I’m thrilled to welcome Author S.C. Skillman to my blog to celebrate her latest release!
Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire
S. C. Skillman
Warwickshire, often known as Shakespeare’s County, has a host of strange and mysterious tales ranging from ancient legends and stories of the supernatural to more modern documented cases. Curious beliefs and customs were once widespread in Warwickshire’s towns and villages, some of which still flourish today.These strange and spooky stories include the quirky death of the Roundhead commander who owned Warwick Castle, the association of the great author J. R. R. Tolkien with the town, and the story of the hand of glory obtained at Warwick hangings. The historic buildings of Stratford-upon-Avon have witnessed many strange events over the centuries and more recently the Crackley Wood sprite has been sighted at Kenilworth. Other stories include the Wroth Silver at Knightlow Cross, an 800-year-old violent ball game played annually at Atherstone on Shrove Tuesday, and the unresolved mystery of the 1945 murder at Lower Quinton associated with witchcraft, along with other strange tales from the surrounding towns and villages. These stories are accompanied by the author’s photographs in this hugely entertaining book.
Q & A
- How did you find your publisher for Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire and Paranormal Warwickshire?
A: It all started when I shared my WIP (Paranormal Warwickshire) with my writing group. I read out the chapter on Guys Cliffe Warwick, and another member of the group, a historian, suggested a few history publishers to me. I tried them with a proposal and Amberley were the ones who responded positively, saying they would like it for their Paranormal section. So that’s how I focused the first book and subsequently Amberley asked me to write another 3 books about Warwickshire for them, which I have been very happy to do.
- Out of all the tales in this latest collection which one/s is/are your most beloved. And/or which one surprised or intrigued you the most.
A: Probably the story of the footsteps in the derelict 17th century coach house near the beginning of the book. I like this one because it came to me unsolicited via a first person account from the individual who experienced it, and he volunteered the story. Also, it had a truly authentic feel about it, with several satisfying elements; it came over as a genuine spooky tale. The narrator had experienced this in his teenage years, and never forgotten it. At the time of the experience, he sought rational explanations, and then tried to confirm those explanations, and had to accept it as paranormal. Finally, verification decades later from an independent source made it even more convincing. It also reminded me a bit of an MR James ghost story; ‘years later, curiosity drew him back to the scene of his youth’… those words give me a delicious frisson!
- It must be fascinating and fun collating all the information for these tales. Tell us a little about the people you have interviewed in person and the places you have been.
A: I have spoken to people of all ages and backgrounds. One gentleman, Philip, I met through a chance encounter in the Warwick Tourist Information Centre, and he volunteered his story of hauntings in the basement of the Old Coffee House Tavern.
Another person was Caroline, a lady inspired by the spiritual rituals of the First Nation peoples, who calls herself a ‘Hedgerow Healer’ and holds healing ceremonies in a local community woodland using ancient smudging rituals and sage sticks. I had to be careful in the information I shared about her because she was wary of being misrepresented and wanted to ensure I wasn’t comparing her to spiritualists (I had no such idea in my mind). I feel privileged to gain the confidence of remarkable people like her, and being able to include their story, in such a way that they are happy with.
I also met a lovely elderly gentleman called Cyril in Costa Kenilworth, who has for many years been a traditional wooden toymaker, and he was fascinating. He appeared as a real life Geppetto in the ‘extra footage’ on a remastered version of Disney’s classic film Pinocchio. Though retired now, he is still a highly gifted painter and street photographer, fizzing with energy and humour.
- I believe you have lived in Warwickshire for many years and the area is rich in intriguing history. Have you ever come across, or seen any of the tales you speak of… such as the big cats?
