Home > Discussion > Witherstone – J.A. Brunning

Witherstone – J.A. Brunning

Our next book is ‘Witherstone’ by JA Brunning. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time today by commenting on this post. You might also like to follow the Twitter tag #yettobebooks for live highlights from the comments.

The discussion will stay open indefinitely after the initial hour’s session, so if you’re reading this after 21st March, please still feel free to comment.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 words or so of the novel:

I couldn’t run fast enough, and knew we wouldn’t be able to escape. I looked back over my shoulder. Dad was right behind me, hauling on Mum’s arm, trying to help her keep up, and he was carrying my little sister Catherine as he ran. Mum’s face was hidden from me but I knew she was frightened for all of us. Catherine was stretching her arms back over Dad’s shoulder towards Grandma, and I groaned. I knew there was no way Grandma would be able to keep up. She was already way behind us, and I caught only glimpses of her as she fell further and further behind.

  1. 21/03/2011 at 7:59 pm

    Hi, I’m online 🙂

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:00 pm

      me too! Hi Sian

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:00 pm

        Hi Jane 🙂

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:04 pm

        Will get started while we’re waiting for others – loved this, and particularly liked that the family were an ordinary working family. I liked the character of Grandad Creswell, a sort of curmudgeonly socialist!

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:05 pm

          Yes, Grandad Creswell is great – I think in many ways he’s the moral heart of the book

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:08 pm

            I felt like there was a strong political string to the book, with Grandad Creswell and Grandma tugging not-neccesarily-opposite ends of it

            • 21/03/2011 at 8:09 pm

              I think for me it’s hard not to be political – “the personal is political” is true I feel, but it’s also important that the “truth” is always more complex than a simple one-side or the other.

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:06 pm

          Also have a question for the author – was the setting baSED ON A REAL PLACE?

  2. 21/03/2011 at 8:04 pm

    This is a bit like some parties I’ve been to… 🙂

  3. 21/03/2011 at 8:08 pm

    In an essential sense Witherstone is based on a real place, but it’s a conglomeration too, sort of based on Witherley in Leicestershire but with elements of other places thrown in.

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:10 pm

      It’s an enormously tense story, but with very careful detail that is very interesting and balances the powerful surge of the main plot (is that too pretentious…?)

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:12 pm

        That’s a nice way to sum up the elements in the book – and one I tried to balance without putting in too much detail, so how do you feel that balance works?

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:15 pm

          I mean detail in the sense of elemental happenings I think, rather than overdescription…there’s none of that. You can reach out and touch things in the story, so the characters’ ordinary lives are of as much interest as the unordinary things that happen to them.

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:18 pm

            that’s good to hear – I love getting that sense of time and place, and especially really feeling those frozen moments (as you’ll remember from our discussion of your book Sian) so it’s good that the two fit together well 😉

            • 21/03/2011 at 8:22 pm

              Speaking of time, I thought it was interesting, unusual (and successful) the way you handled the speech and reported thought in Eppie’s voice – more colloquial (but not over the top) when they were speaking and standardish when Eppie was narrating to the reader. It worked well.

              • 21/03/2011 at 8:24 pm

                that’s good to know Sian – it was important to me that the reader gets a sense of the working-class background but without going over the top with colloquialisms as they can impede the flow if overdone I think.

                • 21/03/2011 at 8:26 pm

                  I’d completely agree…I stay off writing in heavy handed ‘accents’ myself

  4. 21/03/2011 at 8:09 pm

    hey, I almost forgot!

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:10 pm

      hey brian 🙂

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:13 pm

      hi Brian – glad you remembered otherwise it’s a rather small party 😉

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:14 pm

        Much like my birthday parties. Note to self, stop having birthday parties.

  5. 21/03/2011 at 8:13 pm

    Hey. SO what are we talking about? I Got marking essays and time ran away.

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:17 pm

      Grandad Creswell, political elements, location 😉

  6. 21/03/2011 at 8:14 pm

    With the political elements, do either of you feel that it gets “preachy”?

  7. 21/03/2011 at 8:17 pm

    In terms of “real place” what do you think the role of fiction is when it comes to setting the story is familiar places? Is the author responsible for accurately depicting that location, or are they allowed to take liberties for the story’s sake?

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:19 pm

      Liberties for sure – otherwise it’s a travel-log, but at the same time, I enjoy really feeling a sense of place and atmosphere in fiction, so I try to mould the place to fit the story.

