SHE READS MAY SELECTION - THE SHADOW YEAR
On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her housemates, it offers an escape, a chance to drop out for a while. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again. Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? And why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can’t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?
Hannah RichellBefore she became a writer, Hannah Rihell worked for ten years in the publishing industry and was lucky enough to market books by authors such as Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, David Mitchell, Jojo Moyes, Stephenie Meyer and David Nicholls, to name just a few. She emigrated to Australia from the UK in 2005, and spent two years working for Universal Pictures in Sydney. Hannah began to write in early 2008 while she was on maternity leave, and the result was her first novel, Secrets of the Tides, which was picked for the 2012 Richard & Judy Book Club, the Waterstones Book Club and was shortlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller Best Debut Fiction Award, ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year (2013) and ABIA Newcomer of the Year (2013). Her second novel The Shadow Year, published in 2013. Hannah became an Australian citizen in 2010 but still returns to England whenever possible, to visit family and enjoy the green grass of home.
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So this is how it began.
I had turned my foot (twisted, fell, yanked, near-bout broke so it is worse) at the book event in Florida in February. Said foot has not healed some saying because I keep using it, don't stay off of it, go up and down stairs, chase grand baby, and travel. Some may be right. In spite of all that - It was time to travel yet again and this time to the Grand Hotel to speak at the wonderful Winsome women event. Friend Virginia Dixon was traveling with me as companion and she can testify to the fact that what I say is the bona fide true-true. Not fictionalized one bit.
It began in Nashville where we flew to Detroit, jumped in a rental car, drove five hours to the Grand Lakes, boarded a small six-seater Cherokee, survived the wind drafts to land on the Island of Mackinac, where we boarded a horse-drawn carriage to travel to the Grand. I ain't lyin'. And, I must tell you it made my gypsy travelers heart happy, but not my foot and ankle that had grown a little hobbling weary.
After speaking twice the first day of our arrival I was more than a little hobbling. The Grand also has lovely staircases everywhere. Many floors. And the place you need to be is always two floors away from where you are. Virginia has been ever, ever so kind and made left an ice bucket for me by the door after dinner so that I could ice my foot to prepare for the next day's events. My perfect plan - soak in a hot tub with an ice bag on foot.
I ran the bath. Went in the bathroom and locked the door. And, I told myself I was being a little paranoid since I was alone in my lovely room (the J.K. Suite), and the hotel room door was locked. But hey, better safe than sorry. I climb into the tub with a new paperback novel (Light Between the Ruins) and breathe deeply. And in less than five minutes I hear the sound of someone opening my hotel room door.
This is exactly why family members in Tennessee wish I carried a gun when I travel. (Nevermind the logistics of all that flying with bullets.) So here I am soaking in the tub, foot iced, and I hear someone moving around in the room. How Ironic, I'm thinking. Here I am working on a mystery novel and I'm in the middle of one titled, Murder at the Grand Hotel. It's such a great title. But now it's never going to be written because they are going to kill me.
"Hello?" No response. "Is anyone there?" No response. Surely, this is it. The killer in the book usually doesn't answer. I listen, hoping the creaks and sounds are coming from above me or next door. It's an old hotel. Sound travels. But no, they are coming form the other side of the bathroom door. I look around the room. I have a hairdryer and a bar of soap to protect myself. Then there's a knock on the bathroom door. I come out of my skin as someone says very softly, "Did you call us?"
Call us. I'm thinking, who is us? Who are they pretending to be? Did someone call and report they were stuck in a tub and couldn't get out? Have they confused me with someone else?
"No! No! I didn't call you." I wait. Silence. Then movement. Then the sound of the door to the room closing. Which I realize is exactly what they pretend to do when they want to trick you and kill you in the movies. They close the door. Then they wait. I tried to out wait them. The water grew tepid. Then cold.
I got out, wrapped in the robe, (thank you Grand, Thank you , Winsome Women. I need the robe.) And I cracked the door open. No killer waiting. Just a turned down bed. Chocolates on the pillow. And, a prayer. Really. A prayer. On a card. For a peaceful nights sleep.
Book title . . . Killing Her Softly.
I did not eat the chocolate.
(Thank you Winsome Women for an extraordinary event and for your great sense of humor in trying to treat this Southern Writer woman with an overactive imagination, with such kindness.)
This is where my writing life began. Sitting in a desk, following an assignment that asked me to create a story from a picture. Mine happened to be a cat at night, gold eyes, watching something in the distance. Something that was Prey. The way I wrote my poem the prey got away. But the fact remained that the cat would continue to stalk, to hunt, and to be said cat.
My sixth grade teacher pulled me aside and asked me a few questions about my method and process. She actually thought I'd perhaps lifted the poem from the pages of a book which I'm sure would have surprised her because I was a serious student even at a young age. Satisfied with its originality, she called my mother and requested a conference. I remember the meeting. I was there. It was just the three of us. And, she calmly explained to my mother that I was meant to be a writer. Born to be a writer. My mother was delighted with praise, that her child was doing well but she went on to encourage me to be a pharmacist. Because she wanted me to have a steady job and health insurance. Mom was a child of the Great Depression and no fool. (And, still isn't.) A writer's life didn't seem to have a lot of steady income that she could see.
Flash forward to a host of other writers and there was one Ms. Kelly at Bay High who ran the Television and Radio production department. She saw a seriousness in me regarding those words and when I spent time recording radio it was about subjects that I felt deserved attention. My little fifteen minute program might as well have been prime time or Meet the Press. I was playing around and she could tell. Enter a journalism scholarship to college.
Years later, I stumbled into the office of one Dr. Yolanda Reed at the University of West Florida questioning if a Playwriting class had 'made' due to enrollment. She assured me, "Yes, we will carry on." And a seismic shift took place in my writing because of her. That's an understatement. I never would have been the writer that I am (and I can tell a story) without her. The poignant richness of her voice in my life has been immeasurable.
Teachers. God bless them everyone. Ever patient soul, every heart that sees hidden potential in a child. Every one that watches over those in their care, can tell if their sick, hungry, needy, talented, gifted or needing special attention. I wish you made the money you deserve. Because you don't. Period. But I hope today you receive a little extra gratitude, respect, and deeply felt appreciation.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.