The setting of my literary gay short story, The Heart’s Greater Silence, is Guildford, my nearest town, and most of the action takes place in the church at the bottom of the High Street. One of my friends recently created a brand new genre for my story which she calls Hot Clerical Action, or HCA for short, and she’s not far wrong, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find that one out!
I used the town as I wanted somewhere I thought of as ordinary as a backdrop for the intense and obsessive relationships that my main character, Mark, is involved with. But actually when I started looking more closely, I soon realised that nothing is as “ordinary” as we think it is, when we start investigating. Not even a town …
I didn’t know, for instance, that Guildford Cathedral was the setting for the 1976 film version of The Omen – there was a brave decision of the church to make, that’s for sure. Sadly though, even in spite of having a cathedral, Guildford still isn’t a city. It last made an application for city status in 2002 but the Queen decided against it. Shame … Though in this Jubilee Year, perhaps she might change her mind (hint, hint)?
If I’m looking for more obvious literary connections, then I find that Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy claimed to be from Guildford (good man!), and Lewis Carol, the author of Alice in Wonderland, lived and was buried here. Both great classics indeed.
Turning to other places of worship beyond that visited by Mark and Richard in my story, one of the oldest sites we have in Guildford is a Jewish one, as in 1995 the remains of a 12th century synagogue were discovered in the High Street. In fact it’s believed to be the oldest remains of a synagogue in Europe, so an important religious centre for all indeed.
Naturally, the town is also a centre of sporting excellence, especially with the new Surrey Sports Park just opened nearby, with a special emphasis on this year’s Olympics (well, we’re only 30 minutes from London by train). But as early as 1598, a court case referred to the game of cricket being played in c1550 at the Royal Grammar School. Keeping tradition alive, the School still exists and still has a cricket team though I don’t think any of them remember that first game …
Finally, the two most likely possibilities for the origin of the name Guildford itself are the yellow (Guild = Golden) sand the river runs through, or the yellow marigolds that grow down by the river. Perhaps not as strange as the other facts I’ve unearthed in my investigations, but certainly just as poetic. I shall never look at my home town in quite the same way again, nor assume any setting I use in my fiction is ever really ordinary.
So, what’s the secret life of your home town, and does it have a quirky fact or two of its own? If so I’d love to hear it! And don’t forget if you leave a comment on the blog, then you’re automatically entered in the below competition:
1. Two contests per stop - the first one being a backlist ebook giveaway for one commenter, and the second one being one signed Heart's Greater Silence cover flat and magnet for another commenter.
2a. I also have two cumulative competitions throughout the blog tour, the first one involving answering 3 questions from The Heart's Greater Silence - with the prize being 3 backlist ebooks for one commenter from the tour as a whole. Please send your answers to: firstname.lastname@example.org - thank you! The questions are:
(i) What item of his trade is Richard wearing when Mark sees him in church?
(ii) When Craig discovers Mark and Richard together, what does he do just before leaving?
(iii) What action does Mark take at the end of the story?
2b. And the second cumulative competition is for a gift certificate to be drawn at the end of the tour - with this NOT being the winner of Item 2a (see above).
(With grateful thanks to the Guildford Fun Trivia site for the facts!)