Hingston’s Box by Decima Blake
Published by Pegasus Publishers
Paperback: 29 September 2016
I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Decima Blake, to talk about her debut novel, Hingston’s Box.
Writing Hingston’s Box – inspiration, research and plotting
Decima, what is your main source of inspiration?
The Golden Age of crime fiction has always fascinated me. I home in on novels, television adaptations and series that ooze mystery and intrigue. I challenge myself to solve the crime or identify the mystery’s solution before the conclusion is drawn, but invariably my mum beats me to it. Her dad and grandmother loved detective novels and murder mysteries, introducing her to them as she then did for me. Cumulatively they have been my main source of inspiration, leading me to enjoy the works of Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter’s Morse, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and those that have been inspired by them.
What inspired you to incorporate a supernatural theme into Hingston’s Box?
I believe a suggestion of the supernatural or the unknown can increase the power of a mystery. It adds a unique layer of uncertainty which can tip an already dark plot into a much more unnerving and memorable experience. I have been inspired by a number of novels that use the supernatural to differing extents, for example The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and M. R. James’ ghost stories.
You’ve set Hingston’s Box in real locations. Why does realism matter to you?
Due to the supernatural element in Hingston’s Box, I was keen to ensure that everything else was historically, geographically and procedurally true to life, so that in theory, the story could really happen. Hingston’s Box crosses the genres of crime fiction, mystery and the supernatural, so I wanted to strike a balance between the known and the unknown.
In general terms, realism matters hugely to me. Life presents countless avenues for exploration in a novel, all of which carry the potential for conveying great meaning, interest and relevance to the reader. I’ve focussed on the exploitation of children and the importance of protecting children from becoming victims of crime. My aim was to place the reader at the forefront of Hingston’s investigation so that they feel they have policed through the eyes of a detective. I set Hingston’s Box in real locations that I have an affiliation with and hope my descriptions sufficiently convey their character and atmosphere to inspire readers to visit Dartmouth, Totnes, Newton St Cyres and Cadbury in Devon, and Chiswick and Kew in London.
What was the most difficult area to research?
The Victorian circus of 1860s England proved the most difficult to research, in part due to the lack of photographs I could locate. The challenge led me to The British Library in London where a microfilm ordered from its location in the north of England gave a fantastic insight and proved to be invaluable for bringing realism to Hingston’s Box.
How did you plot out Hingston’s Box?
The initial concept for Hingston’s Box was a very simplistic idea: I thought how it would be exciting if something could materialise in a file and help solve a mystery from the past. I jotted down a few pages which outlined the overall story and the main themes.
I had limited historical knowledge and therefore completed the majority of my research at the outset to check whether the concept was workable and if so, exactly what time period and geographical locations were appropriate. I visited all locations in the book to get a true feel for the settings and to take photographs to remind me of details I may otherwise have forgotten.
A significant proportion of my research was conducted at The National Archives in Kew and having thoroughly enjoyed that experience I decided to set one of the chapters of Hingston’s Box at the Archives where Hingston himself leafs through a murder investigation file complete with calligraphic witness statements, investigative reports and anonymous notes. This was one of twenty chapters I outlined, each in a couple of sentences, in order to plot the order of events, make note of recurring themes and connect Hingston’s present day investigation with ‘a murderous past’.
About the book:
Since investigating the disappearance of fifteen-year-old twin boys, Hingston – a young, talented Detective Sergeant, has been tormented by night terrors. On waking, he remembers a vast, golden meadow that glows with warmth and carries the sound of rapid footfalls and trouser legs pushing through grasses. A curly haired boy runs tirelessly through the meadow. The promise of adventure is lost when the sickening ache of death seeps into Hingston’s bones. Feeling suffocated and tortured, melodic chimes calm him and his panic subsides. Signed off and leaving the office, a key inexplicably falls from Hingston’s investigation file. Intrigued, he takes it with him, escaping London for Dartmouth where his investigative race begins. Stalked by a challenging elderly woman and hindered by his boss, his determination to solve the case draws him into the supernatural world that connects a murderous past to the present
About the author:
Decima Blake, aged thirty-two, has a long-standing interest in child protection having worked with teenagers, she is deeply passionate about child victims of crime. In writing Hingston’s Box, Decima drew on her love of classic English murder mysteries and ghost stories. Her interest in English Literature was ignited by two highly motivational teachers who made her A Level studies enjoyable, character forming and invaluable to her future endeavours. Hingston’s Box raises awareness of the vulnerability of all children to exploitation. A percentage of royalties will be donated to the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime.