I think it is high time I shared with my readers my chief inspiration as a horror novelist. To do so I have to take you back a number of years to a moment which retains a prominent place in my heart and my mind. It was a memorable occasion and has stayed with me ever since. I discovered a horror writer who touched me to such an all-consuming extent that I realized I wanted my own writing to mirror hers. By this I mean the basic framework she used to draw in her readers and the adventures she took them on.
Okay, I should not think of going any further in this blog until I tell you who this writer is. Her name is Clare McNally, an American author who at the time I discovered her resided in Long Island. She wrote supernatural novels which involved ghosts in the centre of her storylines. Right from the very first moment I read one of her books I was hooked. I loved how she used historical eras to take her readers in a mysterious direction away from their daily concerns and into a world they were not acquainted with. This was a great starting point but the strength of her narrative only served to engross her readers the further they went in the gripping tales she told.
I have always thought of Clare as a fine suspense writer. She had this ability to keep me on the edge of my seat whenever I read one of her books. I seemed to live through the scenes she described in one novel after another. I cared passionately about her characters and worried every time they fell foul of the sinister ghosts which came into their lives.
I discovered Clare’s work in the early to mid eighties. I came across one of her books in a Glasgow bookstore located in Glasgow central station. I was waiting for a train back home to Ayr which is a coastal town on the south west of Scotland.
I was taken in by the scary book cover and the blurb at the back of the book. On reading a few pages I found I could not leave that store until I had that book safely in my possession so purchased it forthwith.
I believe the first Clare McNally book I purchased was one entitled ‘Ghost House,’ one of her early works. It was a tremendous tale, but I think I will postpone a look at this book and others in her collection for the My influences section. She deserves a section of her own next to the likes of Stephen King and Graham Masterton that is for sure. Besides I really want to tell you about the main reason why I look upon her as a great inspiration to me as a writer right up to the present day.
First and foremost I have always loved how Clare made children the main characters in her novels. All of the horror seems to surround them. I have always thought this was an excellent ploy. I mean just think about this for a moment: how frightening is it as a reader to find children being placed in danger rather than grown ups? There is a greater element of danger, in my opinion, when children are placed in peril as opposed to adults. It works even better if these children are as innocent as can be. And by this I mean before they grow into their teens.
I would have to admit this is where Clare and myself go our separate ways. She does have teenagers in some of her novels but you will find none in mine. This is because I have this view that when children enter their teens they can become rebellious, talking back to their elders (and betters!). I do not wish to drag myself into the world of irrational teenagers with their aggressive mood swings and unpleasant characteristics. Don’t get me wrong: there are some delightful teenagers out there, talented youngsters who one can admire. There are also plenty of them who do not conduct themselves in a negative way. It is merely a personal fad of my own that I wish my fictional children to be as pure of heart as possible. So I never write any child into my stories unless they are ten or under. Yes, I know there will be some who might say “you could go to eleven and twelve, you know: they’re still not teenagers.” Very true, but this has never come up to date.
I have written four novels so far which could be termed supernatural. In three of them children play a leading role in the action. The odd one out is ‘The Cornwall Ghost Story’ where a woman is really the leading player. That is something of a departure for me. There are two young children who are involved in the ghostly visitations. They are the woman’s children but they do not play a main part in the action. This, however, is unusual for me. Ordinarily, I would place young children in harm’s way, having them go up against the ghostly influence which abounds in any particular tale and then see how they will fare.
So, Clare McNally has proved herself over the course of time to be a great inspiration to me. She has provided me with the framework from which to create my own ghostly tales. For this I am extremely grateful. I still read her novels to this day even though she does not seem to have written any books after about the mid to late nineties. I’ve always liked her writing style: it flows easily from the printed page. I suppose you could say she has a simple style, but in this case simple is best as I find her stories endlessly entertaining. They are books I can return to time and time again which is just as well as I have read one of her books (‘Ghost Light’) nine times! That should give you as good an indication as any as to how much I love her work.