Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: non-fiction

Mark Norman: Folklore Thinking

Today I’m joined by one of my fellow members of the Exeter Author Association; folklore expert, Mark Norman.  So go and grab a cuppa, then come back and have a read…

Hello. My name is Mark Norman. I am a folklore researcher and author based on the edge of Dartmoor, in the South West of the UK. Although I sometimes stray into the world of fiction, most of my writing is non-fiction, being based around my research. So today, I would like to introduce you to the world of folklore, and my writing within that area.

Folklore essentially boils down to being an examination of the traditions and beliefs of individuals and communities: literally, folk-lore or the beliefs (lore) or the people (folk). It can be seen to span various broader disciplines such as psychology or anthropology, but I prefer to think of it as a part of social history and it is therefore as a history discipline that I tend to work most.

Although I am a committee member of the Folklore Society, the UK’s oldest academic organisation for the study of the subject, I am not affiliated to any institution, being an independent researcher. I am therefore free to focus on whatever aspects of the subject I choose to explore.

My interests within the field of folklore are quite broad, but the areas that I mostly focus on are the more regional aspects of folklore within the area that I live and most particularly, the phenomenon of ghostly apparitions of phantom Black Dogs. This is the aspect of folklore upon which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drew when he wrote what is arguably one of his most famous Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

My most involved publication to date is my book, Black Dog Folklore, which was published in 2015 by Troy Books. To date, this book is the only academic investigation of the subject by a single author. I hold what is thought to be the UKs largest archive of Black Dog sightings, traditions and eyewitness accounts (probably over 1,000 now) and around 700 of these are included in a gazetteer in the appendix of the book.

Publication of Black Dog Folklore was the culmination of around ten years of research, on and off; an undertaking which could have continued for longer had I not taken the decision to draw a line under the research at the time and decide that the book should come out at that stage. One of the difficulties of working in an area of cultural history such as this is that one story will inevitably lead to many more. New information comes to light all the time and stories change and develop. So, although the book is out on the shelves, the work on the subject most definitely continues.

Aside for this full-length study, I publish a lot of short-form articles for magazines, websites and in other places where I am invited (or sometimes cajoled) to contribute. Amongst these, for example, are pieces for Mythology magazine on Christmas traditions, an article on dog bones discovered at an archaeological dig and related to my research for Folklore Thursday website, an article for a personal site on the folkloric links of The Hound of the Baskervilles and a piece on the links between Sirius (the dog star) and dogs in folklore. I was also asked by the producers of one of Sir Tony Robinson’s documentary series’ to advise on some Black Dog lore in the area being discussed.

I have been asked to contribute to, or contribute myself to, various books and anthologies. Most recently I co-authored a chapter on fairies in Devon for a new book called Magical Folk published by Gibson Square and a chapter proposal I was asked to make for a new academic book published by Palsgrave Macmillan is being looked at currently. My fiction short story The Padding Horror which sets some of my research against a fictional backdrop of Victorian Dartmoor in Lovecraftian style was published in the UK as part of a charity anthology called Secret Invasion, to raise money for the mental health charity MIND and is published this month in America in another anthology called Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined.

Another large chunk of my writing time is taken up in script writing. I am the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast which is quite widely listened to around the world. In fact, just a couple of hours ago as I write this, I learned that it is currently ranked at #141 in the US iTunes charts for History. The podcast is released twice a month, with one episode being a guest interview and the other a presentation written by myself. It is admittedly a lot of work to script this frequently alongside other projects and so sometimes I share my research across other projects that I do to help with this. For example, as I speak relatively frequently at conferences or public events, I will sometimes adapt talks for podcast episodes or vice versa.

As far as future book publications go, I am currently planning to release a volume of extended essays on a range of folklore subjects. The backbone of these will be from past scripts I have written for the podcast episodes, which will then be expanded and researched more tangentially to form longer studies suitable for book chapters. I am also looking to work on another longer study of an area of folklore in the same style as Black Dog Folklore. There is another well-known piece of widespread folklore which has not been seriously studied or collected together since the 1930s to which I am hoping to turn my attention.

It is certainly the case that books and writing form a large part of my life. At home I live with my wife Tracey who is also a writer (see her recent blog on this site about her play WITCH for example) and, with a colleague, we also produce and narrate audiobooks. I am also on the judging panel for a national book awards for non-fiction titles and with what remaining time I have left in the week, I work for Libraries Unlimited, the umbrella organisation for Devon Libraries.

I hope that you have found this short insight into my research and writing interesting. I am always happy to talk about my research and you can contact me easily via my social media pages below. If you are interested in the subject, please do get in touch.


