In Search of Fear ….. with Helen Matthews

American actress Vera Miles stars as Lila Crane in the horror classic ‘Psycho’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Mid -February already? I hope you’re all doing ok and managing to get through lockdown with some positive experiences. It’s tough but I hope you’re keeping well and reading lots! This week I have the good fortune of having author Helen Matthews here to talk about what scares her, and also what doesn’t…..

Thanks for inviting me, Anne-Marie. I’m a trespasser on your blog because I’m not actually scared of anything ghostly or supernatural or of dead people. I live in a 200-year-old house and I find the thought of all the people who have lived and died within these walls comforting not spooky. The things that scare me are connected with real life and, in particular, the thought of any harm coming to my loved ones, especially my children. 

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I was more disturbed by the sad parts of movies – Bambi’s mother dying in the Disney film or horses being whipped and mistreated in Black Beauty. I didn’t find wicked witches very convincing. Old movies and tear jerkers used to make me cry and I remember watching them with my younger sister who would position herself so she could watch my face and jeer at me when tears were about to spill over.

What was your biggest fear as a child?

When I was young we lived in an inner city of Cardiff which was quite run down and moved to the suburbs when I was seven. The suburb had sprung up around a village and was on the fringes of the countryside where my friends and I, from a young age, could go off, with no grown ups, and wander all day, exploring fields and woods, climbing trees, tramping alongside canals and over hills and investigating old quarries. I absolutely loved the freedom but my mum, who’d always been a city dweller, hated the countryside it and, as she didn’t have a car, she felt trapped. She was always threatening we would move back to the city and I was constantly anxious she’d persuade my dad and carry out the threat.

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?

I do like scary movies but I think the old ones, such as ‘The Shining’ or the version of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ starring Sissey Spacek, are way better than recent ones. Scary movies should rely on suggestion and a light touch to frighten the audience. I still remember how the audience collectively leapt out of their seats at the end of ‘Carrie’ but that particular scene has now been copied to death. I saw the latest version of Stephen King’s ‘IT’ and was practically in hysterics of laughter the whole time because it was so incredibly bad. Those bouncing clowns’ heads – OMG. Nothing was scary. It was like bad pantomime. It makes me sad that the current generation of film goers have been so desensitised by seeing way too much blood and gore. It seems film directors believe they have to put every gross detail in the audience’s face to provoke a reaction.

My go to for scares has always been ghosts. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

I don’t believe in ghosts but I’ve often sensed something in the atmosphere of a room in the hours immediately after someone has died. I’m not religious but I’d call it spiritual. Both my parents have died, my mum died quite recently and my sister and I stayed at her bedside in a hospital side room for three days, sleeping on the floor. It was hard to see Mum battling with death, though we knew she was tired of living and ready to go. When she passed, the room seemed to fill with peace as if her spirit or her ghost was trying to reassure us.

Has a book ever really scared you?

I write psychological suspense, which is classified within crime but in the sub-genre where you have flawed characters and unreliable narrators and good people doing bad things. You don’t have explicit descriptions of gory murders or decomposing bodies because the fear and suspense comes, not from external forces, such as a serial killer, but from within. It’s no less scary, especially in domestic noir, because the characters are likely to be trapped in a domestic setting where they should be safe.

I occasionally read mainstream crime and the author whose novels have terrified me the most is Mo Hayder. I read ‘The Treatment’ and ‘Birdman’ in a state of jaw dropping shock. I was stunned at the gross and terrifying scenarios she dreamed up for her victims, but even more amazed that she had written it because I’d be – like – I don’t think I want my mum/dad/boss/neighbour to read this. I couldn’t write those sort of scenes but I’m impressed that she can.

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels?

This is an extract from my novel ‘After Leaving the Village’. It’s a suspense thriller that deals with dark and gritty theme of human trafficking but it’s pitched at a human scale. We walk in the footsteps of seventeen year old Odeta, who comes from a remote village in Albania where she works in her father’s shop and thinks nothing interesting will ever happen to her again. And then a man called Kreshnik, who she thinks is her boyfriend, tells her about the fun she’d have, and the money she’d make, if she travelled with him to London. This scene is when they’ve just arrived at the airport in London.

From ‘After Leaving the Village’ – chapter 6

“Wait here,” says Kreshnik, leaving Odeta with the luggage trolley. He strides through the hall, swiping at his phone and punching in a number. He’s no longer the tallest man in the crowd. There are black guys and blonde Nordics, who are practically giants but still he stands out. He stops in the middle of the concourse, engrossed in his phone call and blocking a thoroughfare so couples have to break apart and pass either side of him.

Odeta notices a thickset man, wearing a leather jacket, step down from one of the café  stools and stand for a moment staring out into the crush of people. This man, too, is holding a mobile phone pressed against the side of his head. Kreshnik’s eyes are still scanning the crowd and the other man spots him first. His eyes narrow and his face sags into a scowl. Now they are striding purposefully towards one another, slipping their phones back into their pockets.

They halt an arm’s length apart; they don’t shake hands and show no pleasure in the act of recognition. It can’t be the cousin, perhaps it’s some driver. The stranger thrusts a hand inside his jacket pocket and draws out an envelope. Odeta can’t quite see, but it looks like a letter: a very thick one. He hands it to Kreshnik who accepts it with a nod. He doesn’t open it but holds it in his hand. The two men turn and look in her direction, Kreshnik gesturing with his thumb. He must be discussing her with the fat man. She blushes as they amble towards her, Kreshnik keeping pace with the dumpy stranger but not looking at him. When they reach her they stand very close. It’s an odd sensation like being enclosed by a copse of trees: Kreshnik, a lofty willow, the other man a stubby, spreading bush. She tests out a smile of welcome on the stranger. 

“This man, Kostandin will take you to your accommodation,” says Kreshnik. He fiddles with the envelope he’s holding, folds it in half and pushes it into his pocket.

“But you’re coming too?” Her voice stutters and rises turning her statement into a question. 

He shakes his head and examines his shoes. 

“I don’t understand.” Her heart is hammering as she stares at Kostandin’s tight leather jacket, noticing how the zipper gapes open to a point midway down his chest; its vast, jagged teeth remind her of Afrim’s toy dinosaur. She winces as a hand clamps onto her arm above the elbow, the fat man has hold of her. In her bewilderment, nausea constricts her throat.

“Get off,” she jabs her elbow backwards but she can’t shake off his grip. “Kreshnik make him let go of me.”

But Kreshnik is fidgeting with his cuff. He takes out a cigarette, positions it between his index and third fingers but doesn’t light it. The other man, Kostandin peels his lips back in a grin exposing two front teeth, chipped into triangles. He spits a wad of chewing gum into his free hand and drops it on the floor. 

“Kreshnik,” she pleads, grabbing hold of his sleeve and tugging. She feels dizzy, her eyes flit around without focusing. “What’s going on? Stop being so weird.” Passers-by pause to stare but they don’t understand Albanian.

“Shush,” he says, raising a finger to his lips. He leans towards her, clears his throat and speaks rapidly. “Now listen, Odeta. Be a good girl and go with Kostandin. Do as he says and everything will be fine. There’s nothing to worry about. I have business to attend to, I’ll be away for a while and, when I get back, we’ll be together. Okay?”

She stares into his face and notices his eyes are shuttered against her. His forehead is shiny, he looks pale and he’s breathing heavily. Is he ill? “I don’t want to go with him,” she claws at his arm, her voice dry and cracking. “Let me come with you. I won’t be any trouble.” 

Kreshnik takes a step away from her. His expression is grim but he looks at her with a deep sadness that she’ll never forget. He does love me – she’s sure of it now – but why does he look so unhappy? Something has happened here in London; some business must have gone horribly wrong.

Tearfully, she lunges towards him, reaching for his arm but grasping thin air as he steps back. She loses her footing and stumbles. Kostandin still has hold of her arm, pulls her back to her feet and, in that moment of distraction, Kreshnik slips away. She sees him striding towards a sign that says ‘Exit’. “No,” she wails. “Come back.” 

