Photos that Inspired Books

Alice and the Devil photo inspiration

Alice and the Devil

Photos have a big impact on my writing. Often, they can inspire a scene that inspires a whole book. This picture of my son looking across a landscape has morphed into the opening scene of my current work in progress, Alice and the Devil, the third book in The Ghosts of Alice series.

Shortly after I took it, I set it as my wallpaper on my laptop. It was a few weeks before it began working its magic on me. Initially I had an idea for a wholly different book, a piece of speculative fiction, but then I realised it could fit with a ghost story. Who is the boy? Why is he on his own? What’s with the sheep in his backpack? And that barn to the right – doesn’t it look a bit like a pair of eyes, the dark, disembodied eyes of the farm? Just add a torrential rainstorm and the whole Alice and the Devil story came to life…

Here’s a few more photos that have worked their way deep into my imagination for other books:

#picsthatinspiredbooks – The Boy in The Burgundy Hood

This is the fabulous Ightham Mote, the fourteenth-century house that inspired Bramley Manor in the first Ghosts of Alice novel, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that this medieval house was the perfect setting for my ghost story. I’d already been inspired by the strange story of a job interview that my wife had gone to at another old house (see here). It wasn’t long before I overlaid the two elements and started to evolve my plot.

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood photo inspiration
Ightham Mote #picsthatinspiredbooks

Pics that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas

Now here’s some photos of the amazing garden of hedged ‘rooms’ in Herefordshire that inspired my young adult adventure mystery series, The Secret of the Tirthas.

Many of the rooms had sculptures or statues, often from different religions. I thought it would be great if they were all secret portals to related sites across the world. Imagine just having to step outside your back door to go to all these fabulous places!

The discovery of these new places through the portals by Lizzie Jones became a ‘fantasy’ element in itself. That, plus the demonic killer also using the portals to prey on street children in the first place Lizzie discovers, Kashi, the Indian City of Light…?

The Tower, The Secret of the Tirthas
The Secret of the Tirthas garden inspiration
The Secret of the Tirthas garden of rooms

Photos that inspired The City of Light

Finally, here’s the incredible city of Varanasi, or Kashi, in India, which inspired the first novel in The Secret of the Tirthas, The City of Light. I went backpacking in my twenties and came down into India from Nepal. This was the second place I stayed and I was stunned.

I kind of knew straight away that this would inspire my writing. But it was only many years later, after discovering the hidden gem of a garden in Herefordshire, that I had the idea for The Secret of the Tirthas. And I decided on Kashi as the first place our hero Lizzie Jones would come after discovering the garden’s magical portals.

Here’s a taster from The City of Light, when Lizzie emerges from the portal:

“[She] stopped, stunned, finding herself looking at the most extraordinary sight she’d ever seen.

An ancient sun-bleached city sprawled before her, stretched along the bank of an enormous river. The city’s buildings were a bright, exotic mix of colours – red, ochre, sand, and white – and many had domes or intricate beehive towers. Some sat at the top of broad flights of steps that ran down into the water, whilst others were perched on the river’s edge. A few tilted forward precariously, appearing as if they were about to collapse into the swirling waters and be lost forever. And everywhere, on the steps and in the buildings and out in small boats, the city’s inhabitants went about their business in the soft, hazy sunlight.

Lizzie stood in awe, absorbing the view. If only all her dreams were as impressive as this…”

Kashi, inspiration for The Secret of the Tirthas
Varanasi, inspiration for The Secret of the Tirthas

My Year in Writing

So where am I at with the writing, you ask? (You didn’t? Click away now, no one will notice.)

2021 Review

2021 has been a big year for my writing. It was the first year I had a bestseller and the first year I sold over 2,000 copies of one book (nearing 2,500 now). The average book sells 250 copies according to my Gurus, Prophets and Market Analysts (Google), so I’m very happy.

