Over the years it’s something I’ve come to terms with and accept, but that’s not been so easy for those that know me. When they get me talking about my writing, always reluctantly at first but then quickening with enthusiasm until it’s like trying to jam the cork back into a bottle of Prosecco, I finally realise I’ve gone too far, revealed too much and they’re all staring at me with open mouths, with some even shuffling back a step.
To give you an idea of the usual reactions, here are three.
The first was uttered by my wife after she read the book I’ll be publishing soon.
“What the hell did you write that for?”
This from my mother, spoken with a slightly bemused expression on her face.
“Why can’t you write something like Catherine Cookson?”
And finally from my concerned mother in law.
“Why do you feel the need to write these things?”
The truth is I’ve always been interested in the macabre, grisly things and the suspicion that the world is far stranger and darker than would first appear.
I vividly remember when I was about eleven; my friend and I discovered a dirty hessian sack filled with bloody maggot infested body parts. For several incredibly intense heart-stalling moments I thought we’d found a dead body, or more than one, victims of some rampant serial killer. The truth was a little less sensational, but nonetheless irresistible to a young boy, the sack of bloody bits had been left by sheep rustlers – legs and heads, hair and offal. I remember the police were quite interested in our find, but I never found out if the sack and its gruesome contents had ever led them to make any arrests.
As a child I remember being fascinated by death and used to draw violent and horrific images, and I remember my mother being particularly worried, I just found them compelling. I suspect my teachers too probably had concerns about my imagination, and I’m sure they must have approached my parents, although I can’t be sure. Today, everyone would probably blame it all on the influence of television, but I’m sure the most disturbing thing I watched was Saturday morning Swap Shop.
My love of Hammer films came later, and later still I was the victim of an attempted murder: I’ve seen the fevered but dethatched stare of a would be killer up close, and I know how close I came to ending up on a slab.
These things might have been forgotten had I not been born with a writer’s brain, these days, the haunted house of my earlier life with its occasional dark and creepy interludes are the raw materials that I draw on.
As for books and fiction, I do have a predilection for the darker material. It’s the disturbing stuff that sticks in my mind the most. Since I want to write fiction that lingers in the mind of my reader, I have to use my own relationship with fiction as my guide. Thus, if I want to be honest and write with conviction, I have to aim for the dark side.
I’m afraid that’s how I roll.