Author Sophie Draper had just moved to a remote farmhouse on the outskirts of Idridgehay near Wirksworth. The rest of her family had either gone to school or work and she was alone, contemplating the rolling mist outside and the unopened packing cases.
“The place wasn’t quite home, it was cold and damp and I felt a bit lonely – a bit spooked out really so I found my computer, lit the stove and started to write a story.
“I have always loved Susan Hill’s Woman In Black and inspired by the day and the house I started writing something Gothic. I just had a feeling that I wanted to write a spooky house story and ended up writing Cuckoo,” she said.
That was at the autumn of 2016. Five months later Sophie, who many of you may know by her professional story-telling name of Sophie Snell, had a first rough draft which she entered into the Bath Novel Award for debut authors.
“It has all been a bit overwhelming since then as, to my amazement, I won and by last September I had an agent and had also won the York Festival of Writing Friday Night Live Award.”
Sophie is the third Derbyshire woman debut author to win the York award. She follows on from Joanna Cannon, with The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Jo Jakeman with Sticks and Stones, which is reviewed on page 65.
Cuckoo is a chilling exploration of the power of stories, family tensions and the secrets we keep from ourselves.
It tells the story of Caro, who returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire when her stepmother dies unexpectedly. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.
But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stayed buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.
As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, she is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding.
The book is being published on November 29 and will be available at Waterstones.
Go to http://www.sophiedraper.co.uk for updates.