The Ghosts of Alice series – three of my books starting with The Boy in the Burgundy Hood – chalked up 5000 sales this week!
I never thought when I began indie publishing my stories that I’d sell anything like that number. I was always happy just to know people were able to find and read (and hopefully enjoy!) what I’d written. So this has been the icing on the cake, especially during the couple of periods when The Boy in the Burgundy Hood hit bestseller status on Amazon.
If you like ghost stories, and want to read about an unusual hero with a mysterious connection to the dead, why not give the series a go?
What readers say about The Boy in the Burgundy Hood:
***** ‘The perfect modern day ghost story with a grisly twist’ ***** ‘Impossible to put down’ ***** ‘Creepy and satisfying’ ***** ‘A compelling and spinetingling read’ ***** ‘Too scared to sleep… extremely good book, I read it in one day!’ ***** ‘Turn the screw it does, right up to its terrifyingly dark finale.’
I’ve been thinking recently, how often does the ending of a film, book or TV series exceed your expectations? How many times have you been blown away – either devastated or thrilled – in those closing moments?
(Alert – there are plenty of spoilers in this post, so proceed with caution…)
For me, there tend to be two, linked things that lift a story above and beyond the norm. Sadly, one of them is the death of the main character. As a young boy, I was forever imprinted by watching The Alamo with John Wayne, filled with feelings of horror, loss, admiration, and above all disbelief as Davy Crockett pitched himself into the magazine store with a torch in one last act of defiance. I felt similarly about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Saving Private Ryan (such a horrifyingly impersonal but cinematically astute way to pick off a character we’ve come to cherish), The Green Mile, Million Dollar Baby, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The ending of Night of the Living Dead is horrific, on both an intimate and a broader, social level. (Incidentally, that film was released a month before the US MPAA film rating system came into place, so was first watched by stunned kids and teenagers in a Saturday matinee in Pittsburgh). Everyone remembers the final episode of the First World War series of Blackadder, in which the sharp-as-a-tack Captain Blackadder is sent over the trenches with his hapless brothers-in-arms to certain death.
I think the ultimate story ending can also be linked to death, but doesn’t need to be. It’s more to do with a surprise twist that transforms or reframes all that’s gone before. The Wicker Man is one of these – what, no, it can’t all have been… and what’s going on now… surely he’s going to get out of there… Other films with great twists include The Others, The Usual Suspects, Get Out. But I think the best of all, and thus without doubt my favourite film, is The Sixth Sense. How many stories require you to retrace the whole course of an already gripping narrative right from the start?
I was thinking about all this because I’ve strived for those big twists that turn the whole story around in some of my own books. Particularly The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, Black Beacon and, probably most dramatically, The Man in the Woods. Because I love it. And want to do more of it. And most of all, because I want to make sure it works for you, the reader!
Tell me a book, film or TV show that’s made you sit up in your seat or burst out into tears. Endings that were devastating or breathtakingly thrilling, that took you somewhere above and beyond all the rest. I’m looking out for my next watch, and my next read.
As it’s that time for reflection, I thought I’d give an overview of my year from a writing perspective. First of all, the good. As most of you will know, I’ve been concentrating on my supernatural thrillers for the past five years. I’ve written three books in The Ghosts of Alice series, but this year I wanted to publish two standalone horror books that I’ve had in the pipeline for a while and which I’m glad to say I managed to do.
The first, The Man in the Woods, I started several years ago but was interrupted by life and never finished. I realised when I re-read it earlier this year that I really liked it, it felt very different to my other writing and I loved the final twist.
Thanks to reader Linda Oliphant for this great photo!
Why was it so different to my other supernatural books? Well, several reasons.
it’s the only one told in the first person
it’s a novella
it’s the only one of my supernatural thrillers not to feature ghosts (hope that’s not a spoiler… 😉)
it’s about a teenage boy
some people would even argue it’s not a supernatural thriller at all but… you’ll have to read it to decide whether it is or isn’t yourself!
I love this story. I thought it might well get mixed reviews – and possibly some negative reviews – but they’ve been (almost all!) positive so far.
The second book I published this year I actually finished as a first draft last Christmas – but decided to leave until November before I brought it out, for obvious reasons. It’s Black Beacon, a festive ghost story set on the snow-swept South Downs. I’ve loved writing this book as it’s by far the most personal of my stories, inspired by my grandparents, who met when my grandad was a German Prisoner of War and my grandma a young woman in Eastbourne. All my books tend to have a significant element or two inspired by real life incidents – but this is by far the most personal.
What about the bad? Well, whilst life outside of writing has had its ups and downs this year (with a few more downs than usual, including my mum breaking her hip in the summer) the writing has been pretty steady. I miss the excellent independent bookshop we had near us in Leatherhead: Barton’s Bookshop, where I used to go for signing sessions at least once a year, usually during the festive season. I miss the owner, Peter Snell, with his penchant for dressing up as Santa Claus, and I miss the staff – I’ve done signings at other events over the years, but nothing is as satisfying as going to a local bookstore, where everyone has a passion for books and reading.
That’s it for me – next up for my writing is the fourth Ghosts of Alice story, which has a completely different feel and setting – but more of that later in the year!
