***************WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***************
Those of you that have read Masquerade will probably remember Mary, Tristan’s lost love from the 1600s who was burnt at the stake for witchcraft. Mary was an entirely fictional character. I made her up with, admittedly, very little research. That’s the joy of having artistic licence. I said that she lived in East Anglia.
In book 2 Mary plays quite a significant role and yesterday I was forced to admit that I actually needed to do some research on witch trials and locations. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was incredibly rare for witches to get burnt at the stake in this country. They were usually hanged. Nevertheless I persevered and, upon searching in the East Anglia area, the ‘home’ of the witch trials in the UK, I came across a series of quite freaky coincidences. There was in fact a witch burned there, one of less than a handful on record. She was executed on September 9th 1645, right about when I said my fictional witch would have been. She was burnt rather than hanged due to apparently confessing to killing her husband, a tale that has similar echoes to the history of my fictional character. Her name? Mary Lakeland. That was right about when I started freaking out. It got worse.
My characters are heading to Ipswich to try and raise her ghost. Imagine my surprise when I discover that Mary Lakeland is actually already (allegedly) haunting a building in Ipswich! You can see pictures of it and everything. My mind started wandering down the pathway of how it would feel to go and do a ghost tour there and perhaps come face to face with someone I made up but who has a great number of similarities to someone who actually existed.
At about 3am this morning my tired and overworked brain began considering that perhaps I had been channelling this dead witch somehow, like she was trying to get her story heard. Yeah, I know it’s off the wall. It was 3am and I wasn’t thinking straight, plus I was totally freaked out by all the coincidences. That’s what happens when you research stuff late at night.
I have no idea how I managed it. Deep down I like to think that I maybe heard the story somewhere and it lurked in my subconscious until it came out in my writing subliminally. Although I have never been to Ispwich I did actually live in Suffolk for a couple of years. Whilst I have absolutely no recollection of ever hearing about her, it’s certainly a possibility. In the cold light of day it seems a lot less creepy but it’s an excellent object lesson in how fiction shapes reality shapes fiction. Is there going to be a ghost tour? You bet.