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The Power of Place by Gary Kruse

I am delighted that the bestselling English author, Gary Kruse has agreed to return to the blog to discuss the importance of setting in a novel. Thank you for your time today, Gary.

It is lovely to be back to visit your blog and explain to your readers the power of place in my new novel, Bleak Waters. Part ghost story, part mystery, part family drama,Bleak Waters was inspired by the villages and waterways of the Norfolk Broads.

Bleak Waters wasn’t my first attempt at writing a novel set on the Broads. That honour falls to Ruins, an unpublished work that was set in and around Potter Heigham. I wrote Ruins in 2009, but the story never really worked and it’s been shelved for several years now.

The first ideas for Bleak Waters came in May 2019, when I visited the village of Hickling for a short break with my sons. New places always get my imagination churning and, although I’d visited the Broads before, I’d never been to Hickling. Walking around the village that first evening, I was struck by the solitude, the calm, the sense of being miles away from the real world.

We walked country lanes with swallows diving and swooping around us, watched the boats gliding through the waters of Hickling Broad, and had dinner in the Greyhound Pub surrounded by locals and regulars.

The pub was one of several buildings that caught my eye, along with the old Hickling Mill and the thatched-roof boat houses by the Broad that looked like Anglo-Saxon longhouses from a distance.

That night, back in my hotel room, I dug out my notebook and pen and began sketching my impressions of the area.

I also started asking questions. Questions such as who lives here? What secrets do they have? What ghosts haunt these lanes and fields and waterways and if they had a voice, what would they reveal?

Answers led to more questions which led to more ideas and gradually, over the coming months, the story began to take shape. And as it did, things changed. The Greyhound pub became the Whippet in the book because I needed to change some of the interior design, particularly the living spaces and the outside areas, for story purposes. It also became home to the main character, Lily West and her mother, Hetty.

Theo, the stranger whose arrival sets things in motion, actually stays in the same room that I stayed in when I visited Hickling, but I changed the name of the Bed and Breakfast and gave it additional details that the story needed. And through it all, the fact and the fictions, I wove a story of secrets, lies, ghosts and hidden agendas.

The real Hickling is a lovely slice of Norfolk heaven and I highly recommend a visit. The people are warm and friendly, the food and drink is outstanding and the place has a fantastic, chilled vibe. The fictional Hickling however, is a very different beast, but I hope it captures the essence of the real Broads.

As for Ruins, well, it remains unpublished. But not abandoned. Last Spring, a week before Bleak Waters was released, I went back to the Broads with my family, spending Easter on a boating holiday. When I was there, the ideas started churning again, and in the middle of it all, I realised what I needed to change to make Ruins work.

Fourteen years after I started, there’s new life in that old story, life inspired once again by the scenery of the Norfolk Broads.

The Author

Gary Kruse is a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to find who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. He has won and been shortlisted for several short story competitions and his debut novel, Badlands is an Amazon bestseller.

Bleak Waters is his second novel.

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