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood #1 Bestseller

So what was the book? It was the first in my Ghosts of Alice series, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood. It’s been a strong seller since November 2019 when I published it. But it really took off in February 2021 after a promotion on Bookbub, which led to the #1 spot in Amazon’s Ghost Story categories in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. (If you’re a keen ebook reader and like good deals, I recommend signing up for Bookbub.) The reviews that followed were good so the sales continued. When you’ve been writing for a few years, getting that level of reader response is a real joy!

My next writing achievement in 2021 was publishing the second book in the Ghosts of Alice series, The Girl in the Ivory Dress. It follows on from the first, developing the relationship between Alice and one of her old school friends. The reviews have been almost all good so far (there’s always one…), with some saying they like it even more than the first. It reminded me of how enjoyable it was to write the second book in my young adult series, The Secret of the Tirthas. Whilst the first, The City of Life, was mostly fun, learning how to plot and integrate storylines, as well as setting up a whole new fantasy scenario, was challenging. There were many rewrites. It felt so much easier when the groundwork was done, when everything was already established. The Book of Life flew from the keyboard.

The Girl in the Ivory Dress - a year in writing

My third writing milestone just missed the end of the year. I finished a draft of the latest Ghosts of Alice book on the 3rd January. It’s working title is Alice and the Devil. It has a distinctive atmosphere and setting and I’m pleased with it. However, it’s going to need a few stiff edits because I wrote it without a plot, with only a few key scenes and characters in my head. It was my first time writing like this but it seems to have turned out well. I’ll probably find a lot of holes when I reread it, but for now I’m just pleased to have completed it.

2022 Writing Goals

My main writing goal for 2022 is to publish this third Ghosts of Alice book. I’m aiming for it to be out in the spring.

I’m also finalising a novella prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas. It focuses on the discovery of the tirthas and the creation of the magical garden of rooms at the turn of the 19th century. It’s called Swift: The Story of a Witch (I’m fairly sure that one’s going to stick). It might become a freebie to my email subscribers.

And finally, I’m going to start and – hopefully – complete another book! I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away already…

Whatever you’re reading, enjoy!

Wishing you a peaceful, happy Christmas!

The Christmas tree is up in the Griffin house and the boys are writing their lists for Santa! (Yes, it’s true, we’ve somehow managed to keep them believing in Father Christmas despite them becoming cynical about pretty much everything else in the world. I have no idea how, but I guess it’s something to do with believing what you want to believe…?)

So here’s a quick post to wish you as much happiness as possible throughout this festive season and to hope you leap any hurdles that might come your way.

Have a wonderful, peaceful time and I hope to see you next year,

Steve

Because Christmas isn’t Christmas without:

…a good ghost story – or two (click on images to go to Amazon book pages): 

The Ghosts of Alice series Christmas gift

…an exciting fantasy series for younger readers (11-14):

The Secret of the Tirthas series Christmas gift

…and a collection or two for the poetry lovers!

Poetry by Steve Griffin Christmas gift

What I wish I’d known before publishing as an Indie Author

Amazon needs help to sell my books? What the…?

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood ghostly house

That’s the one thing I wish I’d known before I started writing, or at least publishing, as an independent writer – a question I was recently posed on Instagram.

As an indie author, we’re already set back by a lack of professional support and – all importantly – distribution. We’re not in the bookshops generally, or if we are it’s only through local relationships. Therefore online distribution is critical to us.

Like most indie writers, I started off trying to get published traditionally. I had interest from a few agents, and my book The City of Light was loved by a Children’s Rights manager in Random House and spent 6 months going up through their editorial hurdles – before finally being rejected on the basis of the market shrinking for that kind of fantasy (it was post Harry Potter, and gritty realism was in).

My big mistake

When I decided to publish independently, I thought it best to ‘go wide’, using both Amazon and Smashwords, who distribute to most the other online distributors (Apple, Nook etc). But that’s where I think I made my big mistake. Smashwords took much longer to format and produce, but my sales were pitiful everywhere except Amazon. It also meant that I couldn’t participate in Kindle Unlimited (KU).

The reason I can say with confidence that going exclusive to Amazon would have been better for me is that’s what I did with my second, current, series of The Ghosts of Alice. KU has been a third of my sales, and every time someone downloads it for KU it springs back up the sales ranks. I would almost certainly have done better with my first series by putting it exclusively in Amazon and running KU from the start.

