Welcome to the first in a probable series of blog entries detailing the stories behind the ideas and writing of some of my books. The reason for doing this is simply because I, as a reader, like finding out the thought processes and ideas behind the writing of books I read and it is therefore possible that some of you might be a little interested in the same behind my own books. I could be wrong, in which case no one will read beyond this point but, what the hell, I’m doing it anyway!
A lot (if not all) of this will have been said in other posts or on Facebook, Twitter and so on in the past, but this will be the first time it’s all gathered together in one gelatinous mess.
One final note – I’m doing all of this from memory. I’m not going back to the books and reading them again, that would be a dull and predictable thing to do. What follows are my memories, without a safety net. Talk about living on the edge 🙂
Welcome Home began life as a determination to write a haunted house story for my wife, Cathy. She had complained, not long before, that I wrote horror and hadn’t done a ghost story. In fact, to her mind, no one wrote ghosts stories anymore, without blood and guts and so on. As far as I’m aware she has never read such classics as the ghost stories of M R James or the more recent ghost stories of writers like T M Wright or Shirley Jackson. But I understood what she meant. The majority of well known horror both in fiction and on screen were, at the time, of the slasher/killer/gory style. I therefore determined I would write an old fashioned haunted house story for her.
The second thing feeding in to this at the time was a single line – ‘The house cried’. It was in my head.
So began the original draft of Welcome Home, with the words ‘The house cried’ and the scene being Victoria standing before the abandoned house, in the rain, waiting for her husband to return with an estate agent in tow. The only plan in mind was the old tale of the house being haunted and Victoria finding out why.
The setting. Cheshire.
At the time I started writing this, we were spending a lot of our weekends driving into Cheshire, through Beeston, out Nantwich way and beyond. Lovely areas and lots of country lanes to drive along. Plus lots of small villages and towns and isolated houses. The setting for my new ghost story seemed obvious. Later on, other things would feed into the story, such as the computer training I had done for Cheshire Police, at their headquarters by the race course in Chester.
The problem: boredom.
Not long after I started writing, I hit a problem. It was dull. While I liked the main character, the story held no real interest for me and so I could hardly expect any readers to be interested either. I don’t think I’m cut out to write a traditional haunted house story – I enjoy action, drama, blood and guts in writing my horror (and my science fiction for that matter), and I was struggling to hold this story back. In the end, I gave up and released the reigns. It all started to build from there.
I kept the basic idea of the abandoned house, and Victoria being drawn to it, pushing her husband into buying it. I kept the Cheshire setting, the isolated houses, the small village (the fictitious Taupington). I even kept the ghosts in the house, but gave them a little twist, feeding into Victoria’s hidden past and even casting some doubt on whether they are actual ghosts at all (I leave that, to a point, for the reader to decide). Other than that, the whole direction and ‘feel’ of the book changed dramatically.
It became a serial killer book, with some supernatural overtones. It became a violent, in-your-face horror. Most importantly, it became a lot more fun to write and, I hope, to read. Sorry Cathy.
The one other major decision was to write some of the chapters from the killer’s point of view, in first person. To try and make this as believable as possible, I dug into the darkest parts of myself and pushed it that bit further. One of my favourite comments from a review of Welcome Home is that the serial killer parts read like an actual serial killer retelling his past crimes. I love that, because it means I succeeded, at least for that reader. If it reveals some slightly worrying things about the way my own mind works in the process… well so be it.
That’s pretty much it. Obviously there was a fair bit of plotting, a lot of struggling with the connections between characters, a huge amount of writing and rewriting, but the basis of the book was there.
I distinctly remember finishing the first draft. I stayed up all night Christmas Eve, typing away on a work laptop I had the use of at the time, and actually typed THE END on Christmas morning, half an hour before the kids woke up to open their presents… about 4 in the morning. The feeling was wonderful. I still love that feeling of finishing the first draft of a new piece.
The cover of the final book is from a photograph by Amanda Norman, and the lettering and layout over it is by Steve Upham. I am fortunate to know such talented and generous people.
The following book trailer was done for me by my good friend, the annoyingly multi-talented Tony Longworth.
If you have read the book, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have not yet read it, I hope it might interest you enough to give it a try. If you do, write a review and let me (and everyone else) know what you thought, good or bad.