Home > Discussion > Dark Acres or A Shadow Portrait – Emma Stott

Dark Acres or A Shadow Portrait – Emma Stott

Our next book is ‘Dark Acres Or A Shadow Portrait’ by Emma Stott. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time by commenting on this post.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 words or so of Emma’s novel:

This is the true nature of home – it is the place of Peace; the Shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt and…

Chapter One.


Rope upon rope of fire wound tight about the pines, and flames hung like over-ripe leaves: again autumn. The burning spread into the sky and cast the clouds with a feverish light. Sometimes Loch Morend’s mists seemed to deepen to smoke and tease her as to whether fire really had fallen. At last, they had kept their slinking promise.

Pinewood was used to make telegraph poles, she had read, and here a brighter message they sent.

See you at 8

  1. 07/02/2011 at 8:00 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m online. This is from Jane:

    Sian and Emma,
    many many apologies but it’s looking unlikely that I’ll be able to join the discussion tonight – Emma, I’ll get back onto the discussion as soon as I can over the next few days and join in with the comments, however belatedly, and if you wanted me to answer any specific questions, then please do email me. Sian has my email add & it’s on my blog etc.
    so sorry about this. Hope the discussion goes well!
    best, Jane

  2. 07/02/2011 at 8:01 pm

    Hey everyone, I’m here.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Brian

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:03 pm

        Will give it a minute for Emma to get here, then start. Anyone else want to sat hello?

        • 07/02/2011 at 8:05 pm

          Just while we’re waiting – am going to attempt to live tweet some of what’s said – if anyone wants to follow, search for #yettobebooks or follow @siancummins

  3. 07/02/2011 at 8:08 pm

    OK, am going to make a start for those that are here – I loved this, really dark and funny. I thought the setting was a sort of hyperreality rather than an accurate historical period in time – what did others think?

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:12 pm

      You make a good point, Sian. At first I thought for sure this was a historical novel – setting at least, but as the novel progressed, I started to question what period and time it was actually in.

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:13 pm

        Was there anything in particular that made you question that?

        • 07/02/2011 at 8:15 pm

          content and dialogue at times. Though, I thought the dialogue and tone was spot on.

    • 08/02/2011 at 5:19 pm

      the hyper-real was definitely the thing that made the book for me, the decay of the house infecting all the characters, who were weirdly off-key in an intriguing way. It took me a while to settle into the style, I think, but then it pulled me along, and i found it almost out-gothicking the gothic, great fun.

  4. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:12 pm

    Hello, so sorry I had to change computers!

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:14 pm

      Hi Emma! We started off without you just to keep things going – have a look at my question and Brian’s reply,,,what’s are the writer’s thoughts?! 🙂

  5. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:14 pm

    That’s very interesting. I certainly paid less attention to my period notes as the plot developed.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:16 pm

      I wouldn’t have said I felt it was a hyperreality because the period setting was inaccurate – I’m very bad with history so wouldn’t have known either way – but because there was a very heavy texture to the world the novel was set in…so deliberate and over-real as to make me think it was it’s own reality

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Emma, good to have you here! What made you stray from your period notes? Did you feel that the plot you were developing was more important than being true to the period?

  6. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:16 pm

    Dark Acres, the house, is a hyperreal setting in a sense. That’s very perceptive 🙂

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:17 pm

      Which actual historical periods did you have in mind (for the history thickie)?

  7. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:18 pm

    The house has its own rules and is ruled by ghosts, so its ruled by history but I couldn’t really describe it as a historical novel as such.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:19 pm

      I’d agree with that

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:21 pm

        As would I. As the novel progressed, I did get the sense that I was reading about a world not known to us, but one that was intriguing and had a pull to it. One I wanted to know about.

    • 08/02/2011 at 4:43 pm

      this was the sense I got of it Emma – it took me a while to allow myself to dismiss the idea that it is an historical novel as the sense of decay which permeates everything – centring on the house – really started to grab hold of me.

  8. Morag Gornall
    07/02/2011 at 8:21 pm

    Hi, sorry I’m late, my son rang at 8!

  9. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:22 pm

    I wanted a balance between the fantastic and the real. Ghosts must have something solid to haunt and so a sure historical grounding helps with this.