Amazon needs help

But Amazon does need help to sell your book. Most importantly, it needs other people who read books like it to look at it and hopefully buy it. Then it can start throwing it across the path of readers who might be interested in it. I know this because, whilst I advertise with Amazon, only a fraction of the sales come from the advertising (there is a dashboard that tells me this). So Amazon must be placing my book as one of its suggestions once people buy or finish similar books, or elsewhere.

Whilst I can’t prove this, where else are these sales coming from? Some from my social media platform, for sure – but not that many. I suspect you can get a good idea whether your book is primed for Amazon algorithms by the list of ‘Customers who viewed / bought this also viewed’, or whatever it’s called at the moment. If they’re all in your genre, you’re probably doing well.

I know other authors who have had different journeys, and for whom Amazon has not been so great. There are many reasons not to go exclusive, especially in those countries where Amazon isn’t so dominant. But I wish I’d gone exclusive from day one.

Now, setting all that aside, and looking at the ethics and risk of throwing all your eggs in the basket of one quasi-monopolising tech giant… OK that one’s for another day.

Happy reading

Freebie Friday giveaway of The City of Light & 16 books!

Freebie Friday is nearly here…

I’m excited to announce I’m joining a massive Freebie Friday giveaway this Friday 12th November 2021. Seventeen books from fifteen authors will all be free, including the first book in The Secret of the Tirthas, The City of Light!

Here’s all the books you’ll find free on Amazon (and in some cases elsewhere):

Freebie Friday giveaway of The City of Light

The mega-giveaway is organised by a group of fabulous authors who I’ve been connected with for a couple of years on Instagram – do go check out their books on Freebie Friday!

I’ll be giving The Secret of the Tirthas an additional boost by extending the free promotion of The City of Light on Amazon a bit longer than the others, from today until this Sunday 14th November inclusive.

Wait, what? There’s more…?

Plus I’m also going to be discounting the second and third books in the series for a whole week. From today until next Wednesday 17th November, The Book of Life will be reduced from £2.99 to 99p (99c US) and The Dreamer Falls will be reduced from £3.99 to £1.99 ($1.99 US).

Discover more about Kashi, the real Indian City of Light here, and the magical garden of rooms in Herefordshire that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas here.

Please share news of Freebie Friday with your friends – The Secret of the Tirthas is perfect for lovers of His Dark Materials and Harry Potter, but there’s books in there to suit readers of most genres.

Click on the links below to find out more about the books – and happy reading!

Interview by US fantasy writer Jessica Cantwell

I’ve been interviewed by talented US fantasy author Jessica Cantwell on her blog. Here’s her intro, click the link at the bottom of the page for the full interview. (And while I’m here, a quick reminder that both The Boy in the Burgundy Hood and The Girl in the Ivory Dress are on Kindle sale over Halloween – hurry!)

Boy in the Burgundy Hood Halloween sale

Halloween is days away. Now is the perfect time for a ghost story!

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Enter The Boy with the Burgundy Hood, a fantastic book by Steve Griffin. This is an entertaining read with a sprinkle of paranormal activity. If you are a fan of The Haunting of Hill House or The Haunting of Bly Manor, then this is the book for you!

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You can learn more about The Boy in the Burgundy Hood by reading an interview with the author, Steve Griffin, on my blog. Link is in the bio.

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We talk about ghosts and psychopaths. This is a fun interview you won’t want to miss!

Click here to read the full interview!

What I’m writing now… plus a Halloween Sale!

Now that we’re properly into the spooky season, read on for an update on my latest ghost story as well as for details of my Halloween sale.

The Girl in the Ivory Dress Halloween sale

What I’m writing now

I’ve started writing the third Ghosts of Alice story, with a working title of Alice and the Devil. What’s interesting about this story is that I normally start with an outline plot but this time I’m writing as a pantser, as it’s informally known in the trade. Most writers are plotters, but there are a few (including some pretty significant ones) who just start off with a premise and see where it takes them. Stephen King is possibly the most famous of these.