A: I’ve lived in Warwickshire for 28 years now. I have tried to experience or gain personal knowledge of many of the stories I tell. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any big cats though! One of my stories is about the ancient tax gathering ceremony the Wroth Silver which takes place on 11 November each year at daybreak in a field off the A4 near Ryton on Dunsmore. I was determined to attend the ceremony! It was moving to see how several of those who keep the ceremony alive have been attending for many decades and I have since been in correspondence with the elderly gentlemen involved. Also, I was very touched by the poem read out at the Wroth Silver breakfast by Barry Patterson, a local Bard. It was called ‘Dear Ancestors’ and for me it crystallised my thoughts about how people like to connect with their ancestors, which is why they cherish these ancient ceremonies. I think this is true of folklore and folk rituals such as the Wassailing Ceremony and groups like the Border Morris sides too. I’m delighted that Plum Jerkum, the local Warwick Border Morris side will be performing at my book launch in May!
- Tell us a little about you and your past, and future writing projects.
A: I was born and brought up in Orpington, Kent, and studied English Literature at Lancaster University. My first permanent job was as a Production Secretary at the BBC in Portland Place, London. Later I lived and worked for four and a half years in Australia, then returned to England to live. Now I live in Warwick with my husband and son, and my daughter is now spending time living and working in Australia. I have long been fascinated by ghost stories and tales of the unexpected, and visiting ancient sites: castles, stately homes, and gardens. I’m a member of English Heritage and the National Trust and I live near two of England’s great castles at Warwick and Kenilworth. Currently I’m working on a third book for Amberley, A-Z of Warwick. I also have a completed mystery novel, Director’s Cut, out on submission to publishers and agents, and am nearly halfway through the sequel to that novel, Standing Ovation.
- Do you believe in ghosts and what is your personal experience of the paranormal/strange happenings.
A: I have a theory about ghosts; I believe energy can be trapped in stone, and in the fabric of certain buildings, and those who are sensitive can tune into it. I haven’t experienced ghosts but have had curious experiences which seemed to me like out-of-the-body experiences. My sister has experienced phantom footsteps, and her story is very convincing. I suggest that those who see ghosts or hear phantom footsteps are experiencing a psychic recording. However, this doesn’t cover every kind of verified experience. Sometimes we may hear stories of a ghost apparently interacting with the living percipient. I am intrigued by the whole phenomenon and keep an open mind. I respect people who tell stories of genuine experiences. I don’t judge but listen. Some stories are very convincing, especially those experienced in the same place by different individuals at different times quite independently of each other. Some might possibly be the person’s imagination. I still respect their convictions about what they have experienced.
MJ: Thanks Sheila for the wonderful interview and your fascinating theory about ghosts.
Illustrated Tales of Warkwickshire is a wonderfully informative, interesting and beautifully illustrated book of tales of Warwickshire. Some of the images within are the author’s own photography. And I learnt a thing or two! Readers who enjoy strange, supernatural, historical and quirky tales will enjoy this book immensely. It is evident that the author S. C. Skillman loves her home in which she has lived for over 20 years. Judging by the lengthy bibliography and the book itself she has researched, interviewed and knows her subject matter exceedingly well. Warwickshire is deservedly known as Shakespeare country! Authors, writers, tale hunters, and those keen to discover more about Warwickshire would love this. It would make a lovely gift for both visitors to the UK and local folk alike.
Delve into tales of big cats, mysteries, magical forests, witchcraft, extraordinary true life stories, intriguing people, and much more… plus famous authors such as Lewis Carroll who studied at Rugby School, (though he wasn’t happy there!)
Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher Amberley Publishing and S. C. Skillman for a beautiful copy. Review given freely and readily with no bias.
Publication: 15th April 2022
Size: 234 x 165mm
Extent: 96 pages
Illustrations: 100 illustrations
Rights: World, all languages
I have also read and enjoyed Paranormal Warwickshire by S. C. Skillman – my review and author feature here:
And Mystical Circles which I also enjoyed. here is the link to my amazon review:
S. C. Skillman is a writer of psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction, who has
lived in Warwickshire for over twenty years.
Social Media Links:
Website and blog: https://scskillman.com/
Amazon Author Profile: http://bitly.ws/9SK9
Follow my new bookstagram account for latest favourite book reviews and book news: