The Shadow Year began with one image: a tumbledown stone cottage hidden from the rest of the world in a remote English valley. It was an idea that dropped into my mind like a pebble and created such a ripples of ideas that it wasn’t long before a story had formed in my head.
The tricky part was settling on the location for the cottage. I needed somewhere with the necessary wildness that would allow my characters to feel truly ‘lost’. After some research, I settled on England’s Peak District and, with my fingers firmly crossed, I leapt out into the idea and began to write – at my desk in Sydney.
It was months later that my family and I found the opportunity to visit the Peak District. It was too late to alter a word of the novel but I couldn’t resist. We stayed in a small, unseasonably snowy village at the edge of the picturesque Dovedale region. The area was beautiful but I found my anxiety growing: could such a landscape really harbor a forgotten cottage?
On one of the last days of our holiday, I was amazed to notice a simple watercolor painting of a squat stone cottage hanging on the wall of our holiday home. The painting was entitled ‘The Magic Cottage’ and I couldn’t stop staring at it. It looked so like the place I had conjured in my mind all those months ago and, after a few enquiries, I discovered it was located just a short walk from where we were staying.
It took a whole packet of jellybeans to coax my two-year-old to the top of the snowy hill we’d been directed to, but as we came to the summit, there it stood: a ramshackle cottage, cut off from the rest of the world, nestled within a copse of leafless trees. It was abandoned and eerie, the snow falling silently around us, and so close to the image that had occupied my mind during all those months of writing, that for a moment it was as if I was one of my characters. There it was, my book, made real, and it felt like the most startling kind of synchronicity to see something pulled from my imagination, standing there in solid stone.
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On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her housemates, it offers an escape, a chance to drop out for a while. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again. Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? And why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can’t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her? THE SHADOW YEAR is a mesmerizing story of tragedy, lies and betrayal.