People turn and stare at her but they don’t speak Albanian and don’t want to get involved. Her heart is smashing against her ribcage as she watches Kreshnik’s figure grow smaller and smaller until it’s a tiny speck. And then he’s gone.

In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?

My greatest fear is the thought of anything happening to my children. I have two amazing children, who are now in their twenties, and my only desire is for them to be happy, safe, fulfilled and achieve their potential (I realise that’s quite a long list!) . A few years ago my son was travelling on a school ski trip heading for Austria when we heard on the news about a massive crash on the motorway near Cologne,  involving a coach carrying a school ski group from the UK. Children were badly injured and least one was killed. It was several hours before we heard my son’s school party were safe and not involved. On that Saturday, while we made desperate phone calls , trying to get news, I felt a depth of despair I didn’t think was possible. I can only imagine the anguish of the parents of the student in that other coach who was killed. 

Unfortunately for me, both my kids have chosen dangerous careers and hobbies. One is a police officer: a front line responder and blue light driver (but handy for me when I want police procedure in my novels fact-checked). The other cycles to work in London, which terrifies me. He also travelled around India alone, when he was only eighteen years old, and his main hobby is rock climbing! 

Perhaps that’s why I can’t waste any energy being scared of ghosts. Worrying about my kids is terrifying enough.

Thank you so much for joining me Helen, and for sharing your fears. Totally agree with you about IT – I loved it until it got silly. But you can’t beat classic horrors like Carrie and The Shining!

This weekend you can get Facade for free for your Kindle! Head on over to Amazon on 14th or 15th of Feb and you can download it for zero pence!

My author website is at:

Follow me on social media at:

Checkout my novels here:

My latest novel Façade is a dark and gripping family mystery

After Leaving the Village

Lies Behind the Ruin

In Search of Fear …..with Kate Braithwaite

The Fear Blog is being taken over this week by author Kate Braithwaite! Author of the bestselling novel ‘The Girl Puzzle’, she knows a thing or two about fear…..

Nellie Bly, Journalist: Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

I think most women know the fear of being followed. We’ve been out late at night and walked alone down a dark street alert to every sound. We’ve scrutinize every shadow, clutched at our phones in our pockets, measured the distance between street lights, listened out for footsteps, and held our breath at passing cars, dreading that one might slow down and stop.

              Very early on in my novel The Girl Puzzle – a story of Nellie Bly, the main character is followed and attacked on a quiet street at night. It’s September 1887, and Elizabeth Cochrane, a twenty-three year old journalist, later known by her pen name, Nellie Bly, is on the verge of abandoning her dream of working for one of the big New York City newspapers. No editor is prepared to hire a woman. Journalism, they say, is man’s work. When Elizabeth fends off her attacker and escapes to the safety of her boarding house, she’s unhurt, but has lost her purse and all her money. The theft prompts her to make one last attempt to gain a job at the New York World. She talks her way into seeing Joseph Pulitzer and he agrees to give her work… but only if she can fake madness, get herself committed to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum, and report on conditions from the inside. Most people would think twice. But most people, she was not.

              Although The Girl Puzzle is a novel, it’s heavily based in fact. Elizabeth Cochrane was a real person, born in Pennsylvania in 1864. The newspaper world didn’t welcome women journalists and she really did have to prove herself by spending ten days in a madhouse. When she was released she wrote two major newspaper articles about the experience and became an overnight sensation. She described the conditions, the overcrowding, the poor food, the inadequate doctors and cruel nurses, and undermined public confidence in the asylum system. How could a sane person so easily have fooled doctors and judges? Who else might be incarcerated by mistake? And what kind of society looked after its people in such a fashion?

              What she didn’t reveal in those articles, however, is the very real fear she must have experienced— and that was my impetus for writing The Girl Puzzle, with dual stories of her asylum adventure and her return to New York after World War I. Nellie Bly had an extraordinary life, and the starting point was this incredibly risky decision, taken at just twenty-three years old. Just imagine what she went through…

              For one thing, she put her faith in the word of two newspaper men, that if she got in, they would get her out. She barely knew them, and her plan to get committed involved convincing a judge that she was insane. She fooled doctors at New York’s Bellevue Hospital too, convincing them that she should be shipped over to Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt’s Island) in the East River and locked up indefinitely. There was no agreement as to how long they would leave her there. She must have felt rescue could come any minute… or never.

