The Key by Kathryn Hughes ** Blog Tour Author Guest Post and Review**

 I am very lucky to be able to bring you a guest post by Kathryn Hughes whose latest book, The Key, is due to be published today on March 1st 2018 as an e-book. Kathryn's first novel, The Letter was a Kindle Number One bestseller.  Kathryn is going to be talking about her inspiration for this marvellous book. First though, here is a little bit about the story:

It's Ellen Crosby's first day as a student nurse at Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum. When she meets a young woman committed by her father, and a pioneering physician keen to try out the various 'cures' for mental illness, little does Ellen know that a choice she will make is to change all their lives for ever...

Sarah is drawn to the abandoned Ambergate Asylum. Whilst exploring the old corridors she discovers a suitcase belonging to a female patient who was admitted fifty years earlier. The shocking contents lead Sarah to unravel a forgotten story of tragedy, lost love and an old wrong that only she may have the power to put right . . .

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Kathryn. We can't wait to hear about your inspiration for The Key. Over to you!

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from, as though there is some special shop or website specialising in ideas for writers.  Every writer is different but for me, ideas come from all around, from people I know, from the newspapers or magazines or something will just simply pop into my head and I wonder if I can produce a novel from it. (Mostly, I can’t!).

With my first book, The Letter, I began with the simple premise of someone finding a letter in the pocket of a suit which had been donated to a charity shop, a letter which was still firmly sealed and even though there was a stamp, there was no postmark.  At that point I had no idea who would find this letter, who had written it, who should have received it but didn’t, why did the writer not post it and what happened to them both? So many questions and not enough answers.  

It was a similar story with The Secret.  I wanted to write about the discovery of an old newspaper cutting describing a bus crash in which the driver and two other people died.  Who was on the bus, where were they going, why did they crash, who found the cutting and how were they connected to the passengers? 

I cannot explain where these two ideas actually came from, but they didn’t come fully formed.  There was a lot of work involved in expanding a mere premise to a novel of ninety thousand words, but that’s the exciting part about writing a book. At this early stage, even I’m not sure how it will all come together. 

With my third book, The Key, it was slightly different.  I can definitely pinpoint where this idea came from.  I read an article online about the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane in upstate New York.  Long after the asylum had closed its doors for the final time, over four hundred suitcases belonging to former patients were discovered behind a locked attic door.

This poignant collection really got me thinking.  How did one pack for a stay in an asylum, especially when you had no idea how long you would be detained? What happened to all those patients and why didn’t they take their cases with them?  During my research, I discovered that patients arriving at an asylum in the UK, had their cases taken from them and put into storage.  They had no need for their own clothes as communal ones were provided, including underwear.  If and when the patients left, their case was returned to them. When our asylums began to close, patients were dispensed into the community and the buildings, many of which were Grade II listed, were left derelict, awaiting demolition or redevelopment. Lots of things were left behind - beds, equipment, patients’ records.  These buildings were a haven for urban explorers because there was so much still left to see.  So, based on true events, this is where I began the Key, with the discovery of an attic full of suitcases in an abandoned asylum, one of which contains something truly shocking…

Thank you, Kathryn. It is amazing to think that true events led you to write this story and good luck on Digital Publication Day!

My Thoughts

What an affecting book this is. I always enjoy stories told over two timelines and this one blended together the events of 1956 and 2006 beautifully. Ellen, a nurse, and Amy, a mental patient arrive at the Asylum at Ambergate on the same day but their lives are very different. In some ways though they are both powerless against the medical establishment and attitudes of the time. Ellen looks in horror at the treatment which is being inflicted on the patients but is very firmly told to know her place. As a committed patient, poor Amy has no rights at all. It is fascinating to discover how their lives panned out.

    Decades later, Sarah is researching the building with a view to writing about the Asylum. Deserted and abandoned, she finds some old suitcases in the attic which belonged to inmates. She sets about uncovering some of the secrets of the past. This is a book which involves the reader who can only look on as the story unfolds. There are some surprising twists and outcomes to discover. With finely researched detail and period touches, the two time periods are distinct but never jarring. I believed in the story which is emotional, heart wrenching at times and deeply affecting.

In short: an emotional but intriguing read. 

About the Author

Kathryn Hughes was born in Altrincham, near Manchester. After completing a secretarial course, Kathryn met her husband and they married in Canada. For twenty-nine years they ran a business together, raised two children and travelled when they could to places such as India, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. Kathryn and her family now make their home in a village near Manchester. Her first novel, The Letter, was a Kindle Number One bestseller.

You can follow the author here: Twitter   |  Website  |  Facebook  

Book links: Amazon UK

Thanks to Kathryn Hughes, and Becky Hunter of Headline Press for a copy of the book and a place on the tour via Bookbridgr.

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