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Trailing The Darkest Night with Victoria Hawthorne

  • Submitted: 24th April 2024

The Darkest Night by Victoria Hawthorne

Do you dare to venture into The Darkest Night?

The Darkest Night Victoria Hawthorne

Map of locations in The Darkest Night

This book, like many others, was written during lockdown. I still lived in England then and followed a lot of Scottish home accounts on Instagram, absolutely green with envy and planning my move north. One day, someone put up an Instagram Story about visiting Kinghorn, a small coastal town in Fife.

The location was beautiful, but what caught my interest was the iron ring that still exists in the cemetery, where it is said they used to chain and burn witches. Scotland has a dark past when it comes to witch hunts, where between 4000 and 6000 people were accused. It’s a subject that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember – a number of years ago, I almost did a Master’s on the topic! – and I knew I wanted to write about witches, but the setting only fell into place when I saw that Instagram Story.

Vikki Patis/Victoria Hawthorne

Vikki Patis/Victoria Hawthorne

Map of locations in The Darkest Night

Unable to travel due to restrictions, I spent hours on Google Maps and Street View, shuffling the town around to meet what the story needed. The Reid house is, therefore, fictional, and I have taken several liberties with the setting, but the most important aspect is how Witches’ Hill loomed down over the house, casting both a literal and metaphorical shadow over generations of the Reid women. An eternal reminder of where they came from, and of what happens to women when they speak out or don’t fit the mould.

Map of locations in The Darkest Night

This setting is absolutely central to the story, as is the location itself. Fife was the epicentre of witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries, and one of the stories that stuck with me most was that of Lilias Adie. Accused as a witch, Lilias died in custody and was buried on the beach in Torryburn, between the high and low tide markers. This inspired the scenes of the Reid women standing with one foot in the ocean and one foot on the sand, ‘that nowhere place, made only for salt spray and women who were lost’.

In 2014, Lilias Adie’s burial site was found (above) – along with a rock and the remains of an iron ring. Although the story of the witches that haunts the Reid women in The Darkest Night is fictional, I drew a lot of inspiration from the story of Lilias Adie and all the other women who suffered during this time of persecution.

Map of locations in The Darkest Night

Firth of Forth:

As a disabled writer, I believe that it’s absolutely possible to write a novel without physically visiting, but by the time I’d finished editing The Darkest Night, I was living in Scotland – though further north than the Reids. I’ve since travelled through Kinghorn on my way to and from Edinburgh, and imagined I was Elspeth, looking out over the Firth of Forth on my way to meet Selina for the first time. Like much of Scotland, Fife is gorgeous, and the short train journey from Edinburgh allows for some breathtaking views. You can follow the Witches Trail along the Fife Coastal Path and view the plaques that were laid to commemorate the women executed as witches in Culross, Torryburn, and Valleyfield.

 

Many thanks Victoria for a utterly fascinating trail!

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Darkest Night

Twitter: @VikkiPatis Instagram: vikkipatisauthor/

 

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