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Summer of Indie Talks With Ruth Barrett

Our next guest author's book, Base Spirits, is best described as a historical ghost thriller, and inspired by the play A Yorkshire Tragedy. Author Ruth Barrett stated that, "if you like ghost stories and historical hellishness, this will appeal to you!"

Base Spirits:

‘Murder has took this chamber with full hands

And will ne’er out as long as the house stands.’

~A Yorkshire Tragedy, Act I, Sc. v

In 1605, Sir Walter Calverley’s murderous rampage leaves a family shattered. The killer suffers a torturous execution… but is it truly the end? A noble Yorkshire house stands forever tarnished by blood and possessed by anguished spirits. 

Some crimes are so horrific002C they reverberate through the centuries.  

As an unhappy modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholar husband, Scott, unwittingly awaken a dark history. Clara is trapped and forced back in time to bear witness to a family’s bloody saga. Overtaken by the malevolent echoes, Scott is pushed over the edge from possessive husband to wholly possessed…

Inspired by a true-life drama in Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play: a supernatural thriller with a historical core.  

Only one player can survive. 

In Paperback--

After hearing about Base Spirits, Summer of Indie interviewed author Ruth Barrett to find out more about her work and the process of being an author. 

Q: Can you tell us how you got started writing?

A: I've been a storyteller all my life. My Mom used to read to me from the time I was a baby, and all of my childhood games involved my inventing complex story-lines. I've always been a keen reader and wrote for the sheer fun of it since I was a child. I studied English Literature at university before training as an actor, then spent years working in theatre and TV. I caught the writing bug again in my thirties and began seriously honing my skills with courses and writers' groups. I published a number of short stories before attempting to write a novel.

Q: Can you tell us some more about your book?

A: Base Spirits was inspired by a play I did a number of years ago-- 'A Yorkshire Tragedy'. It's an obscure one-act piece first presented by Shakespeare's own theatre company in 1605 to 'cash in' on a popular scandal of the day when a minor nobleman lost his fortune and attempted to murder off his family rather than live in poverty. I was portraying his long-suffering wife-- who apparently forgave him even though he killed their sons in front of her very eyes! I had a chance to visit the area of England where the story took place during the rehearsal period, and discovered that the old family hall is not only still standing, but can be rented as a holiday flat. I met a local historian and was given a tour. Knowing as much as I did about the history, I thought it might make a good ghost story... It took me a few years, but here we are!

Q: What motivated you to publish now?

A: I had been trying the traditional publishing route on and off over the past few years. Canada has a very small pool of good literary agents and none of the worthwhile ones were willing to give it a chance. Genre fiction is a bit looked down upon in this country: there is a very strong prejudice toward 'literary fiction'. I'd give up for a while, then try again if I felt I had a new contact or direction to try. Meantime, the book was reworked and professionally edited by a highly respected industry pro. She loves Base Spirits and offered to place it on a few publisher's desks for me... but still no joy. It was incredibly discouraging because I knew it just needed to find an audience-- and the 'gatekeepers' were holding me back. I've battled some serious illness over the past few years and was on death's door three times. After the third time, I finally started listening more closely to my friend Craig's suggestion about going it alone. The concept of Indie publishing was really starting to take off because of the e-book revolution and I decided that life is too short to waste any more time.... and thankfully, my health seems to be fine these days.

Q: In your book, who is your favorite character?

A: Clara Ravenscroft has a few things in common with me, but we're really only alike in the broadest of senses. Like me, she's a writer and very much an animal of the theatre world. We've each had our share of being knocked back from our creative goals both by our own inner doubts and by outward forces beyond our control. I also was once briefly married to an academic, but he was nothing like Clara's fictional husband, Scott Atkinson! The only traits my ex-husband shares with Scott are actually his positive attributes: their boyish love of the poetry they teach, and their uncanny ability to memorize and recollect whatever they read. Thankfully, I've never been through anything nearly as horrible as Clara's supernatural adventures in Calverley Old Hall! And I don't get drunk.

Q: What's your favorite indie book that you've read recently?

A: I haven't had enough time to read my fellow Indies to give an honest answer! My TBR pile is huge and I hope to make some time as the year progresses. I've made countless great connections with so many other talented and personable authors-- and we all have a genuine wish to help one another out in whatever ways we can. It's been a heartwarming revelation to find that none of us are really alone as we explore the Wild West of the new directions in publishing.

Q: What's your favorite book of all time?

A: I'm going to cheat a bit and say The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. There really is nothing that is more brilliant or inspiring for the sheer beauty of the language and the amazing insight into the human condition.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: I have a fairly eclectic list of favourites. Off the top of my head, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Alice Munro, Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Ian MacEwan, Stephen Fry, Lionel Shriver and Louis Bayard. My biggest early influencers for horror writing are definitely Stephen King, Peter Straub and John Saul. I adore Dickens and the Bronte sisters, too.

Q: Do you have any advice for new writers?

A: Read a lot. Hone your skills. Don't rush to publish: this is not a race. Just because it is easy and relatively cheap to get your work out into the world, make sure it is in as professional and perfect a condition as possible before you do. I've seen a lot of good ideas that are badly executed and not well-presented, and that only cheats both the author and their prospective readers. Once you have done your job as a writer, hire an editor. Have a proper cover designed. Be patient and keep the faith. If your work is good and you make steady effort with getting the word out, the readers you want to attract will find you...(with any luck!)

Q: What's next for you (in your writing)?

A: I've just released a stand-alone Kindle short story 'Family Secrets'. Over the next little while, I'm planning on putting out a few more shorts, then bundling them up with some bonus stories into an anthology. The next major work is very likely the first of my 'Dead Drunk' mystery series. I have at least 3 or 4 books planned for that project. I also have another ghost novel-- The Rake's Chronicles-- set in late Victorian England. It kind of depends which of the fictional voices in my head make the most noise to get out...

My PhotoRuth Barrett is a Canadian author living in the quirky theatre town of Stratford, Ontario amid the swans and tourists. She studied English Literature at Trent University in Peterborough, and the University of Leeds, UK, and went on to train as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Always a story-teller, the move from stage to page seemed a natural progression (although it freaked her parents out a bit). Ruth has had a number of short stories published over the years, and Base Spirits is her first novel. The inspiration for this historical ghost thriller is a play from the time of Shakespeare- A Yorkshire Tragedy.

You can find author Ruth Barrett online at:

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