The House on Shipwreck Hill

Farah Mendlesohn/ October 23, 2019/ Uncategorized/ 0 comments

The House Shipwreck Hill is the latest from Manifold Press.

Karen Ovér talks about her inspiration…

I love old houses. There’s something about the pride of craftsmanship and attention to detail in a hand built house that gives it a character distinctly lacking in blocks of poured concrete. Compare any modern housing tract with a row of San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies.” In the first is a conformity so stifling one can scarcely tell the houses apart, let alone call them homes. While the architecture of the restored Victorians might be identical, the finishing details of trim, roofing, doors and windows, and especially the color schemes, are all different. Each house has a distinct identity, and a character developed by the actions of its adopted family.

There’s always that one house with a dubious reputation, derived from the actions of previous inhabitants. It doesn’t matter what really happened. The stories we like to tell about such places are much more entertaining. My dad raised me on a proper diet of Ray Bradbury, beat poets, old war movies and classic Universal and Hammer horror films. Halloween was his favorite time of year, so naturally he bought a haunted house. It didn’t fit the profile of a neat middle class, white collar street, but then, neither did we. For all intents and purposes, I grew up in the Boo Radley house of our neighborhood. I’ve had a penchant for lonely houses ever since, always curious about the stories behind their condition. What tales do those peeling walls and sagging roof lines have to tell?

So the seeds of Carstairs House were sown, and when the characters of Nigel and Jonathan introduced themselves, began to germinate. I saw Nigel as something of a Boo Radley character. I’d always thought of the reputation of the Radley house as protecting Boo from the outside world. Then along came Nigel Hamilton, and I wondered what if, between episodes of post-traumatic inability to cope, Nigel came out and made the world deal with him? What if the family adopted and sheltered by this house gained strength and courage from its sanctuary?

I was at a point where I was tired of the LGBT community trying to pigeonhole itself. The intentions of trying to help our straight allies better understand our challenges were good, but I again found conformity rearing its ugly head. As I told friends on both sides of the orientation aisle, the important thing is for each of us to feel comfortable in our own skin, not squeeze ourselves into a mold for the comfort of others. I really felt too many queer kids were wrecking themselves, living down to the stereotypes of those pigeonholes. Happens to straight kids too. So the idea of the Carstairs family hiding their non-conformity in plain sight, and using the hypocrisy of polite society to be the change they want to see in the world really came to the fore.

I’m still working along that general theme.



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