Novel spotlight: Harvest

The Crucifixion of Eros

It began on Christmas Day, 2018. The first chapter of Harvest. Harvest, from the old English word hærfest — meaning autumn–, is a crime novel with characters that are affected by the finding of a human skull in the woods. The foremost character of this story, as cliche as it may sound, is the town, Barrow Fells, a fictional town in Lancashire, England. I’m not British so this required extensive research to make sure it felt “real” (while very much not being real!) including linguistic journals focusing on the specific regional accent (which I ended up toning all the way down…) and natural landscapes.

The crime is the catalyst for the lives of several villagers to be forced into coming to terms with the brokenness of their lives. From local Sergeant John Haugh and his wife and garden writer Laura Haugh (nee Wiltshire); to a sixteen year-old high-school student Celia Wilber, daughter of a local tarot card reader; and her cousin and musician Rory Wake who is custodian of her younger sister while their mother is serving a three-year sentence for drug possession. These characters are all tightly woven into this crime, which also serves as a chance for John to attone for his past actions and to repair his relationship with his devoted and loving wife. But it seems we often fail to hear the trumpets calling.

This story is definitely a passion project for me, combining rural life with pastoral mysteries and the odd darkness of humanity, but it also presents a lot of light and resilience from characters who attempt to rise above their misfortunes. There are strong themes of love and abuse and power and mistrust. Questions are raised and let to be answered by anyone daring enough to answer them. Other ideas, such as one’s need for justice being a cover for one’s own self-righteous redemption are also floating about. Besides literary influences (i.e., The Bacchae by Euripides, Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter), there are influences from Stephen Prince’s Hauntology work, Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights, an England long-gone, remnants of the Cold War, parapsychology. As the title suggests, the story takes place between August and November, from the start of the harvest season to the end. At the core this is a story about people. It’s a story about what one is willing to do to remain true to him or herself, and what damage we suffer from planting our roots in others. But it’s not so clean cut. If we don’t plant our roots, then will we topple and fall? Can we survive without the help of others? What if others are symbolic poison for our souls? All this set around a human skull. A potential murder, or something more occult, more mysterious?

This first draft took me one year, from Christmas Day 2018 to Christmas Eve 2019. I took a break in 2020 to focus on short stories and reading, while 2021 has seen efforts to get the novel released. I hope to have a release date announced soon, but it will be this summer, perhaps June.

Main characters:

John Haugh – Police sergeant of Barrow Fells.

Laura Haugh – Writer for a garden magazine.

Vashti Sutcliffe – Police constable of Barrow Fells.

Celia Wilber – Daughter of local psychic and fortune teller Kathleen Wilber.

Rory Wake – Celia’s older cousin. She is a musician and later plays at the Blue Casket bar.

Owen Wiltshire – Laura’s brother and owner of the Blue Casket bar.

Eliot Holding – Lead investigator of serious crimes in Preston, Lancashire.

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