Normally, I work out a clear path from start to finish involving some major ‘set’ scenes. My plot it usually fairly skeletal and I do regularly change things as I progress – but I always have that overarching sense of direction. But this time I’ve got the premise and the scenes but couldn’t fully grasp the ending, so I’ve started writing and am seeing where it leads me. The worry is that I end up in a dead end that takes a huge amount of rewriting. But I have to say it’s going well so far and I’m almost halfway through (I think!). Let’s see what happens…

Ghost of Alice Halloween sale

Both The Boy in the Burgundy Hood and The Girl in the Ivory Dress are reduced from £3.99 / $4.99 to 99p / 99c on Kindle from now until Halloween – over a 75% reduction! Scroll to the end of this post for the link straight to the Amazon page.

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood Halloween sale

Plus… advance warning of The Secret of the Tirthas promo campaign

And another heads up – I’m running a major Kindle promotion of The Secret of the Tirthas around November 11th. The first book in the series, The City of Light, will be free and there will be discounts on one or two of the next books!

I wish you a suitably creepy Halloween – and as ever, thank you for reading!

For National Poetry Day 2021 – a poem & 2 books

It’s National Poetry Day here in the UK so here’s All, the opening poem in my collection The Things We Thought Were Beautiful, and a couple of poetry book recommendations.


And here’s the two fantastic independently published poetry books that I want to flag up, which both mean a great deal to me. With excerpts from my 5⭐ reviews of each, they are:

US poet Sherry Lazarus Ross’s Seeds of the Pomegranate:

“I loved ‘Touch Me’, in which the poet asks ‘How many times can the earth / withstand this ritual. The pain of being frozen / then thawed out.’ But as ever throughout this collection of dark and light, spring is the wake-up call coming ‘soft as the turn of earthworms.’ Just one more of the many stunning images in this wonderful book, already a favourite on my shelf.”


Scottish poet Barbara Lennox’s The Ghost in the Machine:

“It deals with themes of the natural world, myths, science and the human condition. There is a sense of living at a mid-point, a delicate balance of ‘trying to return, but never quite arriving.’ The poet has a beautiful turn of phrase, using alliterative language that reminds me of Seamus Heaney: ‘From every slope there rings/ a rush and purl of streams/ pocked by peat-dark tarns’.”

The best poetry has an almost magical power to transform our relationship with ourselves and the natural world. Please check out these collections by clicking the links below, where you can also read my full reviews. And just… read as many poems as you can today!

Let me know in the comments your favourite poems…

Vote for The Girl in the Ivory Dress #CoveroftheMonth

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you like the cover of my book, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com!

I’ve just been nominated for this contest and need as much support as I can get.

Please take a short moment to vote by clicking the image – thank you!

Click to Vote!

The Real Fire that Inspired The Girl in the Ivory Dress

The fire that Alice finds herself having to deal with at the start of my new ghost novel, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, was inspired by a real life tragedy, the near-destruction of a heritage gem just a few miles away from where I live – and where I had at one stage been planning to get married.

The Girl in the Ivory Dress fire damage



Clandon Park House is an eighteenth century Palladian mansion near Guildford, run by the National Trust. On April 29th 2015 a fault in a distribution board led to an inferno that shot flames high into the night sky and gutted every room bar one. The house was swiftly evacuated and fortunately no one was hurt. An emergency plan to salvage the precious artefacts of the house was enacted, and 80 firefighters, Trust staff and volunteers did their best, sliding paintings down ladders and passing items out through windows. Much of the collection was lost however, including such iconic items as a football kicked into the enemy trenches to start the charge at the Battle of the Somme.

A couple of years after the fire the public was allowed to visit again, enabling me to take these photos. It was one of the main places that we used to visit as a family, and my wife and I had shortlisted it for our wedding. It was a real loss to the nation. But there is hope, with the Trust restoring the main rooms on the ground floor and planning to open the upper floors for exhibitions and events in the near future…

The Girl in the Ivory Dress fire damage house