  10. 07/02/2011 at 8:22 pm

    I got a strong sense of a very dark sense of humour – definitely the writer’s, but possibly also the narrator’s, especially with some of the gothic stuff and the title seeming quite self-referential because of the books Clara reads…not as satire, but as a proper dark humour with integrity to the world of the novel – does this make sense and do others agree?

  11. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:23 pm

    It’s set in 1899 just as the century turns.

  12. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:24 pm

    I’m very glad the novel titles were noticed. I ajhd a lot of fun making them up. The novel really is a parody of the gothic genre and the films of James Whales, but with much love and fondness.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:25 pm

      I noticed a lot of fondness for your influences, yep. Can you say something about how James Whales influences the novel, as I don’t know much about his work

  13. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:26 pm

    Sorry Brain, I get the comments so slowly! Yes, the plot took over. I think that’s a good sign, but I did wonder if I should remind the reader of the age again as the plot progresses.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:30 pm

      I think it depends on what you want. I didn’t get 1899 out of it. When I first started to read I got an earlier period in my head, and then of course that changed. But if it is an hybrid of period and other world, how much does it matter? As long as it’s clear from the start.

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:32 pm

        I think the turn of the century is mentioned – there’s definitely a fin de siecle feeling there, even if it isn’t explicit – decay and mishapen birth and all that

        • 08/02/2011 at 4:47 pm

          yes indeed, a definite fin de siecle feeling, dripping with gothic decay. I did find some of the language a bit OTT at first, until I got into the swing of it, then I settled back and enjoyed the ride…

  14. Morag Gornall
    07/02/2011 at 8:27 pm

    I enjoyed the highly creative use of language and vocabulary

  15. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:27 pm

    Brian, many apologies 🙂

  16. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:28 pm

    James Whale directed Universal’s Frankenstein in the 30s. He was a gay man and often imbued his work with sly referencves to the counterculture. He made wonderfullly camp and grandiose films like the Bride of Frankenstein too, which self-paraodied his original.

  17. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you Morag 🙂

  18. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:30 pm

    Whale’s Old Dark House was the primary influence. It’s such a weird little film 🙂

  19. Morag Gornall
    07/02/2011 at 8:32 pm

    Don’t know James Whale’s work but the novel read to me like narrative poetry.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:34 pm

      Definitely agree – I love this sort of textured language

  20. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:32 pm

    I like Whale’s dark humour couple with a lovely poetry, even in his depiction of the grotesque

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:37 pm

      There’s a comic genius to the Universal Monster Films of the 30s.

  21. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:33 pm

    I urge anyone who hasn’t seen it to watch it. 🙂

  22. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:34 pm

    As I write poetry too, I find those techniques creep often into my fiction.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:36 pm

      I think there’s alot of poetry that can be made with prose…in some ways there are greater freedoms for how the words sound in order, anyone have any thoughts?

  23. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:35 pm

    I was wondering what you thought of the characters? Did you particulalry like or hate anyone?

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:37 pm

      I loved Lucy, especially her archness

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:39 pm

        I found what wasn’t said about her past, K and the eyeless midwife scene and so on very interesting…I prefer these sorts of details to hang beyond the end of the story, rather than get too much explication. But that’s me 😉

        • 07/02/2011 at 8:41 pm

          A lot was said in what wasn’t said, I mean.

        • 08/02/2011 at 4:58 pm

          yes, the suggestive elements of the mysterious past etc add a sense of depth to the characters and the narrative as a whole, so you’re drawn in to the atmosphere – it kind of haunts you in a way, like a good gothic ghost story should, with things never fully explained, but explained enough to give that extra back-story

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:40 pm

      The characters all had a bit of “offness” to them. That made them usual and interesting. And also made their actions and words unexpected.

      • 07/02/2011 at 8:44 pm

        ‘Off’ as in not quite right? Or unlikeable?

        • 07/02/2011 at 8:46 pm

          as is not quite right. Queer, even. But a bit more than that, I thought.

          • 07/02/2011 at 8:47 pm

            There was something like very bad sexual repression at work in all of them I thought, which gave them murderous idiosyncracies

          • 08/02/2011 at 5:00 pm

            yes, a real sense of the queer in the broadest sense in their slightly out-of-kilter characters and responses – that’s a good point Brian. One could have great fun with queer theory in this novel!

