Spotlight Profiles: 2021
The Summons. Katharine Peel
After fleeing a violent marriage, Sophie takes up a housekeeping position at a remote manor, where her elderly charge has been waiting her whole life for a summons from her long dead father. When a mysterious bell begins to ring, Sophie struggles to unravel the secrets of the house, before her own dark past catches up with her.
Katharine Peel is a criminologist, with a PhD from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Her research focuses on criminal networks in East Africa. The Summons was inspired by a lifelong interest in the supernatural and, in particular, the history of the Pendle witches in Lancashire, where she grew up. The Summons is her first work of fiction.
Katharine’s first page
This is a mystery thriller about a young woman escaping an abusive husband only to find herself caught up in unworldly goings on in an isolated manor house on the Lancashire moors. The combination of what might be seen as a contemporary issue, domestic violence, with all the classic tropes of a gothic novel makes this immediately appealing. The setting is evocative and the plot contains plenty of twists and turns and a final startling moment of revelation.
The job of a good mentor is to reflect the work back at the writer by asking pertinent questions. We looked at the mores of the time and how this might impact on the main character’s psyche and the situation she finds herself in as well as different possible ways of handling suspense and the supernatural. (Often a light touch is more effective than full blown melodrama.) Most importantly, we discussed the type of grounding (domestic) detail that is essential to bringing a novel vividly to life.
The Summons is definitely a title to watch out for.
Katharine Peel’s mentor was Marion Urch.
“Marion’s feedback was transformative. She identified issues that I had not even thought of, but which made so much sense when she brought them up. She did not tell me how to fix them, but gave me steps to follow which really helped me to figure out what I needed to do to address them. I also learnt a lot about how to improve the prose style of my writing. Her feedback and advice enabled me to restructure parts of the novel that weren’t quite working, and I have a much stronger manuscript as a result. Winning the competition gave me a much-needed boost of confidence, that enabled me to push through to a more fully realised draft.
Writing the premise was the toughest part. I had not appreciated how important it is to be able to pitch your story in a sentence or two, and it took me ages to get it right.”