Wednesday August 4th
Cheshire Botanicals Director Holly interviews Author and Gin Lover Terry Kitto.
My good friend and fellow Falmouth University graduate Terry Kitto published his debut novel last Friday, July 30th. The night before, we stayed up until midnight over the digital airwaves and celebrated as his publishing date rolled in!
The Frequency, paranormal thriller and first instalment to the Imprint Quintet, climbed its way up to #59 in the Amazon rankings for Ghost Horror paperbacks on day one and continues to be a success as its popularity grows.
"No choice will be easy for Rasha when thwarting a monster means becoming one herself.
The Frequency is a paranormal thriller exploring grief in a world where death is just the beginning and where reality can be rewritten. Fans of Stephen King and James Herbert will enjoy this mind-bending, paranormal thriller with LGBTQ+ and POC characters.
This is book one in The Imprint Quintet series, a five-part saga following a rag-tag group of mediums as they attempt to thwart an otherworldly tyrant from unleashing paranormal terrorism."
As The Frequency rolls out to readers and Terry’s word-smithery is eagerly consumed, I’ve managed to nudge my way into his busy schedule for some interrogation. I absolutely love chatting with Falmouth grads, as well as local and small businesses - so this interview was an opportunity that I couldn't miss.
Grab a G&T, relax and enjoy a cheeky interview *containing spoilers about The Frequency*… (you have been warned!)
Terry, obviously so much of your time and hard work has gone into this project. How long have you been working on The Frequency and how did the ideas for your paranormal thriller come about?
If we’re being super technical, I’ve been working on this project since I was twelve. At least, that’s when it started. Back then it was called Ghost Conspiracies and things were very different. For one Rasha didn’t exist, neither did any of the world-building elements; imprints, the gywandras, and the frequency weren’t yet invented. Main characters Will and Trish were a couple, the plot kind of just happened because it had to, and it was all solved by pinpointing events onto a map and heading to the centre of them to find the source of all the evil!
Poor writing aside, it’s interesting how much of it still carried over to The Frequency fifteen years later. I wrote it after my grandfather died, which was the first true experience of loss and grief. Ghost Conspiracies was very much a cathartic way of exploring my emotions and beliefs surrounding death at that time. So another main character Sam’s cynical approach to death, the complex sci-fi exploration of the afterlife, and the time-travel elements were all there in one form or another. Even the ending — where one of the ragtag group had to go back in time to ensure Will dies — existed in Ghost Conspiracies.
Somewhere into a second draft (I say loosely, because I was just putting the handwritten version into text form) I must have got bored and abandoned it. I think I ended up making TARDIS animations Windows Movie Maker instead! Twelve years later and I’d been made redundant from an office job in Manchester and have no choice but to move back to Cornwall with my parents. I completely stripped my old room to redecorate, and that’s when I found a rickety suitcase with all the stuff I ever wrote when I was a kid. The 300-ish paged, handwritten draft of Ghost Conspiracies was still there. I flipped through it just to reminisce and realised that there were some interesting concepts and ideas in the story. After five years of studying screenwriting and story, my professional writing brain was zapping all of these themes and concepts together. From that point it took about three years to reach today, after numerous revisions, beta rounds, professional editing, and proofreading. Now I have a fully formed book.
So three years — but technically fifteen!
You’re Cornish born and bred, and you’ve based your novel in the wilds of the lush county itself. You must have drawn so much inspiration from Cornish history and your surroundings?
Cornwall’s countryside feels so different from the rest of the UK. It’s much more wild and rugged, its cliff faces are alien and otherworldly, and every town or beach feels completely different and yet so familiar. The moorlands are particularly atmospheric in the winter — perfect for horror. On Bodmin Moor there are trees on the hillsides that are twisted and arthritic from catching the brunt of the stormy weather. Cloaked in fog it can look barren and eerie, and yet it still retains a sense of magic and charm. There are so many facets to the Cornish countryside, and even more again when you add the elements to the mix. It’s a rich and versatile location for writing fiction.
Cornish history played a large part in The Frequency. I’m always fascinated by how a place and its people became what they are, so that I think my intrigue for history is never far away when I’m writing. But it made sense that, when writing about ghosts, I would have to explore historical moments to ground the story in reality. So I drew upon tin mining culture and tragedies that often befell its workers. The 1600’s was a huge time in Cornwall’s history: the Britons were invading and butchering local people, leading to The Battle of Losthwithiel, which is mentioned in The Frequency. Barbary pirates were plaguing Cornish coasts at that time, kidnapping women and children to be sold as slaves in Saudi Arabia, which became integral to Ewella’s story arc. The Cornish language became an important part of world building: for example the afterlife is named ombrederi, after the Cornish word for reflection.
Cornwall. (Photographer: Sketch the Sun)
A cheeky question for you - did you take any inspiration from people you’ve encountered for your characters?
Yes, but funnily enough it was sympathetic characters I largely drew from. Mr Sleep, a minor character who is an old family friend of Trish’s, helps her with accommodation. He’d never settled and so never had a family of his own. Rather than surround himself with people, he fills his emptiness with machinery and gadgets — a collector of lost things. There’s a lot of loneliness and isolation amongst the older generations in Cornwall. If you don’t drive the county seems five times as large with places being few and far between. There are lots of people I know that are a lot like Sleep. Then you have the dynamic of Will’s parents: a couple in their mid-fifties, one is a busy body and the other tinkers undisturbed in the workshop. I found a lot of comedy when writing them. Then Trish and Rasha are very much based on the women in my family; relentlessly loving people and forces to be reckoned with. Sam embodies the experiences and mentality that my LGBTQ+ friends and I had growing up in Cornwall.