              Then there were the physical risks of entering the asylum. “With all my bravery,” she wrote, “I felt a chill at the prospect of being shut up with a fellow-creature who was really insane.” Small and slight, Elizabeth was no match for many of the women in Blackwell’s Asylum, some of whom were roped together to keep them under control on daily walks around the island. The nurses were also a threat. Uneducated and poorly paid, faced with overcrowded rooms of distressed women, they often resorted to physical means to keep the inmates cowed and quiet. Like any other new patient, Elizabeth was stripped of her own clothes, publicly washed from head to toe. Nighttime was no safer than daytime. She recorded an inmate creeping around between the beds one night. On another occasion, sleeping in a room of her own, two men, a doctor and his friend, visited her in the middle of the night. “Shall I endure it if the worst comes,” she wrote, “or shall I tell them who I am?”

Elizabeth Cochrane’s fearlessness was one of her most defining characteristics, and her bravery changed lives. Conditions in the asylum were vastly improved after her release and more women found their way into journalism. While she never dwelt on what she felt emotionally, there’s no doubt she feared for her safety and even her sanity. Two months in Blackwell’s Asylum, she declared, would make a sane and healthy woman “a mental and physical wreck.” But she went through it anyway.

How did she do it? I suspect because her biggest fear something else entirely. She feared failing in her stated aim of making it as a journalist in New York City. Returning home a failure was more frightening to Elizabeth Cochrane that anything she faced in the madhouse. And yes, the rewards came swiftly… but did they last? She felt the fear and did it anyway, but was worth it? Well that’s another part of her story altogether.

Huge thanks to Kate for stopping by to share this, check out the links below to get the full story on Nelly Bly!

Book links:

Social links:

Blog –

Twitter – @KMBraithwaite

Amazon –

Bookbub –

Goodreads –

Instagram –

Facebook –

In Search of Fear…… with Jennifer Worrell

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I was such a wuss as a kid, and hated horror movies.  But one of the most disturbing was not horror movie at all: *batteries not included.  It’s a family film with Jessica Tandy, for chrissakes.  The decrepit building, the palpably unstable slumlord, the erratically flying aliens with glowing eyes made a very unsettling ride for little Jenny.  

As for books, there are two that stand out: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright and The Secret Bedroom by R.L. Stine.  I still read them, that’s how much impact they had on me.  The idea that dolls move about when you’re not looking and recreate scenes of an unsolved murder was unnerving enough.  But Stine’s tale of a girl with a secret bedroom (an introvert’s dream!) inhabited by a spirit that can not only invade your mind, but contort reality until you’re just a shell to possess, was enough to keep me up nights.

What was your biggest fear as a child?

For some reason, fire.  I was never in one, I was never burned, but I’d get anxious even going near a building in the aftermath, much less look at one on TV.  I found the blackness and destruction terrifying, the gaping windows and shredded wood and plaster hanging beyond the frames monstrous.  

In *batteries not included, there’s a scene in which some characters take a blissful walk home after a fun night out, only to find their apartment building ablaze.  I think that’s what is so upsetting: fire is such a simple, vital element, yet it can destroy your home, kill your loved ones, erase every memento from your past.  

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?

Now I do.  I met (and eventually married) a horror movie geek (his descriptor) and I think he was secretly disappointed that I avoided the genre altogether.  But little by little he introduced me to older movies like The Seventh Victim (1943), Brides of Dracula (1960) and Masque of the Red Death (1964), and now I seek them out.  I begged him to take me to The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2017). 

Ghosts are guaranteed to creep me out. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

No, and I’m sure if I did I would freak right out and move.  But I’d like to think we’d be pals, Casper-style.  As long as he’s not the chatty type.

Has a book ever really scared you?

In adulthood, no.  I’ve gotten the shivers, I’ve been creeped out, but mostly, I applaud the writer for eliciting a visceral response.  Ha!  Perhaps writing has ruined me for raw terror!  

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels? 

