Published by Roaring Brook Press on January 6, 2015
Genres: historical, science fiction
Pages: 336 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.
Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet's obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book's final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick's gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.
There are a handful of authors who have an open invitation to come do anything they like here at The Midnight Garden, and today’s guest is one of them. I don’t think of the word “genius” much in conjunction with novelists, but it pops into my head often when I read Marcus Sedgwick’s books. He is the 2014 Printz-winning author of the glorious, bloody Midwinterblood and a favorite guest of ours.
His newest book features 4 stories, which can be read in order or not, as the reader chooses. All are linked by spirals that appear again and again. What does it all mean?
We’re pleased to be kicking off the official The Ghosts of Heaven blog tour with a visual tour of places that inspired portions of his newest book! Though really, don’t be surprised if you drop in one of these days and Marcus is just casually strumming a guitar and painting golden apples with us or something.
In Search of Spirals: A Visual Tour of The Ghosts of Heaven
by Marcus Sedgwick
To be honest, you don’t have to search very hard for spirals; once you start looking for them, they’re pretty much everywhere. I found that after I decided I would photograph and post to tumblr every spiral I saw in a year – after about three weeks I gave up because it was taking me half an hour to walk down a single street in London. After that, I restricted myself to the ones I liked the best. Why all these spirals? Well, my new book, The Ghosts of Heaven, consists of four novellas that ponder the nature of the spiral. And why would I do that? Because I have always felt that the spiral is not only a beautiful shape, but that it is a mysterious one too, that very possibly is trying to tell us something.
Some of the nicest spirals you come across in your travels are spiral staircases. Some are really ornate and spectacular, some are very bare and simple, like this one in the Pantheon, Paris.
Here’s another amazing spiral staircase; this one is a memorial to resistance fighters of the Second World War in Slovenia.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – although I’d been thinking about writing a novel about spirals for a long time, the first place that really started the actual stories that make up the four parts of the book, was here:
This amazing tree can be found in Heptonstall, Yorkshire, England. It sits in a wooded valley beneath a house that once belonged to the poet Ted Hughes, and which is now home to a creative writing centre. I was teaching there one week in May a few years ago, and feeling like afraud because my own writing wasn’t going so well at the time. Then I came across that tree, and the strange hole in the conjoined trunk immediately suggested folkloric activity to me – if the local people didn’t use to the see this tree as something magical, I would be very much surprised. Of course, this tree may not be so old as to have lived in our superstitious ancestors era, but that really didn’t matter to me – what mattered was that I felt the book starting to take concrete shape.
Enough of wandering down the road posting spirals to social media, it was time to do some proper thinking.
This was once King’s Park Hospital, a psychiatric centre, now disued and derelict. Finding this place began an interest in the derelict insane asylums of North America, most notably those built to the design of Dr Thomas Kirkbride – his hospitals were beautiful structures (that itself was part of his intended cure) and while many have been demolished still others stand empty and half forgotten, like the one I visited in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Other places influenced the book a lot too, particularly a walk around King’s Park, Long Island, where I came across this abandoned building.
Others have been luckier – the one in Salem, OR is now a social history museum:
While the very famous Danvers State Hospital, MA is now fancy apartments.
In one of those nice moments of serendipity that sometimes occur when you’re writing a book (and which I always take to be good omens for the project) I found out that many of these Victorian asylums had spiral staircases in them.
On the same road trip as the one above to Danvers, I decided to swing by Providence, RI, to say a hell of sorts to a writer who used to freak me happily out when I was a teenager; HP Lovecraft.
The Swan Point cemetery had something I’ve never seen in all my ears of visiting graveyards; an automated grave locator:
“Locating the deceased,” how Lovecraft would have loved that notion.
Anyway, here’s his grave marker. A very simple thing, but what an epitaph:
I think I’d been feeling a growing New England/Lovecraft vibe growing for one section of the book, and this was the tipping point, so I pay a little homage to Lovecraft in the section of the book called The Easiest Room in Hell which features a Lovecraftian poet in an insane asylum along with some of his mad poetry.
Other places I cannot show you – I can’t show you the exact cave that inspired the Neolithic section of the book, but I’ve visited many of the caves in France that hold the oldest art mankind has produced, places such as this one, Pech-Merle, Dordogne, France. It was a composite experience of many such visits that started me thinking about this part of the book, called Whispers in the Dark.
And then there are the places which only a handful of people ever have been – in this case; outer space, we ourselves live in a spiral armed galaxy, and this is one of the things I find fascinating about the spiral – it’s there, in nature, science, mathematics, in every scale, from the galactic down to the level of DNA, or the motion of particles in a cloud chamber. And they’re all utterly beautiful.
The Ghosts of Heaven goes on sale Tuesday, January 6, 2015, published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of MCPG. Our thanks to Marcus Sedgwick for this lovely tour!
Previous Midnight Garden features with Marcus Sedgwick:
Win a Ghosts of Heaven Hardcover!
Thanks to our friends at Macmillan, one of our readers will win a shiny new hardcover!
All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re specifically excited about reading this book.
Open to US and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. Good luck!
Giveaway copies were provided by the publisher. Photographs supplied by the author. Visit the rest of the tour for more exclusive content and interviews!
The Ghosts of Heaven Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, January 5 The Midnight Garden
Tuesday, January 6 ExLibris
Wednesday, January 7 Teen Lit Rocks
Thursday, January 8 Fat Girl Reading
Friday, January 9 Step Into Fiction
Monday, January 12 The Book Wars
Tuesday, January 13 Miss Print
Thursday, January 15 Ticket to Anywhere
Friday, January 16 Alice Marvels