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Tracy in choir stallsI’ve been fascinated by cathedrals since I was a teenager and began exploring the one in my hometown of Washington DC. A few years ago I decided to write a novel set around a cathedral. Many have interesting stories attached, and few more so than Winchester.

There is the famous tale of English Civil War soldiers throwing kings’ bones through a huge stained glass window. Or perhaps the story about the diver William Walker, who singlehandedly shored up the Cathedral’s foundations. Or Jane Austen’s grave, which doesn’t even mention that she was a celebrated author. I visited Winchester with those stories in mind for a novel.

Instead I was drawn to a set of 56 unusual embroidered cushions, as well as hundreds of kneelers, made by a group of volunteer women in the 1930s for the Choir stalls and Presbytery seats. I started to think about what such a group would have been like: the petty politics, the intrigues, the secrets. I conjured up a heroine – Violet Speedwell, one of the post-war “surplus women” unlikely to marry – and dropped her into the group, to see what would happen. The result is A Single Thread.

Tracy's Top Ten Cathedrals

Chartres

Chartres

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Salisbury

Salisbury

Ely

Ely

Liverpool

Liverpool

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

Wells, Somerset

Wells, Somerset

Basilica San Marco, Venice

Basilica San Marco, Venice

Winchester

Winchester

Westminster Catholic

Westminster Catholic