Swallowcliffe Hall... series of books by Jennie Walters
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  Jennie Walters
'Swallowcliffe Hall'

Jennie Walters is an accomplished author who is currently writing the 3rd book in the series of 'Swallowcliffe Hall'. She has only recently found out about the village of Swallowcliffe, and coincidentally there have been many similarities between the books and area...

What's in a name?

It seems strange to think that there was a time, a couple of years ago, when the word 'Swallowcliffe' didn't mean much to me - now it seems to dominate my every waking moment. I'm a children's author and the first story in my new trilogy is about to be published. The books are set around a large house in the English countryside (somewhere in Kent, although it's not based on an actual place), the aristocratic family who live there and the servants who look after them. The first story, House of Secrets, is told from the point of view of Polly Perkins, who arrives in 1890 at the age of fourteen as under housemaid.

I was rather anxious when I read that the heroine of a film starring Gwyneth Paltrow was also named Polly Perkins, but luckily the film doesn't seem to have been a great success, so no confusion there. What to call the house, though? This was 1st book in the Swallowcliffe Hall seriesimportant, because the name of the house was also going to be the overall title of the series, so it had to evoke the right kind of feel. I sent off a list of about thirty possibilities to my editor: Alderney Manor was one, I think, and Meadowrise House, Spyway Grange, Lanchester Place … you get the idea. She much preferred the fourth or fifth name down - Swallowcliffe Hall - and now it seems impossible to imagine the house and the books called anything else. 'It sounds so light and airy,' somebody said, and I agree.

I still don't know how the name came into my head. We'd lived in Bulford Camp and Larkhill when I was about nine or ten (I went to school in Netheravon), so maybe I'd seen the word on a map or signpost and it had lodged in my head ever since. Somehow the fact that there was an actual place called Swallowcliffe passed me by, though. Then after I'd set up a website to go along with the books, I suddenly came across a site with a very similar name - and there was beautiful, real-life Swallowcliffe right in front of my eyes! The fact that a Swallowcliffe Manor exists gives me goosebumps. Perhaps the strangest thing of all, though, is that when I rang the phone number given on the website, the person on the other end of the phone had the same surname as the heroine of my second book: Polly's daughter, Grace Stanbury. (I think Chris Stanbury was pretty surprised too!) So now I've accepted that Swallowcliffe and I have some kind of fateful connection. One day I'll have to come and visit - and I'll be half-expecting to bump into some of my characters walking down the street. Very unnerving …

By Jennie Walters


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