Spotlighting – author Sally Harris
Please welcome Sally Harris to my blog. Sally, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk about your new release – Seahurst!
There is something in the stones, something ancient and dark that will never let you go.
Sally Harris writes ghost stories and gothic fiction as S. A. Harris. Her first novel, Haverscroft was long listed for Not The Booker Prize, was one of Den Of Geek’s best books of 2019, a semi-finalist in the Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award 2020, and a Halloween recommended read in Prima Magazine. Sally is a family law solicitor living with her husband and children in Norwich.
Evie Meyer and her son Alfie flee from her abusive partner Seth to spend New Year with her half-brother Luke at their late father’s summer home on the Suffolk Coast, only to find Seahurst abandoned and Luke missing. Evie searches for her brother, filled with a deepening dread that something is very wrong at Seahurst and their father’s death may not have been suicide after all. As Seahurst’s ancient and sinister secrets unfurl around her, Evie fears the souls of the dead will soon claim another terrible revenge.
Oh, this sounds so intriguing, and can’t wait to read, and guess what, Sally has kindly given us the first chapter which I will be posting at the end.
I was keen to find out more about Sally as a person, and as a writer. I’m sure you will find what Sally has to say, absolutely fascinating:
‘When I started writing Haverscroft, I would snatch little pieces of time when I could. I had three young children and worked full-time as a family law solicitor. Most of the book was written while I waited in my car for the children to come out of school. Those regular half-hour slots in a busy day gradually grew into a novel.
I found writing almost impossible during the Covid lockdown as our house was full and busy much of the time. My writing is often set in Suffolk, and as I now live in Norfolk, it was also difficult not to go there for inspiration.
I meet writer friends regularly for a natter and coffee, but we also share our writing which is invaluable. Plot holes, character development and a multitude of other issues get discussed and resolved. Someone else’s eyes on the page pick up so many issues I do not see as the author. I learn so much, too, from reading other writers’ work.
Now I am still working, but our family has grown up. I write first thing in the mornings at weekends; evenings are good for editing. Friends often ask how I find the time to write a novel, but like anything else, if you want to do something, you will find a way.’
I agree with you Sally. Writers groups are worth their weight in gold! I belong to two, and have set up writing groups in my local library with the intention of supporting budding writers.
Also, I’d say amazing commitment to your writing. It seems most of us write around the paid job. In a way, I wonder if that’s what makes us more dedicated, to finding the oh, so precious time to write, that is.
Praise for previous work: ‘An atmospherically creepy ghost story that keeps you guessing till the end! Sally Harris is one to watch.’ —Angela Clarke
‘A perfect modern ghost story that will have you hiding under the covers.’ — Prima Magazine
‘The writing is taut and fluid. Both the atmosphere of the old house and the wider family dynamics are evoked with skill. Whatever one thinks of a place harbouring the spirit of past deeds this story could throw shade over certainties. Recommended, but exercise caution if reading after dark.’ —Jackie Law, never imitate
‘There are some genuine spine chilling moments in this book which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, which is of course testimony to some great writing skills!’ —Amanda Chatterton,
Bookish Chat ‘ Haverscroft is a very modern ghost/psychological story. It’s written in an apparently effortless and easy style, which I’m sure this was a lot of hard work to achieve – this a genuinely gripping tale.’ —Paul Burke,
NB Magazine Printed in Great Britain
Cover design by The Cover Factory
Cover image: Chris Emery FICTION £10.99 http://www.saltpublishing.com
Now to that exciting chapter. Please remember this was released on 15 May! But let me apologise. For some reason I have not been able to set the text as it was sent to me and as you would expect to read in a book.
The original text/layout is perfect, so please do not judge the lack of indents etc. This is down to my inability to alter/adjust.
TORONTO AIRPORT, 26TH
DECEMBER, PRESENT DAY.
I pull to a halt beneath the departure board, drop the suitcase at my feet and scan the list of international flights.
‘That’s ours, Mom. The gate’s up already!’ Alfie stands just in front of me, jabbing his forefinger at the list of destinations. His dark hair is a mess. No time to sort it before we left, not that he’s bothered anyway.
On-Time. Boarding, Gate 11.
‘Let’s get the bags checked in.’ I shift my rucksack higher onto my shoulder as we wait for a gap to open up in the busy flow of passengers. I glance back past the floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree to the entrance doors, jammed open by the constant crush of travellers. Shoulders and hats sparkle with snow, the light flurries when we left the apartment turning to something steady. I scan the pale faces of people hurrying back and forth beneath the glare of fluorescent lighting – no sign of Seth. I nudge Alfie forwards.