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:19 pm

      I think they’re allowed to do whatever they want! But in this case it doesn’t seem that similarity to a real place is all that important – the 17th century setting makes things different enough for the reader to look to the day to day / domestic details more closely for similarities with ‘reality’ than the place. I think.

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:28 pm

        I agree to this last part of your statement. I think it period, it is the day to day that people focus on.

  8. 21/03/2011 at 8:21 pm

    Do either of you feel that the book is as suitable for an adult reader as 11+ reader, and if so/not, why?

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:24 pm

      I read the book as an adult without feeling it was written for a younger person and not for me, but could also see that it would be compelling and readable to someone of 9 – late teens.

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:26 pm

        Great. I wanted it to be open in that sense as I find that many a book suits both readerships even where they tend to be marketed at one rather than the other – and lose readers, and readers lose potentially good books. I’ve found some fab books in the YA / child shelves in the past few years which have felt just as appropriate for an older reader.

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:27 pm

          I remember you saying somewhere that you wrote the books for your daughter – does she have any comments to share? 😉

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:29 pm

            she’s in the bath – I’ll ask her when she comes back down! 🙂 She did really love it though, which was a relief as I gave it to her for her birthday. My partner chris was rather surprised that he liked it too as he’s a very fussy reader.

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:30 pm

      A lot of YA books are read by adult readers, actually.

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:32 pm

        Yes – I’m one of them. Did you feel Witherstone worked for you as an adult reader Brian?

  9. 21/03/2011 at 8:29 pm

    Depends. I mean, if I was writing about my hometown of clitheroe, I would fill the story, subconsciously of my favourite memories and parts, probably without wanting to, I’d have to sell it. Or I’d get alot of angry friends hahaha, but I did, however, as a younger person, never keep to facts and did stretch alot of truths of locations, ie, there was a massive ruin on the outskirts, my mates would go looking, and it wasn’t there….bad for me, but at the same time they explored the area for hours ahahha

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:31 pm

      Hello Steve-o… siiiiiiiiiiigh about the screen name >:p

      So the writer subconsciously takes the ‘responsiblity’ Brian talks about on themselves in that case….

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:32 pm

        (my boyfriend is joining in with the general ‘writers’ discussion – I don’t have a stalker 😉 )

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Steve-o. I think it’s important that we feel we can mould the location around the story else it just becomes backdrop rather than a part of the atmosphere & story.

  10. 21/03/2011 at 8:35 pm

    hahaha I sorry. I was bored. The rats are entertaining themselves by playing hide and seek. I am pretty sure if I was to write a story, about a real place I’d feel compelled to keep facts, ie Stephen King AAAAALWAYS talking about Derry or Castle rock…he kept it as factual as his characters were for from it, so the fiction and non…can balance…those stories I see tend to work

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:41 pm

      Steve-o raises an interesting point about SK (and other writers like HP Lovecraft simiilarly), keeping to the facts about a place, or keeping consistent about a fictional place could create some authenticity when different stories occur in the same place. Is this important, or should every standalone book be a true standalone?

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:56 pm

        Like I said, depends. And on your friends hah, my friends are all bumpkins, like me, so I’d probably be dragged through town by my thumbs and burned at the stake if I didn’t get it factual

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:59 pm

          I think if a real place featured as a strong element in the story there would be some local purists that would kick off if you weren’t spot on. I say write what you like and steer clear of the stocks. But does intertextuality have a place, whehter or not your facts are correct? Do you map out your location to the last balde of grass, in case you want to use it again?

          • 21/03/2011 at 9:03 pm

            In some senses I think I do – even though it’s a made-up place, I needed to have it clear in my mind where everywhere is in relation to everyone else – I even drew maps!

  11. 21/03/2011 at 8:36 pm

    With the book forming the first part of an obviously bigger story (whivh will be over three books altogether), how did you feel it works as a stand-alone novel?

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:37 pm

      Without spoiling, I would say it works very well as a stand-alone, but at the same time – knowing there are more – I’m gagging to see what happens next!

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:40 pm

        Hello, Hattie here. I think the book is really exciting, and it works as a book by itself, however I really REALLY want to know what happens next!

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:43 pm

          Hi Hattie! So when do you think you’ll be finding out? 😉 ( I can’t wait either)

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:44 pm

            She’s making me wait until she’s finished AND edited the second book!

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:41 pm

        Fabbo! That’s the intention!!

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:39 pm

      Yes, a good balance is struck.

  12. 21/03/2011 at 8:38 pm

    Surely there are times though that one can say sod it and fabricate the lay out of the location or add an element that doesn’t really exist for enhancement of the plot .

