Meet a Welsh Author: Thorne Moore On Houses As Inspiration
Thorne Moore is originally from the Luton area, about 30 miles from London. She has a long connection with Wales dating from her time as a history student at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth. She now lives in a Victorian farmhouse in Pembrokeshire in west Wales where she divides her time between writing and her craft business. Thorne is a member of the Crime Writers Association and the Welsh crime writing collective, Crime Cymru.
Q. Thorne, imagine you’re in a lift with some potential readers. You have less than a minute to persuade them to read your latest book., Covenant What’s your pitch?
“Knowing me, I’d probably still be lost for words when the lift stopped, but assuming I do manage to talk fast…I’d say that Covenant is a prequel to my first novel, A Time For Silence, but it also stands alone. 1883, Thomas Owen is convinced God has given him the tiny farm of Cwmderwen and he impresses this belief on his children, but only his daughter Leah has the strength to hang onto it, until she realises that the price has always been too high. It’s about faith, family, possession – and women.”
Q. On your website you say that “Settings, especially houses, are a major inspiration for me”. What is it that attracts you to this kind of setting?
“Unless we’re really insensitive or unobservant, the places where we live do become a part of us, influencing how we see things, whether we want to stay put or flee. And place remains when we are gone, retaining the mark of when we were there, for good or ill.
Houses, particularly, retain something of everyone who’s lived in them, and everything that’s happened there, even if it’s hidden under seven layers of wallpaper. Houses that belonged to notorious murderers often get knocked down because somehow the murder is still there, haunting the community.
Though I write about crime, especially murder, I am primarily interested in all that led up to the deed, and the consequences long after. Houses embody that expanse of time. They have witnessed it all and they don’t forget.”
Q. How much of your own experience makes an appearance in your work?
“A lot, of course, but seldom in an overt and straightforward manner. I weave in bits and pieces. I have studied and taught genealogy and I milk that quite often (and I make good use of a host of family names).
The nearest to autobiographical I get is in The Unravelling, where, with a bit of tweaking and shuffling, I have used the estate where I grew up and my memories of childhood there in the 60s. But none of the people and events are real, just the games and childish worries and playground politics.”
Q. Which authors have you changed your mind about over the years?
“In my teens I was fanatical about Tolkien, especially The Lord of the Rings. I do still admire his mastery of perfect fantasy – which is perfect rather than pure because it’s grounded, interwoven with the everyday normality of our lives; dragons and elves mixed up with the need for pocket handkerchiefs and a good mushroom fry-up. But I don’t read him any more.
I began to find it all a bit distasteful, as I did with C.S Lewis’s Narnia books. Poor Susan, denied heaven because she grew up.
Q. Your home is on fire… Which book will you choose to save?
“This is one of those impossible questions. Seriously, I’d be far too busy calling 999, screaming at everyone to get out, helping my very elderly mother to safety, rescuing the cats, grabbing my laptop, disconnecting the gas tanks, to think about books. But supposing all that was done and I still had time, am I allowed to say my Kindle, or is that cheating? Other than that, the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’d need something spiritually enchanting while I watched my home burn to the ground.”
Q. You lived much of your life outside of Wales. Has that ‘outsider’ experience shaped how you write about Wales?
I grew up in Luton but my mother was Welsh, which gave me a sense of exile from the start. Once I moved to Wales, the reverse happened. I became English in exile in Wales. I am perverse!
But I am deeply aware of differences. Not the difference between my home town of Luton and my mother’s, Cardiff, because a town is a town is a town. But I am very conscious of the contrast between the suburban home counties – with fast raucous towns where today is all that matters and a countryside that’s a playground for the cities and a home for the well-heeled – and the very ancient, very slow, very isolated, semi-wild woods and hills and valleys of West Wales, where even the language is different, and the past is ever-present. The countryside is littered with the human touch of millennia, from prehistoric hut circles to abandoned cottages and derelict mansions. I find it very easy to write a sense of mystery and history into my books set here.
16 thoughts on “Meet a Welsh Author: Thorne Moore On Houses As Inspiration”
Pingback: The Covenant by Thorne Moore: Tragic Tale of Lost Ambitions : BookerTalk
Pleased to meet Thorne Moore. I love her sense of humor, also her sense of everything else she talked about. I find it interesting that so many Welsh born authors moved away, also that some came back. Similar to Irish authors. Is the pull of England that strong or does it just have more opportunity for writers?
There could be multiple reasons – many authors have to hold down a job since the writing doesn’t bring in enough to pay the bills, so they might move for work reasons. But I suspect also that the larger cultural scene in England would give more opportunities
England has the money and employment. My Welsh grandparents moved there with thousands of others in the Depression when the Cardiff docks died. But then, further back in the 19th century, some of my English ancestors moved to Wales because the coal and iron and steel of South Wales were providing the employment. I moved back to Wales for economic reasons too, but if I won the lottery and didn’t have to think about an income, I’d still choose to live and write here.
My ancestors did the same Thorne – one lot came from the Ireland, another from the Forest of Dean
Enjoyed the chat! Especially Thorne’s comments on the ancient wild places in Wales which reminded me of Arthur Machen’s stories set there. He too has that sense of distinction between towns being part of the present while the hills and valleys are still in touch with their past.
I don’t know his work personally (I see him described as a writer of Gothic/supernatural which isn’t my usual fare). I do have two of his books listed on my “85 books from Wales” page though and am minded to give him a go. The Great God Pan and The Hill of Dreams – have you read either of those and would have a recommendation on which to begin with?
I spotted him on your list and was glad to see him there. I’ve read The Great God Pan and several of his other “weird” tales, but not The Hill of Dreams. The Great God Pan is a great story and I’d definitely recommend it, but some of the others are more Welsh-based – he seemed to write about half-and-half London and Wales. For the full Welsh experience, I’d recommend The White People…
Thanks “Fiction Fan” for that insight. Let’s hope I can get a copy of that
Pingback: Wales Readathon 2019 – Book Jotter
Hello Thorne. I’ve read a couple of Thorne’s books and am happy to recommend them to others.
I have another of hers in my Kindle list but just haven’t got around to it yet
Thank you very much for inviting me into the cwtch corner.
It was a pleasure to have you
That’s a tough question, that one about fire…
I think I’d take my first edition hardback of Something to Answer For by PH Newby because it’s now the most expensive book in my collection. It was the book that won the first ever Booker Prize, and in good condition like mine is, it’s worth up to $1000 (though that is of course not what I paid for it!!)
I know – I am being too naughty by asking a near impossible question :). Love your answer. Even though I didn’t care hugely for the book you make a good case for rescuing your copy