I was a third of the way into writing a different story when the Sisters Blythe began whispering in my ear. I tried to ignore them but they were insistent, and eventually I agreed to give them a week. I set aside my other project – temporarily – in the hopes that I’d make the sisters see reason; confident that they would that way be appeased and silenced until it was their turn.
I wrote the first chapter of The Distant Hours, in which the letter arrives and Edie learns the name ‘Juniper Blythe’, in a single night, and by the time I went to bed I knew I wouldn’t be returning to my other project. I couldn’t. It was clear to me that this was the story I had to tell. That happens, sometimes, and I’ve found it’s best not to ask questions, rather just to follow the story’s thread.
The Distant Hours was a labour of love. I wrote intensively, coming up for air occasionally, before disappearing once more beneath the novel’s surface. The characters – Percy and Saffy, Juniper and Tom, Edie and Meredith, and all the others, too – are real and dear to me, and the novel brings together many of my favourite things. A crumbling castle, a family of sisters, a love of books and reading, the haunting of the present by the past, thwarted love, ghostly shivers, mystery and memory and secrets.
No matter how much I adore writing, though, no matter the pleasure my stories give me, it isn’t until books are read that they really start to breathe. So let me take the opportunity to thank you. Because by reading The Distant Hours, it is you who brings the characters, the past, Milderhurst castle itself, back to life. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did.