Black Dog Folklore is available at

Magical Folk is available at

Fairy Tales and Folklore Reimagined is available at

Secret Invasion is available for charity donation at


The Folklore Podcast:

The Folklore Podcast:

Research and writing:

The Folklore Podcast: @folklorepod

Mark Norman: @Mr_Mark_Norman


Many thanks Mark,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

Interview with Rebecca Hall: Girl Gone Greek

I have a brand new visitor to my blog today, the lovely Rebecca Hall. Not only is Rebecca a travel writer, she has also written a novel about her adventures in Greece.

Why not grab a cuppa, pull up a chair, and put your feet for five minutes, and join in our chatter…

coffee and cake

What inspired you to write your book?

I lived in Greece for a while, teaching English. Now I divide my time between this beautiful country and the UK.  At the time (about 2010), Greece was going through a lot of negative press (and still is, to a certain degree).  It made me angry because what was being represented was not the Greece I knew, and not a true representation of the people I knew.  It insulted me to hear my adopted countrymen being accused of being lazy, insolent and the root of all the problems in the E.U. And so I set about writing, in novel format, my experiences of the Greece and her people.  I wanted to make it humorous and bring the characters to life, for people to see another side to Greece…one very much absent from the press.

GGG resize to 80

Do you model any of your characters after people you know? If so, do these people see themselves in your characters?

Absolutely! Girl Gone Greek is ‘faction’ really (fact in fiction format) and is based on my first year living in a remote Greek village as an EFL teacher.  The head of the school, the other teachers and the protagonist’s best friend all have character traits of people I’ve met, interacted with and developed friendships and relationships with.

Kaliopi, the best friend, was certainly modeled on my best Greek friend. And the real Kaliopi doesn’t mind at all.  She actually thanked me for highlighting elements of her character and psyche she never realized existed! (I hurriedly told her it was fiction so an element of poetic license was involved, but she seemed pleased nonetheless).

What type of research did you have to do for your book?

Much of Girl Gone Greek was taken from my own personal experiences.  I also included historical references to Greece’s past, especially about the (only quite recent) dictatorship in the 1970’s, a couple of references to specific events in Athens during World War II and recent events during the current troubled economic times.

For recent events, I was in Greece myself so I could ask my Greek friends to help me understand. The specific Dictatorship and World War II references are common knowledge to all Greeks, young and old so first hand accounts were quite easy to come by, luckily.  I was lucky to be able to get primary research.

Do you prefer to plot your story or just go with the flow?

Definitely the latter – just go with the flow. I am not a ‘rigid’ person generally and find following strict guidelines and rules in general in life very restricting (hence why I love the semi-chaos of Greece). Although maybe I should actually try to set myself a timeline and plot in advance because it took me a long time to write, learn about and then self-publish Girl Gone Greek.  And it’s also taking me a long time to get into the groove of writing my follow up novel.  Maybe if I had a deadline, this’d help me to discipline myself.

What excites you the most about your book?

The fact that it seems to excite others to want to come and experience another side to this wonderful country, with its aesthetic beauty and kind hearted people.   Lovers of Greece had left me reviews and / or emailed me personally to thank me for what I’ve written and for showing the humane side.  Greeks have thanked me for showing their country in a different light and for understanding their quirks.  It excites me to feel I can offer this to my adopted countrymen: make a difference to the way people view Greece, at least to the small percentage of people who read and like my book enough to want to explore more.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Girl Gone Greek is a humorous fictional, yet honest account of one woman’s experience in a small Greek village. The Greek people encountered every day in this country are enough to write a novel in itself! Drama is originally a Greek word – and there is enough drama in Greece to write many novels, even non-fiction!  But the Greeks know how to survive, and with it, offer philotimo (not a word, but a concept, meaning offering friendship to strangers).

I hope you’re encouraged to visit Greece and create your own Greek story.








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Girl Gone Greek is Rebecca Hall’s debut Contemporary Women’s Fiction Novel – available on Amazon.

After extensive global travels, Rebecca left the UK to return to the country she fell in love with—Greece, where she teaches English, writes and wryly observes that the chaotic nature of her adopted country actually suits her personality very well. All travel experiences, & particularly living in versatile cultures, have helped to shape who she is today. She is a Rough Guide co-author (Greece & The Greek Islands and Portugal) and has contributed to numerous publications including Apollo Business Class Magazine for Cyprus Airways and Let’s Go for RyanAir, the Daily Telegraph Travel Section and her container ship voyage from Athens to Hong Kong caught the eye of NPR National Radio in the United States, where she was interviewed twice.

When not writing, you’ll usually find her drinking coffee with friends, or sourcing a new place to eat baklava.


Many thanks Rebecca. Excellent interview.

If you are in the South West, and want to meet Rebecca in person, she will be talking at this year’s Tiverton Literary Festival (8th-12th June)- details coming soon.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


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