Happy Publication Day to Allie Cresswell on the launch of her latest book The House in the Hollow. The book is a prequel to the award winning Tall Chimneys, though it can be read as a standalone. Tall Chimneys is the remote country house owned by the Talbot family. Hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow of the Yorkshire moors, it’s a house with many stories to tell.
Tall Chimneys introduced us to Evelyn Talbot, born in 1910, her story incorporated not only that of the house, but also the unfolding history of the 20th century. The house becomes, both her fortress and her prison as she determinedly battles to save the house from the fate of so many stately homes at the time – abandonment or demolition.
The House in the Hollow, takes us back to an earlier period in the family history as the Talbot’s struggle to make their way into the higher echelons of Regency society.
Tall Chimneys clearly plays an important role in both books, so I’ll let Allie explain more about the house and how it led to the writing of The House in the Hollow.
Tall Chimneys – a house without a foundation.
I wrote my first historical novel, Tall Chimneys, in 2016. In it I created a strange and remote old house in a deep combe in the Yorkshire moors.
Tall Chimneys is a Jacobean house, added-to over the years, a wing thrown out here, stables, a gun room and an estate office built at the back, bathrooms squeezed in when proper plumbing became a priority. [ ] The house’s sunken situation was never a happy one. The air within the crater tends to stagnancy; the brisk moor air skims over the bowl without entering it. There is a strong propensity for damp; the lawn is often soggy, the cellar sometimes floods. The chimneys failed to draw for years until some ancestor had the idea of building them higher, making them reach like cathedral pillars into the vault of the sky, out of all proportion to the house.
In one respect only is the house well-placed; it is secluded.’
I blithely described the house thus because it made it gothic, mysterious and remote, which suited my purposes.
What I did not anticipate, though, were the issues I had created for myself. Making the house Jacobean meant that I had to be able to trace its owners—the forebears of my heroine—back to the period 1567–1625, over two centuries before the time setting of Tall Chimneys (1910 – 2010). The success of Tall Chimneys as a novel, the imaginative investment of its readers, plus something about the vividness of the house in my mind’s eye placed upon my shoulders a heavy weight of responsibility. I’d worked so hard to make the house tangible and credible. How could it stand if I did not provide it with foundations? Who, exactly, ‘threw out’ those extra wings, and why? Why on earth would anyone build a house in such a remote and unfavourable spot, prone to ‘stagnancy’, ‘damp’, and ‘flood’? Similarly, Evelyn Talbot is the last of the Talbots, crippled by all she has been brought up to believe being ‘a Talbot’ means. For that to make any sense I must underpin her character with antecedents who justify her sense of family.
The House in the Hollow is, at least in part, the result. I’ve travelled back in time one hundred years to the Regency era to see if I can shore up those grey, lichen-crusted walls, to add names and dates to the Talbot family tree.
So what can we expect to uncover in The House in the Hollow?
The Talbots are wealthy. But their wealth is from ‘trade’. With neither ancient lineage nor title, they struggle for entrance into elite Regency society. Finally, aided by an impecunious viscount, they gain access to the drawing rooms of England’s most illustrious houses.
Once established in le bon ton, Mrs Talbot intends her daughter Jocelyn to marry well, to eliminate the stain of the family’s ignoble beginnings. But the young men Jocelyn meets are vacuous, seeing Jocelyn as merely a brood mare with a great deal of money. Only Lieutenant Barnaby Willow sees the real Jocelyn, but he must go to Europe to fight the French. The hypocrisy of fashionable society repulses Jocelyn—beneath the courtly manners and studied elegance she finds tittle-tattle, deceit, dissipation and vice.
Jocelyn stumbles upon and then is embroiled in a sordid scandal which will mean utter disgrace for the Talbot family. Humiliated and dishonoured, she is sent to a remote house hidden in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. There, separated from family, friends and any hope of hearing about the lieutenant’s fate, she must build her own life—and her own social order—anew.
About the Author
Allie Cresswell is the recipient of two coveted One Stop Fiction Five Star Awards and three Readers’ Favorite Awards.
Allie was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
Allie recalls: ‘I was about 8 years old. Our teacher asked us to write about a family occasion and I launched into a detailed, harrowing and entirely fictional account of my grandfather’s funeral. I think he died very soon after I was born; certainly I have no memory of him and definitely did not attend his funeral, but I got right into the details, making them up as I went along (I decided he had been a Vicar, which I spelled ‘Vice’). My teacher obviously considered this outpouring very good bereavement therapy so she allowed me to continue with the story on several subsequent days, and I got out of maths and PE on a few occasions before I was rumbled.’
She went on to do a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria.
You can contact Allie via :-