Sarah Waters is often referred to as one of the greatest storytellers of our time, with her painstakingly-researched and cleverly written tales breathing new life into both historical and lesbian fiction.
Her best-selling and award-winning novels have earned her critical acclaim and a diverse fan base across the world. Three of her novels have been adapted as lavish television dramas by the BBC and a fourth is currently in development.
Now, after an almost three-year wait, fans can finally sink their teeth into her latest offering, The Little Stranger.
Billed as a ghost story, The Little Stranger recounts a series of strange incidents at Hundreds Hall, a Georgian manor house in rural Warwickshire, and their impact on those connected to the deteriorating house.
As a fan of the horror genre, Waters says she enjoyed inventing her own scary stories.
I read lots of ghost and horror stories as a child, and was quite addicted to horror films, she said. Most of my novels have gothic touches, but with The Little Stranger it was great to be able to really give myself over to the genre, and think about how I could unnerve my readers.
Not that I would call the book a -˜ghost story’ myself. It’s really a haunted house novel, which is a little bit different. There’s definitely something doing the haunting -” I just wouldn’t necessarily call it a ghost.
Hundreds Hall is a focal point of the story and plays such an integral role in its telling that it is almost a character in its own right.
I wanted the house to be a fairly innocuous backdrop to the sinister things that happen in it. But the Hall can’t be -˜innocent’, it means too much to the various characters in the book.
The Little Stranger is set in post-World War II Warwickshire.
Waters said the choice was deliberate.
It’s fairly easy to summon up a gothic atmosphere when you’ve got foggy street lamps and gas lamps, workhouses and asylums. But this made The Little Stranger more of a challenge. I consciously set it in Warwickshire -” a central and pretty ordinary English county -” as opposed to somewhere more remote like Cornwall or Norfolk.
While the story may not have any lesbian characters, Waters is not ruling it out for next time.
There is no lesbian element this time. That wasn’t a calculated decision on my part, it just turned out that way.
This particular story came along and grabbed my interest and it very clearly wasn’t a lesbian one. I’m sure I’ll return to lesbian characters in the future, however.
info: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is published in Australia by Virago and is available in bookshops and online now.
Sarah Waters enjoys inventing scary stories.