Today I want to welcome once more in my blog to the extraordinarily talented writing duo and identical twin sisters, C L Raven. they are releasing today a new book of stories, but i will let them be the ones who tell you about it. enjoy reading their post about how they came up with the idea for this book, get a copy, and leave some comment. make a twin happy, don’t make her kill you in her next story…
- The year Scotland died.
“Ring a ring of roses.”
Dirty white rags dangled from windows, like hanging men left on gallows for the city to witness their shame.
The Bubonic Plague is ravaging Edinburgh. Despite the council’s best efforts, people are dying. Soon there will be more people buried under Edinburgh than living in it.
“A pocketful of posies.”
When the plague doctor dies from the disease after a week, the council hires student doctor Alex McCrae, promising him one hundred pounds to cure the wretched pest. But a man who makes himself a hero, makes himself enemies. And when the council can’t afford to pay McCrae, they hope he’ll succumb to the disease.
But the plague isn’t the only way to kill a man. And in the city of the dead, it’s not just ghosts who return.
“We. All. Fall. Down.”
In a haunted underground street below Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, The Malignant Dead was born. We first went to Edinburgh in 2013 for a ghost hunting holiday. We visited all the usual haunted places – Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, the Vaults, the castle and Mary King’s Close. The street was apparently built with walls containing human ash. During the plague in 1645, it’s rumoured the residents were bricked up in their street and left to die. However, this didn’t happen. But it makes a great story. In 1753, the close was sealed and the Royal Exchange, which is now the City Chambers, was built on top of it. It remained closed for another two hundred and forty years. Now it’s a popular tourist attraction, with rumours of a child’s ghost plaguing the underground passages.
While we were down there, we were told about the plague and Edinburgh’s plague doctor, George Rae. A mannequin of him lurks in the close, treating a patient. He was so creepy, our imaginations started to tingle. We’d heard of all these great writers who’d been inspired by Edinburgh – Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott and we wanted to join them. But we didn’t have a single flash of inspiration. Until we met the plague doctor. The council offered Rae £100 (about £200,000 in today’s money) to be the plague doctor. However, they couldn’t afford to pay him and hoped he’d die of the plague, like his predecessor. Unfortunately for them, George Rae didn’t die and it took him thirty years to get the money. His wife and child died of the plague.
The Malignant Dead is loosely based on that story, with supernatural and gothic elements. We’ve never attempted a historical book before, so we wanted to get the research right. For one scene, the clengers enter a home after the owners had died, to fumigate it using burnt heather. We wanted to know what burnt heather smelled like so we could describe it. Google couldn’t help, so we picked a sprig of heather from our garden and set it on fire. Turns out, it’s a sweet, woody scent that eventually takes over your whole house and doesn’t leave until the morning. Like an unwanted guest. Next time, we’ll burn stuff outside, or open some windows. All that for one sentence.
We also read a couple of books on surgical practices in the 17th century. Some passages were written in old Scots, which was difficult at first, but now we can read it. We’re not sure how useful it is to be able to read old Scots, but it’s always good to pick up a new, if unexpected skill. It came in handy for the next book we wrote on the 1649 witch trials. One book we read, Daemonologie by King James VI was written entirely in old Scots, so at least our new skill hasn’t gone to waste.
We’re about to start on a book about the resurrection men, or body snatchers. For this book, we’re returning to Edinburgh to visit the graveyards the body snatchers frequented. It would be fun to re-enact their crimes to be able to describe their nocturnal activities accurately, but we’re not sure “it’s ok, we’re writers” will get us out of an arrest if we’re caught digging up graves and trying to sell the bodies to the universities for four shillings.
While we’re in Scotland, we’re launching The Malignant Dead in its birthplace, with a signing in Falkirk on Halloween. And of course, we’re returning to Edinburgh to walk the streets our characters walked hundreds of years ago. Edinburgh hasn’t changed much. But at least the residents no longer have to throw their waste out of the windows.
We plan to continue the historical horror books with highwaymen and pirates. We’re not sure what sort of research that might entail, but we envision a black galleon, cutlasses and treasure maps in our future. We already have five different pirate costumes. So if you ever see twins acting strangely, or looking like they’re committing a crime, it’s ok. We’re writers.