  13. 21/03/2011 at 8:39 pm

    I’m afraid I haven’t read it…yet! But will once sian gets her claws off it. But to write a story about a trilogy is great, because you know so much that the reader does not,that is both a blessing and a curse, as you have to see it through their eyes, and yet know the pointers that will be mentioned in the second, and then third. I’m not a proper writer, but do delve in writing time and again, and I too am working on a series, but its tough. As long as you keep a note of exact times(if you are doing flashbacks) and exact details of peoples appearances and personalities, keep it fresh yet nostalgic, it should be a kick ass trilogy

  14. 21/03/2011 at 8:46 pm

    This is Jane again. Who are your favourite characters and why?

    • 21/03/2011 at 8:49 pm

      Grandad Creswell and Eppie – angry socialist grandad who makes a lot of sense, and tenacious, layered, likeable main character

      • 21/03/2011 at 8:50 pm

        great, that’s exactly what I was aiming for! Are there any parts of the story, plotting, or characterisation that worked less well for you, and why?

        • 21/03/2011 at 8:53 pm

          none occur offhand

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:54 pm


            • 21/03/2011 at 8:55 pm

              are there any that you feel less confident about?

              • 21/03/2011 at 8:58 pm

                I think my only concerns were whether the political elements came across too preachy, as I mentioned earlier, plus whether the necessity to add back-story tied into the unfolding of the plot effectively…

                • 21/03/2011 at 9:01 pm

                  You did the back story pretty deftly I’d say – the reveals seemed natural

                  • 21/03/2011 at 9:04 pm

                    that’s good as they are important – especially as the series progresses – so they need to be in but adding to the story rather than getting in the way.

          • 21/03/2011 at 8:55 pm

            good to know nothing lurking in the undergrowth I need to revisit then. Has Brian gone back to his marking?

            • 21/03/2011 at 8:56 pm


              (Could be just the connection over t’pond)

              • 21/03/2011 at 8:59 pm

                aye, good ol’ tinterweb! When it works it’s great.

  15. 21/03/2011 at 8:58 pm

    (Missees Brian)

  16. 21/03/2011 at 9:00 pm

    Could always do a Gotham City, describe new york, but make it your own

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:02 pm

      Yep, I like the idea of a pastiche city / location

  17. 21/03/2011 at 9:02 pm

    Haha. I have to go, actually. I need to teach to class and yes, my marking was in the way. Sorry. It’s been a day!

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:04 pm

      Bye Brian , happy marking 🙂

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:06 pm

      you have my sympathy Brian! Good luck with the marking 😉

  18. 21/03/2011 at 9:03 pm

    I make it 2 minutes past nine so will call it a night for the initial hour, but will stay on for a bit to approve comments if there are any more – and remember that the conversation stays open indefinitely after this. Thanks everyone!

  19. 21/03/2011 at 9:06 pm

    Well in a story I had to do maaaany moons ago for an english essay we were encouraged to write about a real town, but call it something else, to see if we could make a town where everyone kn ows or has seen once in their lives…ie write about a town, with average crime(burglaries rather than killings)quiet, yet action if you know where to look…boring, unless you know people…so you make a foundation….then you build your characters around that, different people develop due to different circumstances and peers/family influences….So as was said, location may not have a main point on the story, but as a reader, it’s good to feel you know the place

  20. 21/03/2011 at 9:06 pm

    thanks Sian, thanks everyone – especially for such positive comments! 😉

  21. 21/03/2011 at 9:08 pm

    I can’t wait to read it

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:08 pm

      You’ll have to ask the writer very nicely 😉

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:17 pm


  22. 21/03/2011 at 9:09 pm

    Can I not pry your talons off it for a day, moo?

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:09 pm

      Still have to ask. Now go and make my brew. Night all 🙂 x

  23. 21/03/2011 at 9:09 pm

    Me? Your turn….god I miss the 1700’s

    • 21/03/2011 at 9:18 pm

      you can read it Steve, and thanks for your contributions!

  24. John
    02/08/2011 at 11:52 pm

    Iv’e just bene raeding this comments an i can offer anny profraeding servises you reqiuer. The bok sounds very intresting and id like toread it myself. I can also

    do edditing and all that.

    • 05/08/2011 at 9:30 am

      thanks John, and of course, you read a much earlier draft chapter 1 with lots more of Grandad Creswell than stayed in the final version, and did offer me some great advice, so you will certainly be getting a copy – but only if you promise not to correct my spelling, and only offer advice BEFORE you go to the pub! ha ha!!

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