Behind the scenes

Outside ‘The Black Lion’ is a plaque denoting this pub as a former dwelling of ‘Deryk Carver -first Protestant martyr burnt at Lewes July 22nd 1555 lived in this brewery. Reconstructed 1974’.

Many of the people who live in Brighton, or have visited Brighton, probably know ‘The Cricketers’ and the pub next to it, ‘The Black Lion’, the place where Deryk used to live. The main question is, what moved me to write a story about his life?

Plaque outside of The Black Lion

The Brighton connection

In 2001 I moved to Hove and worked for the local council. Four years later I found a job in the private sector in Crawley but eight months into the job, commuting was taking its toll and I decided it was time to find a job nearer home. I approached a couple of companies in writing to enquire if they had any vacancies available. Fortunately one company got in touch and invited me around for an interview. They offered me a permanent position and I started working in an office block in Black Lion Street.

In 2019, after I did some research for my book, I found out that the pub was built in 1974 as a replica as part of the brewery using many original flints and slates. The brewery and inn stood on the site between the seafront and The Cricketers, the same space where our office was built.

Black Lion Street. Pic courtesy of Google street view.
Black Lion Street 19th century. Picture courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums

The Dutch connection

According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, “Dirick Caruer, a berebrewer, of Brighthampsted, in the countye of Sussex, was born in the vyllage of Dilson by Stockome in the lande of Luke.” We know that Luke means Liège, and in Dutch it is called Luik (the nearest pronunciation would be ‘louck’ as in house or mouse). Back in 1994, when I was still living in the Netherlands, I travelled by train to the Dutch city Heerlen and from there I did a bicycle tour through the south of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, all situated within close proximity. It was the same area where Deryk used to live before he fled to England. Dilson by Stockome is now a municipality called Dilsen-Stokkem. It is situated in Belgium close to the Dutch province of Limburg with its famous city of Maastricht. Unlike the rest of the Netherlands, this area has rolling hills, just like the south of England, with fields, woodlands, and pretty towns with half timbered houses. I guess when Deryk saw the Sussex hills, it must have reminded him of his homeland.

The idea

In 2018 I started writing a collection of short stories about the phases of the moon. I had written five stories when I saw an advert for a ‘ghost story writing workshop’ at the The Regency Town House in Hove. A house being developed into a heritage centre and museum. The workshop was organised just before Hallowe’en and I signed up for it. On the day, an hour after everyone had arrived, outside a storm was raging. The rain was lashing on the skylight in the kitchen and the wind was howling around the house. It was the perfect setting for a workshop about ghost stories! The three hour workshop was led by Bridget Whelan and Jill Vigus who encouraged participants to step back into the past and learn how to develop our own chilling stories. It was a joy to learn new writing approaches and meet and listen to writers, and sharing expertise. The story I wrote was about Deryk, the first name which sprung to mind, and I made him a servant in the story. The story needed developing but it lead to the idea of changing the concept from the book about the phases of the moon to a fictional book about the real Deryk Carver’s life and his afterlife, combined with short ghost stories, set in and around Brighton. Deryk’s story just flew from the start. It intersperses throughout the book and it almost felt like his story was channelled through me.

The ghost writing workshop. Picture courtesy of The Regency Town House.

Beta readers and editor

The first draft of the book, a novella, was ready by April 2019, but it turned out that more work needed to be done, and with the wonderful support of a couple of writer friends, I managed to learn the technique of ‘fleshing out the story’ and turned it into a more compelling novel. By February 2020 I sent it to my beta-readers Angi and Shani who both loved the book but also suggested I needed to find an editor to go through it. I must admit, I’m notorious for letting words disappear after changing paragraphs, but not only words, also punctuation and speech marks. Sometimes I end up with duplicated words or paragraphs end up in italic. Angi and Shani were right, I needed an extra pair of eyes to spot these mistakes and inconsistencies, as it can be difficult for authors to get enough perspective to see what needs changing, which is why having several readers giving positive and helpful feedback is important.

I contacted author and editor Vee, who I met at the book fairs I organise with Pete and Leanne, and she had a first look at the book from an editor’s point of view. After her preliminary comments I contacted my friend and author Rohase Piercy and wondered if she knew an editor. Secretly I hoped she would know someone in the LGBTQ+ world as the book has strong links with the LGBTQ+ community in Brighton. Rohase suggested her friend, author and editor, Jayne Raven. It turned out Jayne was available to edit the book and I found out she was interested in the mysterious, the eerie and the ghostly. l submitted a short piece of my work and she came back with her suggestions. I liked her approach and suggestions and everything just clicked. Jayne became the editor of The Black Lion and was going through the book with a ‘fine-toothed comb’ during the Covid 19 lockdown period. She would send me chapters each time she had finished them, and I went through her recommendations and suggestions on my days off. Afterwards she said: “I very much enjoyed working on it. I love the way you have varied the mood of each story. I especially like the way you’ve developed Deryk’s story and interspersing it throughout the book.”

It was an absolute joy to have worked with Jayne and I would highly recommend her editing services. After reading the book Jayne told me she would love to visit some of the locations and I hope the story will inspire you to do the same.

Please visit her website:

About the book

When successful solicitor Matt spots a medieval cottage up for sale, he gives up his career to rent it out as a holiday-let. Set in the heart of the old town of Brighton, the step proves to be fruitful as the bookings come rolling in.

But the cottage has a dark secret: its guests are haunted by ghosts from the past. When one guest hands Matt a medieval hat found in the ‘Underworld’, it occurs to him that past and present are intertwined.

Every sign seems to lead to Deryk Carver, the owner of the Black Lion pub who met a terrifying end in the sixteenth century.

Desperate to find the truth, Matt embarks on a journey on ‘All Hallow’s Eve’.

Available at Amazon and from City Books in Hove (soon)

Paperback: £9.99

Kindle book: £1.99

I’m planning to release an audio book too and I hope to release it in September.

2 thoughts on “Behind the scenes

  1. This is a great introduction, really whets my appetite to read the book (and makes me want to pay a visit to The Black Lion) !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much Rosie. Please let me know what you think of it. A visit to The Black Lion pub and the twittens around the corner is a must. The Cricketers is worth a visit as well, beautiful Victorian style pub and, probably Brighton’s oldest pub!


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