Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tale of Terror; A Durham Student Has Proved Her Ability to Chill the Blood with Debut Novel the Quick. Laura Fraine Talked to Author Lauren Owen BOOKS

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tale of Terror; A Durham Student Has Proved Her Ability to Chill the Blood with Debut Novel the Quick. Laura Fraine Talked to Author Lauren Owen BOOKS

Article excerpt

Byline: Lauren Owen

Queen Margaret's boarding school for girls occupies an imposing 18th-century manor house, Escrick Hall, in a village outside York.

Hall, in a village outside York. When she was nine, Lauren Owen's family moved north from Gloucestershire and into the former gatehouse on the estate. Her father worked in the school, which Lauren also attended.

"The land where my parents' home is has been a big inspiration to me," says Lauren. "It was quite a revelation, as a nine-year-old, coming to this house on what looked like a grand country estate."

Now a PhD student at Durham University, Lauren, who is 28, divides her time between Durham and Escrick. But her childhood in this atmospheric setting proved a stimulus to her imagination.

Lauren's first book, The Quick, is a Gothic supernatural novel set in the late 19th century.

The book opens with siblings James and Charlotte, who are practically left to their own devices in their vast and crumbling country house.

Here they entertain themselves by setting each other increasingly terrifying "ordeals".

When James moves to London, he boards with Christopher, whose debauchery is markedly at odds with his own studious nature. Nevertheless, they become friends and then secret lovers, and through Christopher's lifestyle, James is exposed to the lavish world of London's elite.

But if the first quarter of the book conveys a pervading sense of unease and dread, we are never prepared for the horrors that are to unfold.

"I have always loved reading and telling ghost stories," Lauren says. "When I was a child I would devour the Point Horror and Goosebumps books. I'm not sure if it is that proximity to scary stuff, while being nice and safe in your own bedroom, that is so enjoyable."

But The Quick is no ordinary scary story. Set in a vividly imagined Victorian high society, Lauren's book is as much about the brilliantly-researched period detail as it is about the blood and gore at the heart of this society's darkest secret. …

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