Certainly.  My protagonist in my novel, Edge of Sundown, is an author too, and much of his motivation comes from fear.  The fear he’ll be forgotten, the fear that his creative well has run dry.  Turns out it’s much worse: the world moved on and didn’t leave a forwarding address, and his reality is more fiction than his book.

In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?

I have the same fear as my poor protagonist: that one day I’ll be out of ideas and I’ll lose my ability to write.  

But also bugs.  Even helpful ones, like centipedes and common spiders and crickets.  There’s regular ol’ roaches, but also hissing, flying frickin’ roaches.  There is no God. Yet I’m writing a picture book about a girl who’s airlifted by a horde of butterflies, or as I call them, Satan’s biplanes.  Go figure.

Thanks so much for sharing – am totally with you on the cockroach front – they are pure evil. Also I really want to read some RL Stine books now, I seem to have missed those when I was growing up!

If you want to know more about Jennifer, check out her links below!

Edge of Sundown:
Subscriber page:
@JenniferWorrell | Linktree

In Search of Fear……Alison Knight

Well the new year is almost a month old and I know I have been MIA on the blog front but I was taking a break from blogging to get my head around the home schooling and working from home thing. Now I have successfully poured my frontal lobes back in place, here we are again on the hunt for scary inspiration. This week I have author Alison Knight popping by the House of Fear to tell us all about what scares the bejesus out of her.

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I think I should start by saying that I’m a complete coward and actively avoid anything that might be scary! I can’t remember a particular book that scared me, but I do remember seeing a film when I was about six at our local library in the East End of London that still gives me the shivers. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was an old black and white film about a group of children who lived in the country and in one scene they were trapped in the loft of an old hay barn that was on fire. I was so scared, I ran out because I couldn’t bear to watch it. I still don’t know how the film ended, although with hindsight, I’m sure they would have been rescued or been able to escape. I also confess to have been one of those children who hid behind the sofa when the Daleks came on the telly.

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite.

No! I avoid them at all costs!

Ghost are my go to for scares. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

I’m not scared by the thought of ghosts – I think that’s because I’ve lost people close to me and like the idea that they might be hanging around, keeping a loving eye on me. I did have an unsettling experience a few years ago when I stayed at a friend’s house in Oxfordshire. It was a very old thatched cottage with wonky floors and walls. I was just dozing off to sleep when I felt a cat land on the mattress and walk across my back. But when I looked, there was nothing there! I checked with my friend the next morning and they have never had a cat. Yet I felt the cat’s weight on my back and heard it purring. 

Has a book ever scared you?

I had to read The Lovely Bones for a university course and found it really unsettling. It wasn’t something I’d have finished reading if it wasn’t part of my studies. Needless to say, I won’t watch the movie. I don’t like anything that makes me feel helpless. 

In my own books, I like to build tension, but I don’t aspire to instill terror in my readers. My latest book, MINE, is different because it’s based on real events. I found that really, really hard to write but as I’m the only one left who was part of what happened, I felt I owed it to myself and my family to write it. But it scared me to write it because it meant reliving it all. I was also scared of upsetting other family members who would remember that time.

I have to say, I shed a lot of tears as I wrote it and dreaded having to write some scenes. But I also tried to balance the bad stuff with lighter moments – memories that made me laugh out loud. I know some of my family and friends who have read it said they found it hard to read because they knew what was coming but they also appreciated the lighter moments which evoked good memories for them. 

In real life, what is your greatest fear?

Like every mother, I fear for my children and grandchildren. I remember thirty-odd years ago, when my son was a baby, I was at home and my husband was away on a course and someone tried to get into our house through the back door. What did I do? I yelled at the top of my voice and ran towards the door – no one was getting anywhere near my baby! I was just in time to see someone disappear over our garden wall. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised how badly that could have gone but I think if either of my children or grandchildren were threatened I’d do the same thing again. 

My mother nearly drowned as a child and was rescued from a fast-flowing river. She was terrified of water after that and never learned to swim. Yet I was a real water baby and loved to swim and she would sit by the pool and watch me. It wasn’t until years later that I realised how scary that must have been for her. 

