From Wonky Inns to horrific hedges - how East Devon landscape inspired author's magical worlds

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 08 July 2019

Sidmouth Author Jeannie Alderdice. Ref shs 23 19TI 6071. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Author Jeannie Alderdice. Ref shs 23 19TI 6071. Picture: Terry Ife

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Author Jeannie Wycherley's horror stories are inspired by the landscape of East Devon, which is perhaps not an idea that leaps to the mind of everyone.

Places that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5743. Picture: Terry IfePlaces that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5743. Picture: Terry Ife

When you think of East Devon, horror and gore are not the first words to come to mind, but, with a little bit of imagination, could such a beautiful area turn up a thing of nightmares?

For Sidmouth author Jeannie Wycherley, the winding roads and landscapes have proven a magical inspiration for her character's exploits.

The horror fan likes to make the places she uses recognisable to readers, just as much as creating a gripping plot, with unexpected turns and strong female characters.

The self-published writer has recently celebrated finishing book seven in the Wonky Inn series, which she began writing for her mum Carole to enjoy.

Places that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5739. Picture: Terry IfePlaces that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5739. Picture: Terry Ife

All her characters are back in the latest instalment, The Great Witchy Cake Off, (released on June 29) filled with magic and mystery.

The magical series has proven popular and attracted fans of all ages, as it departs from the in-depth gory prose the writer has become well known for.

Its lighter approach in comparison with her other novels also brings in Jeannie's love for a popular baking show which readers will have no trouble recognising.

Since the series launch, Jeannie has continued to use East Devon as an inspiration with Wiggaton as the basis for the village of Whittlecombe and several characters inspired by areas of Luppitt and Smeatharpe.

Places that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5736. Picture: Terry IfePlaces that inspired local author Jeannie Alderdice in her latest books. Ref edr 23 19TI 5736. Picture: Terry Ife

As with the Great Witchy Cake Off and its presenters, Jeannie gives a knowing nod to the places featured.

Jeannie said: "The Blue Ball Inn is relocated to where the lifeboat is on Sidmouth prom and features in the books Beyond the Veil, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn and my new novel The Municipality of Lost Souls.

"Unfortunately I had to rename it The Blue Bell Inn because my American editor was worried how US readers might react to Blue Ball."

With another three books on the way for the Wonky Inn series, Jeannie says she is always wondering about her next idea.

Wiggaton. Ref edr 20 18TI 3520. Picture: Terry IfeWiggaton. Ref edr 20 18TI 3520. Picture: Terry Ife

She said: "It's hard work. I worry a lot, it's a risk to put out a series people love in case you write a dud. I'm always worried of the fact that one is going to fall flat on its face, when people are loving it and I do not want to stop writing.

"There are so many ideas I want to experiment with. I would like to write a Christmas horror story.

"I know what book eight will be but I cannot say what books nine or ten would be."

Jeannie, who owns Sidmouth Gifts with her husband John, is proud of her work as a self-published author.

Connaught Gardens. Ref edr 13 19TI 1279. Picture: Terry IfeConnaught Gardens. Ref edr 13 19TI 1279. Picture: Terry Ife

Since her debut novel Crone was released in 2017, she has seen her book top the Amazon UK Occult Horror chart several times, beating the likes of her literary heroes Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.

Jeannie said: "Its long hours. It's like a job, I spend my whole day writing or marketing or doing something even if it's in the shop.

"It's a choice. I have full control and do not scrimp on anything, the editing, proofing, covers, marketing or the quality of the book itself.

"It's such an amazing feeling to be number one. Crone is the book that keeps selling and it all came out of the landscape, living in Ottery and then I moved to Dunkeswell and in the trees and the shadows it was the way I could see something always lurking."

Connaught Gardens. Ref edr 13 19TI 1258. Picture: Terry IfeConnaught Gardens. Ref edr 13 19TI 1258. Picture: Terry Ife

At the centre of her books are strong female characters, both good and bad, trying to navigate the scary situations presented by their creator - who wants to challenge some well-known conventions including the iconic scream queen trope.

She said: "Sometimes women are shown as scream queen or falling apart. That's not the case, women keep it together. That's what we do. We find a way and I want to reflect that in my stories.

"That's what I love writing about. I put my characters in there and watch what happens. I want the characters to run away with it themselves and when you put them into the situations you have to look at how they behave and how the characters talk to you."

All of Jeannie's books are on sale at Sidmouth Gifts or Amazon.

Wiggaton. Ref edr 20 18TI 3510. Picture: Terry IfeWiggaton. Ref edr 20 18TI 3510. Picture: Terry Ife

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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