I wish you a Happy New Year, and hope it brings you what you want – or at least what you need!
What image comes to mind for you when you think of a haunted house?
I’ve been writing ghost stories for 5 years now and I’ve realised that the houses I have haunted have become progressively more ‘everyday’ with each successive story. As if you don’t need heightened melodrama of a setting to chill – fear can come to you in the most mundane of places.
In The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, the red-hooded boy and the wounded woman haunt an old medieval manor with sprawling grounds and a creepy stumpery. Bramley Manor is a stately medieval hall with a grand fireplace and a Tudor section.
The haunting in The Girl in the Ivory Dress takes place in a Victorian guest house in a remote spot on the Welsh coast. The house is quite old, but it’s been completely renovated and has all modcons.
Alice and the Devil focuses on a rundown Victorian rectory on the moors in the Peak District, although much of the action takes place on a curious set of giant, wooded rocks nearby that are filled with caves and strange features.
My latest ghost story Black Beacon, however, is set in an ordinary 1930s house – although it is isolated from civilisation up on the Sussex Downs. And even more so, after a rare Christmas snowfall.
Do you prefer your ghost stories set in a classic, decaying country house – or do you think the spook can happen anywhere?
You can check out all my books on my Amazon page – perfect for the festive season!
Here’s some photos of the South Downs including the stunning Beachy Head, where the hills crumble in a mass of pulverised chalk to the English Channel. A lonely red-and-white lighthouse prevents ships crashing into the cliffs. This spot features in my latest ghost story, Black Beacon, which is set on the sometimes radiant, often bleak, always beautiful landscape of the downs. Like several of the other elements in the story, it draws on my own personal experience.
The character of Theo in Black Beacon is loosely based on my real German grandfather, Egon Korn, who arrived in England as a Prisoner of War. He met my grandma in Eastbourne and they were soon married. The story of his capture was extraordinary, and something I knew had to write in a story one day. I just never realised it was going to be one of my ghost stories! You can find out more about his experience here.
My grandfather, who I called Da, used to collect me from the Cavendish Hotel on the seafront in his cream VW Beetle. I was living in the hotel because my dad worked there, we were in the staff accommodation. Da used to drive me up to Beachy Head and we would go and look out on this fabulous panorama. Enjoy!
Time for a short reading from my latest book, BLACK BEACON, a chilling ghost story for Christmas!
Theo, short of money but determined he and his wife shall have a good Christmas, has decided to take a tree from the forest – but he’s got hopelessly lost. Then he comes across a figure in the darkness…
Here’s some of the wonderful things people have been saying about Black Beacon since its release:
***** I loved this book and read it in one sitting late at night with the aftermath of a storm whistling outside
***** What a great ghostly Christmas book
***** His best book yet
***** A deeply haunting ghost story
***** This was such an original Christmas ghost story, I could not put it down. From the first pages I was gripped and wanting to know what happened to Nat and Theo.
I’m SUPER excited to tell you my latest book, Black Beacon, a chilling Christmas ghost story set on the snow-swept South Downs, is out now!
Here’s what it’s about:
1976. The South Downs.
The Christmas it snowed.
The Christmas that evil returned…
Struggling with money, Theo and Nat are doing their best to make Christmas special. It’s been a hard time of year for them, ever since they lost their beloved daughter.
But this year, their troubles are just beginning. They are about to be visited by a shocking ghost from Christmas past, a spirit who will bring back not just the horror of the war that divided them but also a deep, hidden betrayal from their own private past…
Click here to get a copy of Black Beacon on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle editions – or read for free on Kindle Unlimited!
Later this week I’m starting a (thinks fast) Spectacular Spooktober Sale (!!) on The Ghosts of Alice series.
Running up to Halloween, each of the three titles will have a week on sale on Kindle at the discounted price of 99p/99c.
If you haven’t discovered The Ghosts of Alice yet, it’s a series of standalone books that feature Alice Deaton, a young woman with a mysterious connection to the dead. In the first book, the bestselling The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, Alice lands her dream job to open a medieval house to the public – only to find when the ghosts start appearing not all is as rosy as it seems…
Really looking forward to this event organised by the fantastic people at Ghost Walks Surrey and Explorers Events Ltd!
If you’re nearby, why not come along and join us? A spooky ghost tour of the town will be followed by me doing a reading and Q&A. Plus there’ll be an opportunity to buy signed copies of my books.
See below for more details, reposted from Ghost Walks Surrey Facebook page:
A new and exclusive event in collaboration with local author Steve Griffin.
Steve is the author of the bestselling ghost stories of the Ghosts of Alice series, beginning with ‘The Boy in the Burgundy Hood’.
Following a one hour Ghost Walk visiting the most haunted hotspots in the town, we will meet Steve in The Narnia Room within the Old House on West Street where he will read to you some excerpts from his novels. You will have chance to ask him questions and to buy signed copies of his books.
Tickets are VERY limited. This really is an exclusive event.
Saturday 13th May 2023 Meet 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start outside Dorking Halls on Reigate Road RH4 1SG.
Tickets cost £15.
The event will last for approx 2 hours and will finish at the Narnia Room.