When we moved to Burnt Norton fifteen years ago I was given an old newspaper article. It told of a night in September 1741 when Sir William Keyt then owner of Norton House set fire to his bed curtains and burnt himself to death in the house he had so recently completed.
To research the historical detail, first I contacted some of the local Keyt descendents. A direct descendent of Sir William sent me a family tree and from this I was able to build a picture of his family. Afterwards I contacted the Gloucestershire County Council who sent me an engraving of the house before the fire. Another source of information was the church. Gravestones and parish registers confirmed dates of baptism and death, they also gave me a snapshot into the past.
Was it hard to imagine what it would have been like in the house and gardens all those years ago?
This was the easiest part. Many relics of Sir William’s Norton are still here. The balustrade to his house still stands on the top lawn and I can easily imagine the house as it would have been in the 18th Century before he had burnt it down. Some of the vast trees would have been saplings but they are here, and the temple though a little decayed still stands in the woods. You only have to shut your eyes and you are back in the 18th Century.
What is like to read T.S Eliot's poem about the gardens and how did that inspire the novel?
When I read the ‘Four Quartets,’ I am transported to a world where time is unimportant. The past and the present are one. “Footfalls echo in the memory.” His theme of time and redemption inspired me to listen to the Keyt voices from the past.
A lot of newspapers have commented on what a great TV series the book would make, how do you imagine it on screen?
I imagine it as I tried to write it, a visual and evocative story with drama, love, laughter and sadness. Again the theme of the past colliding with the present would be important, and beautiful music. Some of the scenes would be set around Eliot’s pools.
When did you begin to write and has it always been a passion, or is it a new discovery?
I have written all my life. As a child my father requested a poem rather than a present for his birthday, so my passion for writing began at four years old.