

Carry a notebook and jot ideas down when you have them,

Another tip would be to stop writing each day when you know where the plot is heading – have a few ideas jotted down for the next writing session. You may not use them but they will be a prompt to get going again.


I haven’t suffered from “writer’s block”. I have this mantra… just get the story down, no matter how rough and then you can go back and refine it later. No one ever wrote a great first draft so never give up.

There are 20 Gothic illustrations in The Morrow Secrets and in the second book in the trilogy The Shadow of the Swarm.

I get some of my inspiration from movie stills, imagining scenes in a film when I write – so I can see my characters acting their parts. I also get inspiration from the visual arts, photographs, paintings and drawings so I was keen to have my characters illustrated. You can find these illustrations on my website.

They are by the artist and illustrator Luke Spooner at


Are your friends and family supportive of your writing career?

 Another great question! My husband is a creative person and is a composer and early on he gave me some good advice…”sometimes you have to kill of your favourite children”. That sounds terrible but what he meant was that you have to be ruthless with yourself and edit large chunks (characters) out of your book.

He also said don’t read reviews!

My children have been very supportive and are my biggest fans! They are the first to have read my books along with my husband and have given me some great feedback including what I should change.

On the down side there are some people who you imagine will be supportive and who aren’t.


The Shadow of the Swarm CoverHow do you manage your time? Is it hard balancing your writing life with your working life?


I am self-employed so I have the luxury of deciding when to write and when to work on my other career.



Are you self-published or with an agent?

 I have a publisher called Sweet Cherry Publishing who specialise in YA and children’s trilogies and box sets. They have been fantastically supportive and I have done a lot of events with them. Last week I went to The London Book Fair which was amazing and I have done a number of book signings and school events.

I have also designed and led Creative Writing Workshops with young people that were fantastic fun. Seeing these participants fired up about writing their own stories was very inspirational.

How do you keep motivated?

 You have to love writing otherwise it’s too difficult and I believe as a writer you have to love reading. Read lots of different authors from many genres and notice how they use dialogue and employ their craft. Watch movies and notice how directors and scriptwriters build suspense, dialogue and tension. I love the visual arts and can be motivated through art, cinema, photographs as well as the written word.

You have to treat professional writing as a job. I used the word “professional” there on purpose. Get up every day, sit down and start to write and believe me if you have writing in your blood you will write. Don’t wait for the mythical “inspiration” to occur, you have to create it. Sometimes you will write rubbish and other times the words will just flow out of you which is an amazing feeling when you get your strange imaginings down on paper just the way you want it.



Amazon Books

THE SHADOW OF THE SWARM – Book 2 in ‪@MorrowSecrets Trilogy ‪ 



Radio Interview

Writing tips for new and aspiring authors





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5* Review for The Shadow of the Swarm (Book 2 The Morrow Secrets Trilogy)

May 2nd, 2014

5* Review for The Shadow of the Swarm on Amazon Caedryl, Lapis & Muprid

   5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant sequel!, 2 May 2014
This review is from: The Shadow of the Swarm (Book 2: The Morrow Secrets  Trilogy) (Hardcover)
This is the second of Susan McNally’s Morrow Secrets books – the first one came out last year – and it’s just as good as the first one. It’s centred around the same main character and she’s joined not only by lots of the other characters from the first book but by new ones too. They’re all brought brilliantly to life and have more fantastic adventures. I don’t want to give anything anyway but there are some new locations which are unlike anything I’ve encountered before – spooky gothic indeed. Read it!The Shadow of the Swarm CoverThe Shadow and the Swarm Jacket


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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


‘Like’ Morrow Secrets on Facebook for more news about the release and to stay up to date!





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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)

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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Gothic Fantasy Trilogy Book Review

August 31st, 2012

Sitting at my desk today writing the second book in the Morrow Secrets Trilogy and it’s going well, characters are developing and the plot is thickening up nicely. Then an old school friend sends me this message on Face Book…

The Old Dark House of Secrets at Winderling Spires

Just had a card from a friend’s 12 year old daughter, to whom I recommended your book, and she has written: “I have read the book by your old schoolfriend Susan McNally. It was AMAZING. I was gripped by the story and could not put it down!! I can’t wait for a sequel!!

and that really made my day. An author’s life can be isolated.. you wonder who is reading your book? Do they like it?… Have they had fun? Then you get a message from just one person, an unknown fan who loved your book and it’s all worthwhile! In fact it’s great!

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