‘Let’s go.’ We merge into line behind a rowdy family of five, their trolley piled with enough luggage for a dozen people. The toes of my suede ankle boots are darkened and wet. Stupid to wear them; they’re killing already. No chance I’ll find my old scuffed black leather ones amongst all the stuff we jammed into the suitcase.
‘I’ll try and get hold of Uncle Luke again,’ I say, struggling to drag the case behind me while hitting redial on my mobile. I should call Mum as well, but what’s the point? There’ll be hell to pay either way, and she’ll be asleep by now. ‘Come on, Mom!’ Alfie bolts off, weaving between people milling about the concourse.
‘Hey! Wait up, Alfie. We must stick together!’ This suitcase is way too heavy to do anything but trundle along with
the travellers massing towards the check-in desks. ‘Alfie!’ I crane my neck to see through the crowd. ‘Alfie, wait!’ The man in front half-turns his head and looks back at me. I ignore his irritated frown and glance down at my mobile, the call connecting. I put the phone to my ear and try to cut out the background jingle-jangle of Christmas carols. An unfamiliar, distant dialling tone drones through several rings. Pick up, Luke, pick up! What time is it in the UK – maybe he’s out someplace or at his mother’s – what does he do over Christmas and New Year? A family dash past me, shouting to each other, jostling agitated people out of their way. I jam the mobile to my ear and pull the case out of the stream of traffic. I must catch Luke before we board. Across the sea of knitted bobble and ski hats, Alfie is stuck behind a dawdling party of school children. The tannoy trawls through half-a-dozen delayed flights to the US; I can hardly hear the ringtone through the blare of it – if only we could have left earlier, given ourselves more time. The ringtone stops, the line crackles to an automated voicemail – leave a name and number, he’ll call right back.
‘Luke, it’s me. I’ve tried . . .’
‘Luke? Thank God! I’ve been trying to call you for over an hour. Did you get my email?’
‘It’s the early hours of the morning here! You’re lucky I didn’t have my mobile on silent. I’m reading it now. What
made you change your mind?’
‘Long story,’ I grab hold of the case, give it a sharp tug and rejoin the flow of people. I need to catch up with Alfie. ‘Is it okay if we still come over? Just me and Alfie.’ The blare of carols drowns out the call as I pass under a speaker. ‘Luke?’
‘Still here – said I can’t wait to meet Alfie.’ Luke’s voice and something else, jazz playing in the background cutting to the mellow tones of a late-night radio show host.
Flight number *** 4:07 to Heathrow now boarding at Gate
‘Say that again, Luke.’
‘I’m so glad you’re finally coming over.’ I dodge between piles of ski and boot bags scattered across the walkway, surrounded by groups of milling, chattering teenagers. I catch a glimpse of Alfie up ahead. ‘How long are you over for?’
‘A week. Alfie’s back to school on the 6th, so home before then, if that’s okay?’
Luke’s laugh is a deep undulating sound, so like Dad that, for an instant, I’m running up the cliff path to the Abbey
ruins to meet him, my kite bobbing behind me on a scorching July evening.
‘Stay as long as you want, both of you. Lou and the crowd can’t wait to see you. No Seth?’
‘The restaurant’s busy until after New Year.’ I jerk the suitcase behind me as I try to keep Alfie in sight. ‘We can’t
both be away, not just now.’ The case catches a crack in the floor. It twists my wrist, the rucksack slipping off my shoulder and down my arm.
‘Jesus Christ!’ I say as a woman swerves to one side and heads around me.
‘You okay?’ says Luke.
‘Half of Toronto’s travelling today, and Alfie’s run ahead.’
‘It’ll be good just the two of you. It’s pretty quiet here at this time of year. Not too much going on. I’ll have to wait to meet Seth another time. Besides, there’s stuff we need to sort out.’
‘Stuff?’ I say, picking up the case. Alfie’s getting too far ahead.
‘About the house . . . and Dad.’
‘How do you mean?’ A man steps sideways into my path, his broad back right in front of me. I jolt the case to a halt; he’s oblivious to my presence. There’s no way past him, bags and people everywhere. I can’t concentrate on Luke’s conversation and keep Alfie in sight at the same time.
‘Things aren’t as we thought. I’ll let you go, Evie. We can talk once you’re both here.’
‘Great idea, it’s manic right now, and we’re short on time to check-in. You’ve got all the flight details?’
‘I’ll be at arrivals, big board with your name on it. You won’t be able to miss me.’
‘Don’t forget,’ I say, laughing.
‘Very funny! See you in a few hours.’
The walkway opens out to a broader space lined with check in desks. I weave between passengers, craning my neck for a glimpse of Alfie. Air Canada’s stretch of red and white fill the wall along the left-hand side. Alfie will have gone to our desk to get in the queue. I pat the side pocket of my parka, feel the bulk of our passports as I hurry down the line scanning the destination boards. My mobile vibrates in my hand. I look at the screen, Seth’s number again. I let it go to voicemail as I find our desk. Alfie’s halfway down the queue, his dark hair falling in his eyes as he jumps up and down, waving madly.
