On writing

Lesley Pearse on the inspiration behind the The Woman in the Wood

Author Lesley Pearse explains how the 'witchy' vibe of England's New Forest inspired her latest novel, The Woman in the Wood

People are always asking me where the ideas for my books come from, and usually I can’t answer as the truth is they just pop into my head, usually uninvited.

But The Woman in the Wood was different. I’d never been to the New Forest before, and when a friend suggested we went there for a couple of days I happily agreed.

As soon as we began driving through the forest towards Burley where we were staying, I got a sort of Witchy vibe. Suddenly I was imagining a woman living like a recluse in a little shack. It was quite a shock to find that Burley was once the home of a famous witch called Sybil Leek. In fact all the shops were full of witchy souvenirs. I took that as an omen and started seriously thinking about a book set in that village.

The shack of famous witch Sybil Leek

I didn’t want my woman to be a witch, just a little odd, but entirely misunderstood because of that. Added to that I had fifteen year old twins Duncan and Maisy being sent to live with their grandmother because their mother has been put into an asylum. They were bound to be intrigued by someone rumoured to be mad, when it was said their mother was too.

The Woman in the Wood is a dark story. It is about people not being as they seem; family secrets,  and adults who because of the way they were treated as children can be anything from exceedingly dangerous, to merely unable to express their feelings.  Maisy and Duncan have much to learn from all the adults, and danger is never far away. 

More about the author

The Woman in the Wood

Lesley Pearse

'A gripping new novel' HELLO! Magazine

London, 1960

The lives of teenage twins Maisy and Duncan change forever the night their sick mother is taken to an asylum. Sent to live in the New Forest with their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham, they feel unloved and abandoned.

And when one day Duncan doesn't come home from exploring in the forest, no one - least of all his grandmother - appears to care about his disappearance. The police, who've found the bodies of other missing boys, offer little hope of finding Duncan alive.

Yet Maisy refuses to give up. Though she doesn't know the woods well, she knows someone who does. The strange old woman who lives at their heart.

Dare Maisy enlist the help of the woman in the wood?


'A real page-turner, a family story that is multi-layered just as you'd expect from Lesley Pearse, who is deservedly one of the world's favourite story tellers' My Weekly

'Characters it is impossible not to care about . . . this is storytelling at its very best' Daily Mail

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