Mundie Moms

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Clare B Dunkle's, The House Of Dead Maids Blog Tour

Today we are thrilled to be the next stop on Clare B Dunkle's The House of Dead Maids blog tour. The House of Dead Maids is written in such a way, that it reads like a prequel to Wuthering Heights. I was very intrigued on how Clare was able to capture the same feeling that Wuthering Heights has.

"Was it hard making The House of Dead Maids setting similar to the classic, Wuthering Height?"

When I first read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I remember how vividly that house stood out in my mind, with its narrow windows, thick walls, and exposed, stormy location. I felt as if I had taken a good look around each room and would be able to recognize the place if I came across it later.

When I decided to write The House of Dead Maids, a prequel to that classic novel, I wanted to create a house as memorable as the original. This is a tall order! Brontë’s rough-edged old farmhouse is a very disturbing place because it traps characters inside it and changes their destinies. Newcomers feel unwelcome there but are unable to leave, creating the perfect emotional atmosphere for ghosts. No wonder the dead Cathy comes wandering across the moor to tap at her old bedroom window.

Scholars believe that Emily Brontë may have found her inspiration for Wuthering Heights in a particularly bizarre old house she visited: High Sunderland, which stood only a short distance from Law Hill School, and which she could see from her window while she was teaching there. It was covered on the outside with grotesque carvings and odd mottos, such as “This place hates profligacy -- loves peace -- punishes crimes -- preserves justice -- honours the good” and “Confide Deo, diffide tibi” (Trust God, distrust yourself). So I learned everything I could about High Sunderland, and when I read that a secret spiral staircase had been discovered there behind one of the stone fireplaces, I filed that detail away to put into my book.

Like Wuthering Heights and High Sunderland, my “house of dead maids” has words chiseled over the front door, but Tabby, my narrator, can’t read them. (I put this trouble in Tabby’s way because it is a factor in Wuthering Heights: Hareton Earnshaw experiences many frustrations connected with his illiteracy and can’t even read his own name over the door.) Another character tells Tabby that the inscription she’s looking at is SELDOM HOUSE, the name of the place, but Tabby doesn’t trust this. She knows more is written there, but she can’t figure out what it is. My editor wanted to figure this out too, so I told her that the writing Tabby can’t read is RARO PRAEVISA RARO PRAEVENTA (seldom foreseen, seldom forestalled), the Latin motto of the masters of Seldom House.

High Sunderland is gone now, so I couldn’t visit it, but I did tour houses of a similar age. One of the houses I visited, Ripley Castle, has been the home of the Ingilby family for seven hundred years. The opportunity to walk down hallways and peek in rooms where almost thirty generations of people have lived out their lives was invaluable for my research. I noticed, for instance, how certain zones of a house would be used for a while and then left alone for several generations. They might then be redecorated and adapted for a new use: the medieval armor room might become a modern study or new pantry, for example.

(Photographs from my research trip are here:

In my book, different characters have found corners of large, inhospitable Seldom House to modify into small “homes within a home.” If Seldom House were cozier or friendlier, characters wouldn’t feel the need to do this, but living in the place is almost like living in a barn—a very spooky, poorly lit barn. These “homes within a home” have taken on the character of their individual owners: Miss Winter’s suite of rooms is clean, modern, and comfortable, and Mrs. Sexton’s haven, the kitchen, is warm and practical. Even the children have managed to modify their antiquated bedroom as well as they can. Down the years, they have collaborated to put together a hidden hoard of playthings.

Ultimately, the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights belongs to the dead more than to the living. Cathy’s bed foreshadows the modified coffin in which she and Heathcliff will sleep together. And ultimately, my House of Dead Maids is nothing but a simple grave—although it is a grave surrounded by the most elaborate of monuments.

Thank you Clare for stopping by and talking to us about the research that you did to get the perfect setting for The House Of Dead Maids! Now we have a special Brontë-themed giveaway to tell you about:

One Grand Prize winner will receive The House of Dead Maids, a gorgeous Brontë sisters pocket mirror, and the HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights! Two lucky runners-up will receive the two books. To enter, send an email to with your name, email address, and shipping address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and email address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on October 31. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on November 1 and notified via email.

Don't forget to visit Clare's next stop at Jenn's Bookshelves at


  1. I really love to read about the kind of research authors do for their books, I love this one. That it's sort of inspired by that house, it also looks very creepy. Great post! =)

  2. I love that house!!! And yes, cynthial11 is right, the research required - WOW!!

  3. This research totally intrigues me!!