‘Mom!’ I ignore the muttering from the guy behind Alfie and lower the case to the floor.
‘Don’t rush off like that again, Alfie. We have to stick together until we board, all right?’
Alfie nods, watching the passenger in front of us boarding his bags. We should make the gate no problem if there’s no delay at security.
‘I’ll call Maxwells,’ I say, pressing the restaurant’s number on my mobile. ‘Call them after check-in!’ Alfie’s reaching for my mobile. I turn away and hear the call go through to voicemail. I leave a message about tomorrow’s order. Let them know I’ll call about next week’s menus once we land in London and apologise twice for the lack of notice.
The man in front is done, Alfie’s at the desk, putting the suitcase on the conveyor. He turns back, his eyes holding mine. I’ll make things right for him once we get to Suffolk, have a proper Christmas and New Year. I pull the passports from my parka as Alfie loads the rest of our bags. Within less than a minute, we’re running across the concourse towards passport control. The queue presses between taped barriers, zig-zagging towards the overhead scanners. Boxing Day is far busier than I thought it would be.
‘Do we have to wait in line?’ Alfie’s looking past passengers shuffling between the tape to the rows of conveyors.
‘If we get the last call for the flight, I’ll ask the security woman if we can go ahead.’ Alfie sways one foot to the other, looking past people, assessing the speed of the queue.
‘Stop stressing, Alfie. We’re moving quickly. We might even have time to grab some food if you’re hungry.’
Alfie came through to the kitchen this evening straight after Seth left for Maxwells, his first words, as ever, asking
what was there to eat. Once he saw my laptop screen, the flight booking whirling and confirmed, he’d got dressed, packed and into the car in under fifteen minutes. Other than a stale bottle of water he found on the backseat, he’d had nothing since lunchtime. My mobile buzzes in my hand, a text on the screen:
Hurry up, you’ll miss your flight. I stare at the message; my stomach does the weird thing like I’m in an elevator dropping too fast. I glance about the concourse, scan the faces of the passengers hurrying past us. Seth can’t be here?
‘Can I have a burger then?’
‘What?’ I say, looking into Alfie’s grinning face.
‘A burger? Just this once, if there’s time?’ he’s looking at me, his grin faltering. ‘Is it Dad?’ he says, looking down at
‘How?’ I say. ‘How can he know we’re here and so fast?’
‘Did you change your password like I said?’ Alfie’s eyes are wide as he stares into my face. I nod and look back at the message. I haven’t used our joint account to pay for our flights or the car parking. I’ve used my credit card for everything.
‘You have to be right. He hacks my emails, Alfie. It’s the only way he could know.’
I look at my son as the line shuffles forward. ‘Alfie?’ I follow his gaze between the shoulders of passengers in front of
us to the head of the queue. A guard checks boarding tickets and feeds passengers through to the security area. Beside her, just outside the taped barrier, stands Seth. His black puffer jacket is unzipped, the red cashmere scarf he bought himself for Christmas hanging loose at his neck. In his right hand, he’s holding his mobile. My eyes meet his as my cheeks flood with heat. My phone buzzes in my hand. I don’t bother to check the screen.
‘What do we do?’ Alfie is tugging my coat like he did when he was five years old, his focus still on Seth. I glance at my mobile, a second message on the screen. You didn’t say goodbye. There are four missed calls from Seth’s number; I can’t have heard the last one in the commotion of checking the bags in. Alfie sees the screen.
‘What do we do, Mom? We’re still going, right?’
I’m nodding on autopilot. My mobile chimes – an incoming text. Your mom’s worried. Says you didn’t say goodbye to her either. Shit! I knew he’d speak to her, but he’s onto all this so fast. I glance up, although I know I shouldn’t catch his eye. Seth raises his right hand in a small wave, smiles again as he leans across the barrier, says something to the security guard as he points in our direction. Another text. Are you okay? I’m worried about you, so’s your mom. I read the message, hardly register what he’s saying.
‘Let me think, Alfie.’ The line moves forward.
‘We’re going, right?’
I don’t answer, just pull my scarf up over my chin and catch a glimpse of myself in the polished dark glass of the drug store we’re filing past. I look like Alfie, eyes wide and glassy. I’ve piled on too much foundation. It gives my skin a ghostly pallor but thank God it’s covered the bruise. There had been no time to shower; my hair, in dire need of a wash, is pulled back into a scrunchie. I smooth back a stray strand of blond hair, see it slink back across my forehead. ‘I bet he put the tracker back on your phone. I’m checking mine for sure,’ Alfie scrolls through the settings on his mobile.