Your protagonist Rasha battles the pull of darkness when discovering her abilities, able to control ghosts and coerce them into doing her bidding. Be honest - was it more fun to write with morally dubious and grey characters?
It’s characters like that that make me want to write. Rasha’s arc was particularly important, not just because it explores her moral compass and come to terms with her past, but because it illustrates what all of the other characters in The Frequency would have had to go through during their inductions into the Network. In The Frequency, psychics can only exist if they experience trauma and grief in their pasts. Suddenly they are opened up to this whole other world, with abilities to astral project, see their pasts — and coerce ghosts. Suddenly they have access to a power that could right a lot of wrongs and enact revenge on people. It raises questions of morality and power, and are meaty inner conflicts that I like to push my characters through in their story arcs.
I’ve tried to write all the characters as morally grey as I could. For example, Sam is one of the three main protagonists but is unlikeable when we first meet him, what with his self-destructive tendencies and bitter outlook on life and death. Trish is kind and loyal to a fault, where her need to support people that don’t deserve it ultimately ruins her personal relationships. Then you have Will’s mother Marge who does a complete 180. If I start reading a story with an impossibly perfect hero that can do no wrong then it’s an instant DNF for me, and it feels much the same when I’m writing.
What was your favourite scene to write and why?
Gosh well, as you will know Holly, one of my favourite scenes never actually made it into the final version of The Frequency. In earlier drafts Rasha and class bully Fred become friends, and they make their way to a mass possession that takes place at sea. An RNLI boat has capsized, causing oil to spill out into the ocean. Various yachts and trawlers head out from nearby fishing towns to help, only for their crews to be attacked by reanimated corpses. Rasha eventually sets light to her school jumper, throws it onto the oil slick, and watches as some of the boats and the reanimated corpses go up in flames. It was a huge set-piece and a pretty bad ass moment for Rasha. But in terms of the timeline and where Rasha was on her redemptive arc, it no longer worked and had to be cut.
My favourite scene from the final version of The Frequency is a quieter moment, but probably the tensest. It’s when Rasha has finally uncovered Vanessa’s motivations, and she’s trapped in the car with her. The icy dialogue exchange, with all the subtext and unspoken words, was the hardest to get right but in the end it’s one of my favourite moments. It’s a huge turning point for Rasha, that defines her loyalties and her morals — and forces her to fight back against everything that is happening around her.
Were you influenced by any other writing styles whilst developing your own?
I never sat down and thought, you know, I’ll take this element from King and use the same sentence structures as David Mitchell. I just read and read, and wrote and wrote, and really most of my style is intuition and revising and editing. I made a conscious choice to have quite straightforward prose, only indulging flowery description every now and again, which some beta readers have likened to King. I also wanted the story to zip along at quite a pace, only staying in a scene for as long as it needed to, and I think that influence came from writers like Hanna Jameson and Becky Chambers. It’s kind of that saying about standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a subconscious level!
Author Terry Kitto.
Did you spy a gap in the market for a Cornwall-based paranormal thriller?
When I first started writing I noted that there’s little to no horror novels set in Cornwall but I always considered that a hindrance more than a niche that I could capitalise on. Back then I was writing with traditional publishing in mind, and as soon as I decided to self-publish I saw it as a selling point. I couldn’t tell you exactly why my ideas on publishing informed how I saw the story and where it was set, but I guess the general cliches of horror and paranormal novels are locations like countryside manors or cabins in the woods — not tin mines, canal boats, caravan parks, and lighthouses. But as an indie author who is putting a lot of stock into marketing to locals, it has become quite the talking point.
Can you give us any clues about the second book in The Imprint Quintet?
Yes, I can officially say that the second book in the series takes place in Manchester, four years after the events of book one. Ghostly apparitions and gruesome murders are on the rise. Our protagonists attempt to infiltrate an underground occultist group called The Hive, the source of the paranormal chaos. What they find there is beyond anything they can comprehend — and redefines everything they know about the afterlife. I’ve got some new characters that I can’t wait to introduce, and our core trio are about to have their lives turned upside down. I’m aiming to release it in 2023.
Author Terry Kitto with The Frequency.
Now of course, I have to ask this: What is your ideal set up for a cosy night in with a good read, and is this how you spent your downtime when you weren’t working on The Frequency?
It's the summertime now so it's usually in the garden on a deck chair, soaking up the last of the evening summer sun, with a G&T (or three) in hand. I saw this hack online of using frozen berries in replacement of ice and I haven't looked back. My perfect serve is a healthy dose of Nantwich Gin, frozen berries and Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic.
Definitely, I try to read as much as possible. I'm currently on Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire and hoping to get The Mistborn Trilogy read by the end of the summer. That'll be easy -- it's a great read and the world building is second to none.
Thank you Terry for taking the time to chat with me today! Where can more information on yourself and The Frequency be found, and where can readers purchase a copy?
Any time! My website at www.terrykitto.com is a good place to start! There's a free short story there that ties into The Frequency, with more to come over the next year. In terms of social media, I'm most active on Instagram. My handle for all social media is @terry_kitto. If you'd like to purchase The Frequency, it is available wherever you buy books. You can find all purchase links at: www.terrykitto.com/frequency-purchase. If you can, I'd definitely recommend requesting it at your local bookshop or library -- they could do with the support after Covid-19.
The Frequency Main Book Trailer.
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