Bea Davenport - Author Picture

Bea Davenport - Author

The Serpent House was written during Bea Davenport’s Creative Writing PhD at Newcastle University. Her tutors were Jackie Kay, the award-winning poet and writer, and Professor Kim Reynolds, an internationally-renowned expert in children’s literature.
In its early, unpublished form, The Serpent House was shortlisted for the 2010 Times/Chicken House award. It was inspired by the village where Bea lives, which is named after a medieval leper hospital, and the stories of Bea’s three great aunts who all worked in service in the early twentieth century.
Bea has also written a crime novel for adults, In Too Deep, and teaches creative writing classes.

She lives near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with her partner and children.

A Q&A with the author on her novel The Serpent House

Describe your book in one sentence?

It has to be the main character, Annie, who has gone through such a lot but who really toughens up over the course of her adventures. I’m also very fond of her cross little medieval friend Meg.

It’s from near the end: ‘Maybe it was just time for things to grow again’. It will make sense when you read the book!

As an author whom would you like to be compared to?

Imaginative, anxious, little.

Shakespeare or Dickens?
Both, of course! But if I have to choose, George Eliot.

Favourite author?
I can never answer this as I don’t have a single favourite. I have a huge long list and it changes from week to week. At the moment Neil Gaiman is very near the top of the list, because I have just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Favourite character from a book?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Pippi Longstocking. I like a free spirit!

Prefer books or the film adaptations?
Always, always books! It’s not that there aren’t some fantastic film adaptations, as there are, but if I was on a desert island I’d rather it had a library than a cinema.

If you weren’t an author, you would be…
I was a journalist for many years and that was a fun job. And I’ve always liked the idea of playing a baddie character in a TV soap.

Favourite place/setting to read a book?
On holiday, anywhere in the sun. That way I don’t get the niggling feeling I should be working instead of reading.

What inspired you to write your book?
It came from two things, mainly. One was that in the village where I live there used to be a medieval leper hospital, although not much is known about it. I also wanted to write something based on the stories of my three great-aunts, all of whom worked in service in large houses in Newcastle and Cumbria at the turn of the twentieth century. They had such hard lives. So I wove together the late Victorian and early medieval eras, using time travel. Just don’t ask me where all the snakes came from – I’m terrified of them!

If you had a dinner party what three authors or characters from literature would you invite?
First would be Edith Nesbit, author of the first ever historical time fantasy for children (The Story of the Amulet). I’d love to ask her about the genre she started and the way it’s so popular today. I’d invite Dorothy Parker to make everyone laugh. Finally I’d invite Mary Poppins, so that she could magic us up a feast and clear it up at the end with a click of her fingers.

When did you start writing?
Like most writers, I scribbled stories from the age of about eight or nine. They were just bad versions of Enid Blyton’s adventure tales. I carried on writing while working as a journalist but I only had the courage to show anyone my writing a few years ago.

How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on the book and a lot of other factors. My first crime novel for adults took a few years, because I only got the chance to write now and again while working and having young children. The second adult novel only took a few months! The Serpent House took about a year to write the first draft but it’s been through a zillion changes, so all in all, I guess it took three or four years.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I’m a typical journalist – I love listening to what people say and to what they don’t say, and I’m always on the spy for story ideas. There’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t find myself thinking, ‘Oooh! There’s a good story idea…’

Do you base your characters on people you know?
Not deliberately! But I think all writers use little bits of people they’ve met and weave them together to make a composite character. My partner spotted the character of Tom in The Serpent House doing something that he regularly does. Fortunately he didn’t mind me pinching his actions to use in the book!

Featured Books, with extracts, by Bea Davenport

Reader ReviewedThe Serpent House
Bea Davenport
June 2014 Debut of the Month A chilling, time-slip story with a strong sense of the past and full of magic and mystery. Summoned out of her life of poverty after her mother's death, Annie finds she has the extraordinary...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 9+ readers | 11+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 05/06/2014
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