Lancaster Setting for Rosie's Debut Novel

Rosie Phenix-Walker

Rosie Sawicz, known as Rosie Phenix-Walker at University (Psychology, 2007, Furness) talks about how her time in and around Lancaster provided the backdrop to her debut novel due to be published in July 2020.

"I’m proud to say that my years at Lancaster University (2004-2007) made me the person I am today, a debut novelist about to have my first book published. ‘Secrets of a Serial Killer’ comes out on 17 July (ebook) and 15 October (paperback) from HarperCollins / One More Chapter.

My undergraduate subject was Psychology, which I recommend to aspiring novelists and anyone interested in the way human beings operate. It’s fascinating to learn how the brain works, and what happens when it doesn’t work like it should. Like many students, at Lancaster University I learned how to stay up late to meet a last-minute deadline, and that reading the recommended texts is actually a very good idea if you want to pass your course. Those skills translate well into post-graduation life if you’re an author, especially if you’re balancing a full-time job while you write your first book.

To my surprise, however, the strongest, most long-lasting friendships I made at Lancaster University were with the fellow students I met while volunteering for Lancaster Nightline. I am still close with many of them today, 13 years after graduation. Unlike course mates who shared a general academic interest, Nightliners seemed to share a core nature. We volunteered because we wanted to help our fellow students, and the principles of anonymity and confidentiality meant that we didn’t mind if our friends never knew what we did, and our callers couldn’t thank us or know our names. Joining that society was the most life-changing and mind-opening decision I made in my student years, and opened my mind to volunteering throughout the rest of my adult life.

I fell in love with Lancaster as a student, wandering through the city and the surrounding countryside, exploring the river, the canal, the sea and the hills. On one such wander, I stumbled across the derelict Moor Hospital, at the time awaiting redevelopment. Huge, dark and imposing, the building was breath-taking and I wanted to get closer. Sadly, just as I found a handy hole in the fence, a diligent security guard appeared out of nowhere and stopped me. A thwarted adventure, but a moment which ignited something in me: ‘Secrets of a Serial Killer’ is set in and around a derelict hospital in Lancaster, just like the old Moor and the Royal Albert, now beautifully redeveloped and preserved."

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