The Inspiration for 'Fen of Stagnant Waters'

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Firstly, the story behind the title of this story comes in two parts. The 'Fen of Stagnant Waters' is actually a line from a poem by William Wordsworth, titled 'London, 1802'. The poem goes:

'England hath need of thee; she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen...'

I liked the idea of somebody being embodied as a 'fen of stagnant waters', and I think my heroine, Rowena, embodies that. She is most certainly considered 'stagnant' as she always looks to the past in melancholy over her lost child and husband, thus never progresses. It proves to be her undoing since she cannot move on. Plus, the use of water imagery in 'Fen' is important to the novella too.

The reason I attach the 'A Ghost Story' to it is because of Susan Hill. She famously wrote the brilliant ghost story - The Woman in Black - and her subsequent novels have always had the 'A Ghost Story' at the end of the titles. These include The Mist in the Mirror: A Ghost Story (1992), The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story (2007), The Small Hand: A Ghost Story (2010), and so on. I wanted to attach that to my ghost story for several reasons, one of them being that I wanted to make clear from the title that this is, in fact, a ghost story, as it is a genre that has pretty much died down since its heyday. 


Early 2016, I was in the middle of my second year of undergraduate study at Newcastle University, doing English Literature with Creative Writing (I have since dropped the Creative Writing part of my degree to focus on a Gothic dissertation for third year). At that time I was taking a creative writing module that, as an assessment, required us to write 1,500 words of prose. They set us a task of choosing an author, a piece of their work, and writing something using their style and techniques.

I chose Susan Hill, and so, I read The Woman in Black. What helped was that I was taking another module, but not a creative writing one. It was called 'Revolutionary Britain', and that focused on England's response to the French Revolution through means of philosophical works by writers like Mary Wollstonecraft, novels by Jane Austen and James Hogg; and, more appropriately for my ghost story, the poetical works of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 

So on a field trip for my Revolutionary Britain module, we were taken to Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District on February 27, 2016. If you have never been to the Lake District, I would wholly recommend it - it is gorgeous. The landscapes, everything, was simply breathtaking. My class was taken to Dove Cottage as that was where William Wordsworth lived, and even Coleridge spent some time there. Since I was reading The Woman in Black at the time, the idea for a ghost story set in Grasmere, with Dove Cottage as a setting, came to my mind.


I had my initial idea of a ghost story set in Grasmere - but I didn't actually have a story yet. So I brainstormed and came up with the idea of a journalist coming to Grasmere from London after hearing about some unsettling deaths of children. And I had to keep it very Susan Hill too. I wrote a quick first draft of the sixth chapter, but unlike the version on Wattpad, the first draft had Rowena running in the middle of the woods in her dirty nightdress where she comes across a coven. 

Obviously, this whole scene doesn't happen, and I changed it so she awakes in the middle of the night in Dove Cottage by a strange noise. From the very beginning of chapter 6, to the part about the 'fracas of flapping' by the birds coming closer to the window - that was what I submitted for my creative writing module.

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