Where would writers be without aunts who leave cottages in their wills? I don’t mean writers who are left thatched country cottages by their aunties and are delighted to have somewhere peaceful to write. That would be very nice, but I don’t know how often it happens to real writers.
When a story was read out at our writers’ group about the main character inheriting an aunt’s cottage, I remarked how often authors use this scenario. In one of my favourite novels, the L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks, the heroine, Jane, does not stay in the L shaped room because she inherits a lovely country cottage from an aunt. In the sequel, ‘The Backward Shadow’ she is living in the cottage with her baby – what would have happened to them without the aunt?
In my collection Hallows and Heretics the short story ‘Jerusalem Journal’ is about a young wife who inherits a cottage from an aunt she has never met and there are dark surprises in store. Inheriting from parents will not do for fiction; it is bound to be the house one grew up in with no secrets. Fictional aunts and great aunts inevitably live somewhere unknown to the hero or heroine and have been estranged from the rest of the family for decades.
In my novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’, Holly Tree Farm is left to one of the main characters by his great aunt and I was just as surprised as he was when this country home became an essential part of the plot in the whole trilogy.