I'm so excited to have a guest post from Sue Wallman. Sue has written some of my favourite YA thrillers and it's great to share what inspired the spooky setting of Your Turn to Die. You can read my review of this wonderful book here.
The inspiration behind the setting in Your Turn to Die
By Sue Wallman
Most of the action in Your Turn to Die takes place in Roeshot House. It’s based very loosely on my grandparents’ house. There was no attic, it didn’t have woods at the back of the house and as far as I know there was nothing disturbing buried in the garden, but there were two sets of stairs, a walk-in larder and a conservatory with knobbly geraniums in it.
There was nothing remotely modern about the house. Everything was worn and faded and smelled of apples (stored on trays in the cellar) or linen that needed airing. My siblings and cousins felt completely at home there. We played card games, and lay about. We played the game the characters do in the book where you go round a room without touching the floor, climbing over the furniture. We thought nothing of crawling over the top of the grand piano. There were no rules in my grandparents’ house other than having good manners when we ate at the big dining room table. When my granny got dementia, she would sit at the table and swear and say the most outrageous things, and we would have to carry on as if this was entirely normal.
In Your Turn to Die, the garden was once lovely but is now overgrown. My grandparents’ garden was large and ordered, with a huge vegetable garden behind a hedge. We ate the soft fruit, and the occasional raw bean. There was a field next to the house and I was once chased by a cow when I decided to take a shortcut back. It remains one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me, and I’m still annoyed how everyone laughed when I came into the house, breathless, and told them.
I wrote my first book in that house, aged ten, kneeling on the floor, my paper propped up on the wide window ledge in the bedroom I shared with my sister. It is 94 pages of A4 and I still have it.
At night, the house was creaky and creepy. When it was dark, I never liked going upstairs on my own. The bedrooms felt very far away from the adults when we went to bed before them. My sister and I would lie in the freezing beds and speculate about what sort of people we would be when we were grown up.
My grandmother died when I was at university. By then my grandfather had been dead a while. I came back for the funeral and the house felt too big and too empty. My aunt still lives in the same village so I’ve passed it often since. It’s like being able to glimpse the past but not touch it. A few years ago, my sister and a couple of cousins knocked on the door and got to see round the house again – unsurprisingly, everything had changed inside. I’m glad I wasn’t there.
Thanks so much, Sue – this was a fascinating insight! I'm a huge fan of books set in spooky old houses and Your Turn to Die has particularly evocative descriptions.
Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman was published by Scholastic UK on 3rd May 2018.
Sue Wallman lives in London, working in a school library by day and writing by night. She has previously published LYING ABOUT LAST SUMMER, a Zoella Book Club favourite title, and SEE HOW THEY LIE, a Tesco Book of the Month.