Prey is the first novel I have published.
Its genesis is in the four years I spent farming in Southern Ireland and the grounds and house are based loosely on the house I lived in . The experience with the sheep is real. Something never to be forgotten, but also not to be remembered.
“They walked in silence across the shockingly green grass. He pointed towards one of the beech trees. Penny followed the direction of his finger and saw something at once extraordinary and grotesque, something out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting. A sheep with two heads – one at the front and one at the rear. The sheep turned to get a choice piece of grass and the head sticking out if its arse swung across, its eyes flickering open for a moment, a pink, swollen tongue protruding from between blackened lips. The lamb’s head was loose and limp on its neck, the ewe apparently unaware. It was the most disgusting and fascinating thing that she had ever seen: this monster set down in a green and pleasant field with the soft evening coming in across the trees. What was most horrifying was the ewe’s absolute acceptance. How the fuck, Penny thought, can you just wander about with that sticking out of your arse? She turned to the old man. He was watching her, his single tooth gnawing at his lower lip. She opened her eyes wide. “What’s going on?” she said. “What is that?”
“You can say that again. I wouldn’t like that sticking out of my backside.” The old man gave no reaction. “Now what?”
“We get it out.”
The old man nodded, took a battered metal tin out of his pocket, inserted a roll-up between his thin cracked lips. He inhaled the smoke deeply. “We,” he repeated. “My hands are too big.”
“To do what?” Penny had a sudden and horrible comprehension of what the answer was going to be.
“Get inside her.” He picked a fleck of tobacco from his lower lip.
“There is no way that I am going to stick my hand up a sheep’s arse.”
“It’s not her arse you’ll be sticking your hand up.”
Penny flushed hot.”
Based on fact except it was me put my hand up the sheep’s not arse!
A central section of Prey is set in a walled garden and I did a lot of research about walled gardens. One specific scene is set in an ice house. It seems amazing to me that the level of wealth existed which allowed for the creation of a pond so that the water could freeze in the winter and then be loaded into a building specially constructed so that those in the big house could have ice in their drinks during the summer