My phone rings – Mum’s number. I let it go to voicemail. There’s nothing she’ll say that’ll help right now.
‘He can’t stop us going, can he, Mom?’ The queue shuffles again, the woman behind us close at our backs. Alfie steps forward, looking back at me. I move to stand beside him.
‘I don’t think so, Alfie.’
‘You don’t think so?’ Alfie opens Google on his mobile, and I let him search. I did the same thing last night after
everything calmed down. The engagement ring is still on my ring finger – why couldn’t I take it off and leave it at the apartment? My mobile buzzes again. We need to talk about Alfie.
There are two groups of travellers between Seth and us. The stout security guard is waving the first forward at the
head of the queue. Seth’s having a conversation with her. What the hell am I dealing with now? Alfie waves his mobile at me and hisses under his breath.
‘He can stop me going, Mom, can’t he?’
If I had Alfie’s rage, his fierce temper, this would be a whole lot easier to handle.
‘I checked out the regulations last night,’ I say, keeping my eyes lowered, watching the heels of the woman’s snow boots in front. If I look up now, Seth will be just a couple of metres beyond her. ‘Dad probably doesn’t know he can stop you.’
‘What? Are you crazy, Mom? He’ll know for sure!’
‘We both go. I won’t leave you behind.’
‘You totally promise, right?’
I nod and squeeze his hand. ‘I would never leave you behind.’
The couple in front follow the guard’s directions, and we move to the head of the queue. Seth dives forwards, ruffles
Alfie’s hair, my son ducking, jerking his head to one side. Alfie hates that, he’s been too old for it for years. Seth persists just to irritate the hell out of him. Seth’s gaze is on my face. He’ll see my cheeks burning. I pull my scarf up over my chin and to my mouth. Seth’s smile is smooth and confident. It must look like a romantic farewell in the sort of Hollywood movies I hate watching. He pulls me into a tight hug, his lips brushing hot against my face. I
feel like a piece of rag, unable to find any strength to pull back. His grip tightens, his warm, damp breath whispering
into my ear.
‘Leave, and you’ll be begging to come back before you know it.’ He releases me and brushes my cheekbone with the back of his hand, my skin crawling beneath his touch.
‘Excuse me, Ma’am?’ The guard indicates for us to move forward with a beckon of her fingers. Alfie rushes to the nearest empty scanner slinging his rucksack into a blue plastic tray.
‘Got engaged yesterday,’ Seth explains. The guard’s smile is uninterested as she continues to wave me forward. ‘Trying to persuade her to stay for New Year’s.’ Seth presses his lips into a flat smile. The guard looks at Seth, then at me.
‘What’s it to be?’ she says, glancing to where Alfie stands in front of the scanner. His coat and boots are thrown on top of his rucksack, the plastic tray moving along the conveyor.
‘Do I call your kid back?’
‘He can’t go, Evie. Alfie stays here.’
‘You can’t look after him and Maxwells.’
‘Your mom’s helping out.’ Seth’s hand holds my elbow, steering me away from the queue. The guard is calling Alfie back. She’s not interested in us, only the long line of people she has to feed through to the departure lounge. Alfie’s looking back at me, his face white and full of uncertainty. I’ve U-turned so many times . . .
‘Let’s go back to the apartment and talk this through sensibly. You can rebook the flights, and we can fly over together like we planned.’
‘Luke’s picking us up,’ I say, my voice so quiet I barely hear myself over the hum of the airport.
The guard ushers Alfie back from the security area. His eyes find mine, the deflated expression tears at my chest. I look away. The electronic ripple runs across the departure board. The information updates. The flight to Heathrow – Boarding. Last call to passengers.
‘Our bags are all loaded,’ says Alfie, a red flush now across his cheeks as he drops his rucksack at his feet.
‘What’s it to be, Evie? Your decision.’ Seth smiles as we move further away from the queue. His grip on my elbow tightens.
‘It’s not Mom’s call.’
Seth turns back to where Alfie stands. He’s hugging his coat and boots to his chest, his socked feet either side of his
‘What did you say?’ Seth smiles at Alfie, but the expression in his eyes makes me shudder.
‘It’s not Mom’s call.’ Alfie’s eyes flick to me and back to Seth. ‘It’s mine.’
AMAZING. You had me gripped from the start, and the tension, well, heart in mouth…. I’m so looking forward to reading the rest. Thank you so much for sharing!
And that’s not all folks – If you’d like to know more about Sally and her work – why not check her out:
Thank you so much Sally, it’s been great meeting you and wonderful to work with you. I wish you all the very best with your new release….
If you love this and more, like historical, romance, drama, mystery, crime – check out mybook.to/twentyone
Thank you so much for joining us today!