I am retired and live in the mountains of Southern Spain. I have always loved ghost and horror stories, and I have always longed to write, but I was too busy earning a living until ten years ago when we retired.
What is it about the paranormal, in particular ghosts, that fascinates you so much?
I have been fascinated by the idea of ghosts for as long as I can remember. All my life I have collected ghost stories told to me by friends and sometimes strangers under bizarre circumstances. The story The Apple Tree was inspired by the averred true story told to me by a fellow student one very drunken evening after the college ball. I like the idea that there are things out there that we can’t explain. There is, if you like, another world which operates by different rules and anything can happen. I mean, how exciting is that?
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve had a lot of the stories in my head for years, but none of them were written down. After I came to Spain I started writing stories and articles for a local magazine and about half of the tales in this book were originally published then. The rest were stories I wrote for competitions or simply stories that were ready to be written down. I eventually realized I had enough for a collection.
Please tell us about your latest release.
Take One At Bedtime is an anthology of horror, Sci-Fi and romance stories, most of which have supernatural content.
Here is the blurb:
Nobody ever goes upstairs in Margaret’s house. So what is making the strange thumping noises up there? And why is there a toy rabbit under the kitchen table?
Margaret’s Ghost is just one of a collection of short stories consisting mainly of horror and science fiction, ranging from a classic gothic tale – Jack Trevellyn – to the Wyndhamesque Victim of Fortune, and the modern Waiting for Daddy, with its spine-chilling twist.
There is also the occasional excursion into romance with A Castle in Spain and Jess’s Girl.
But most of these tales take you to a place which is not quite as it seems.
It’s bedtime now. Time to go upstairs. Time to take a look.
Just one look.
WARNING: Do not exceed the stated dose.
Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
I never make up names. All my characters have existing names, most of them very ordinary.
Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?
I rather like the mother in The Problem with Mother. She is forceful and doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.
Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?
All my characters just happen. I don’t consciously develop them. Once they exist, they take on a life of their own and I don’t have to make any effort.
What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?
I rather like this scene from Victim of Fortune:
She reached up and switched on a hanging lamp above the table, then marched across to the door and switched off the main light. Instantly the room was plunged into near total darkness. Only the space in the middle of the table was illuminated with a deep, rosy glow. He noticed that the lamp was draped in some soft, silky material of a deep red. Behind him came a stumbling sound and a muffled curse as the old woman tripped over something on her way back to the table.
After some fumbling, she resumed her seat and carefully unwrapped the object she had removed from the windowsill. It was a simple glass globe on a wooden stand, but she gazed at it reverently as if it were a holy relic.
Passing her hands over the top of it several times and crooning under her breath, her face bloodied by the red light, she could have been some ancient priestess communing with her dreadful gods. Gradually, he began to get the impression that her face was under-lit, that the globe itself was giving out a milky luminescence. She closed her eyes and swayed slightly, then opened them wider than before and peered into the globe.
“I can see a strange land,” she declared in a sonorous chant, her voice suddenly taking on a deep and powerful note. “It is a dreadful place, all red desert and black rocks. And it is hot.” She drew her hands back from the globe as if she could feel the heat scorching her flesh. “So hot.” She moaned.
She seemed to have forgotten the presence of the young man and he leaned forward, trying to see into the globe. It remained clear and empty, bland and innocuous.
“There are terrible storms here. The winds rage over the surface and rains fall on the black rocks. A terrible place.” She drew her breath in a long whistle. “The rain is poisonous. Nobody could live here. How could anyone live in this desolate place?”
She lifted her eyes and looked at him, but it was clear that she wasn’t really seeing him. In a daze, she returned to the crystal.
“Yet there are people here. There are buildings, and I can see people walking amongst them. I think they are people.”
She uttered a low moan, closed her eyes and shuddered, then her eyes snapped open and she looked directly at him, seeing him.
“You!” she cried. “You come from this place!”
Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?
I am presently writing a story about the mantequero, which is the Spanish equivalent of a vampire. It is a nightmare figure used to frighten children into good behavior and its main characteristic is to suck the fat from your bones. When I researched it I discovered that, as with vampires there have been real life people who believed themselves to be vampires and murdered people and drank their blood, so there have been real life mantequeros who killed people and stripped the fat from their bodies and sold it. Isn’t that spooky?
What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?
I have visited countless haunted houses and never seen anything myself, but I have talked to many people who have seen ghosts, the most believable being a highly intelligent and respectable museum curator, who regularly saw ghosts in the house he looked after.
Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?
Quite a lot of my characters share characteristics with me. I hadn’t noticed any major similarities until my line editor said she loved the theme of revenge that ran through the stories. I initially denied this and then realized she was right. Not all of them, but a significant amount, are about revenge. I realized I was using the stories to get my own back.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Never. I had so many stories in my head for so many years that I haven’t run out yet. And there are always new ones coming up. I live in dread that it will happen one day.
Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?
I don’t think so. Unless it’s weird to wait until the story has brewed, so to speak, in my head and then download it all in one go.
Do you write in different genres?
I’ve just written a historical romance, set in Southern Spain in the 1950s. There are subtle suggestions of the supernatural, but it’s basically straight-forward historical fiction.
Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?
I’ve never been able to write a murder mystery, even though I love the genre and read lots of it. But I have no difficulty writing horror, Sci-Fi and romance; although I think they quite often overlap. Several of the ghost stories, for example could just as easily be interpreted as travel through time or other dimensions.
When did you consider yourself a writer?
I think I always thought I might be a writer, but didn’t really take myself seriously till I was published in the magazine. Seeing your name in print at the top of the page makes it real.
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I’m really boring. I read – a LOT – knit and do logic puzzles. I used to sing in folk clubs in England.
What was the last amazing book you read?
Kate Atkinson’s When Will There be Good News.
Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?
I read everywhere. On buses, in cafes, in the bath. Anywhere. I always have a book within reach.
What can readers expect next from you?
Domingo’s Angel, the historical novel I told you about, coming out this month. And I have a story appearing in Curious Hearts, an anthology about altered lives. I don’t yet know the publication date.
Where can readers find you on the web?
Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?
Here is an excerpt from Waiting for Daddy:
The voice receded and she felt a lurch of panic in the pit of her stomach. So that was it. Quite distinctly she felt every separate hair on her scalp move, as if a small electric current was passing over her head, and felt the goose pimples come up in little hard knots on her arms. She looked down and saw them standing out, each with its individual shadow in the bluish light of the television screen. And at the same moment she heard the footsteps coming down the stairs.
They came stealthily, almost too quietly to be the footsteps of an adult man, but she knew who it was. He was coming for her and he would kill her. And there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. Her mind leapt and panicked, but her body refused to move. Every muscle locked, her knuckles white as she gripped the arms of the chair.
The smell of after-shave grew even more powerful, coming in great waves, Old Spice mingled with extra alcohol. She’d know it anywhere. Desperately she tried to make herself move. She felt if she could just get going, just move a fingertip, it would release her from the spell. Some detached part of her mind was amused to note that the hairs on her head were still moving independently even though she was utterly unable to move her limbs. She focussed with all her might and her left leg twitched slightly. “Run, run,” she urged silently, “Get out of the house”. She’d have to leave Kitty and at the thought a huge wave of guilt swept over her. But he wouldn’t hurt Kitty. He had never hurt the child.
And then it came. She felt the thump as the blade came down through her back and into her lungs. But, oddly, no pain, just the blow and a warm, wet sensation spreading across and down her back.