  24. Morag Gornall
    07/02/2011 at 8:39 pm

    It shows that you are a poet. Some of the words you use (those which I didn’t think were real words but I might be wrong!) are so descriptive.

  25. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:45 pm

    Sorry about my tardiness. It’s my ancient equipment!

  26. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:47 pm

    I like Lcuy too but I wanted a herone who wasn’t entirely virtuous. She is quite a snob in some ways.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:49 pm

      Yes, she was quite uppity with poor old Clara – I liked that, I love a character who’s slightly unlikeable in a real-world sense

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:49 pm

      That she is. But she’s had a different life than her family, hasn’t she. It makes for a great juxtaposition and even conflict.

  27. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:49 pm

    I do make words up sometimes if I can’t find the right one 🙂 But some are quite old words and some of from Scottish dialect.

  28. 07/02/2011 at 8:50 pm

    What was everyone’s favourite scene (Emma included)?

  29. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:50 pm

    She does learn though, but if characters have nothing wrong them and no sense to grow then I think it makes for an unsatisfactory novel.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:52 pm

      completely agreed. I think it works the other way too – characters getting worse can be very satisfying. God I’m in a dark mood tonight! 😉

  30. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:51 pm

    The one that I had the most fun writing was the Christmas story telling at Ned’s.

    • 07/02/2011 at 8:53 pm

      Mine was when Lucy found the thing in Aunt Althea’s bedroom (shudder)

      • 08/02/2011 at 5:03 pm

        yep, the thing in the bedroom! Plus some choice moments with Aunt Althea throughout – wish I had an Aunt like that, ha ha!

  31. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:55 pm

    Good point Sian! And it’s fun to write that way too 🙂

  32. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 8:58 pm

    Can I ask if you thought the ending satisfactory?

    • 07/02/2011 at 9:00 pm

      Yes, as in satisifying to read, but in an ‘unsated’ way – a loose end opened up for me right at the end with the ‘nigrescent K’ (amazing phrase!)..like I’ve said, I like loose ends, so for me it was a great way to end

    • 07/02/2011 at 9:01 pm

      What do you think? Have you doubt about how you ended the book?

    • 08/02/2011 at 5:15 pm

      I really liked the ending, **********

      • 09/02/2011 at 8:06 am

        agh! apologies Emma – my last comment on the ending of the book contains a super-big plot spoiler – Sian will delete it and instead I’ll say: really liked the ending in the sense that it isn’t over, the sense of decay still pervasive…

  33. 07/02/2011 at 8:58 pm

    I’ve been live tweeting snips from the discussion with #yettobebooks if anyone’s on Twitter and wants to have a look

  34. Morag Gornall
    07/02/2011 at 9:00 pm

    Got to go folks!

  35. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 9:02 pm

    Bye Morag. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  36. 07/02/2011 at 9:02 pm

    Does anyone have anything to say at the end of the hour (discussion remains open after this, obviously, and I’ll be on for a bit to moderate)

  37. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 9:05 pm

    This was great :)It’s lovely to get feedback. Thanks so much everyone. 🙂 xx

    • 07/02/2011 at 9:06 pm

      I need to disappear for a bit, but keep talking and I’ll moderate as soon as I can. More to come from people who couldn’t make the initial hour, too. Thanks everyone, great discussion, and Emma, loved the book! 🙂

    • 07/02/2011 at 9:07 pm

      You really nailed the genre you were writing. The book had a great sense of itself. It’s was beautifully crafted.

  38. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 9:06 pm

    Apologies for some of the delays. I hate my PC!

    • 07/02/2011 at 9:07 pm

      Don’t worry – they happen because of atmospheric conditions in Chorlton quite often 😉

  39. Emma Stott
    07/02/2011 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks so much 🙂 Looking forward to the next one. Bye for now

    • 08/02/2011 at 5:27 pm

      hope my belated comments were useful Emma. Feel free to add any extra questions for me if you wanted me to expand on or clarify anything, and I’ll check on again in a day or so. That’s the good thing about this format – it does allow latecomers to still add their penny’s worth!

  40. Anonymous
    15/02/2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks very much jane. Your feedabck is greatly appreciated.

  1. 07/02/2011 at 8:28 pm

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