On a personal level, I’m terrified of being helpless – if I couldn’t see or move I’d be absolutely terrified. Have you read The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby? He was the young, successful editor of French Elle when he had a massive stroke. It left him unable to move anything except for one eyelid. The book is beautiful and terrifying. I don’t think I could cope with something like that. 

Do you use your fears when you write?

To a certain extent, yes. In my first book I featured a house fire where the heroine was trapped upstairs, so that old movie is still influencing me! I’ve also featured characters suffering from PTSD after an attack and others having to make decisions that could leave them in serious danger if they ‘did the right thing’. Sometimes it can be terrifying to do what you know is right because it will mean you make yourself vulnerable – the choice of them or me can be the scariest thing you ever have consider.  

In MINE, I learned a lot about myself and my family as I relived events that I didn’t really understand at the time. Facing my fears of writing the story helped me to gain a new perspective on the people involved and how ordinary people made decisions that led them into an extraordinary situation.

Anne-Marie, thank you for inviting me to talk about my fears. Once again, I had to face my fears and, although I’m still going to avoid horror stories and movies and Daleks, I feel a little better about my fears and how I deal with them.

Thank you so much for sharing your fears with me/us it’s been great to have you here! The Lovely Bones is a beautiful and terrifying story, it really bothered me when I saw the movie – so much so I haven’t been able to watch it again. And I would love to hear more about your feline phantom!

If you want get to know more about lovely Alison, go get her book and get involved with her on social…..

Mine by Alison Knight

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.

Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?

Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

 Mine by Alison Knight is published by Darkstroke Books and is available

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Mine, published by Darkstroke Books is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with Jenny. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

Social Media Links;

In Search of Fear …….with PJ Mordant

Well its Lockdown…..again….hope you had a safe and quiet – preferably cheese and prosecco fueled New Year! Im back again with some scary stuff this time joined by P.J. Mordant, author of supernatural thriller ‘When Angels Fear.’ So she knows a thing or two about what is scary – lets find out what scares her!

What movie/book scared you as a child?
I’m going to choose an advertisement, seeing its the first thing that came to mind: an advert for Deep Heat, a stupid  rubbing ointment. A really deep voice boomed DEEEEP HEEEET from the telly. It got so bad that I would leave the room when ANY adverts came on.

What was your biggest fear as a child?
I was and still am, terrified of thunder storms. Its the combination of noise and lightening. I think it started after my dad tried to fix our old valve telly. He took a screwdriver to it and it blew up with a flash and bang! Lucky escape for all of us, but left a lasting legacy.

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?
Medium scary films. I prefer supernatural rather than full-on horror movies. Very fond of ‘The Changeling’ with George C. Scott. Scary premise, musical boxes, wheelchairs, bouncing balls … a well. Great tropes.

The paranormal usually freaks me out the most when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

Has a book ever really scared you?
The Repairman Jack series by F. Paul Wilson – anything by F. Paul Wilson, actually. There was one character – I think it was a young boy – who couldn’t die and Jack thought he’d put him out of his misery. YEARS later he pondered whether he had actually died so he returned to the burial site and dug the boy up.Turned out he’d been absolutely right: the boy was skeletal but with all his faculties and completely alive. Can’t remember names and whys and wherefores but … well, the idea’s stuck with me all these years.

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels?
The fear a woman has when the love of her life turns out to be an abuser. In ‘When Angels Fear’, my first chapter is filled with dry-mouthed dread that he might discover her escape.

In real life what is your biggest fear these days? Do you use that when you write?
I fear for the planet. It’s the theme of my sequel to ‘Angels’

Huge thanks to PJ for visiting! You can learn more about her and her books below!

Facebook ;

In Search of Fear……with Charlie Tyler

Hopefully you are on the other side of a wonderful Christmas day – safe and happy wherever you are and however you spent Christmas. Its Boxing Day – a day of leftovers and a turkey and stuffing breakfast that lasts all day, punctuated with the occasional chocolate. As always I’m ready to head back into the scarier side of things and continue my quest to search peoples brains for what they find scary. Today I am very glad to have author Charlie Tyler to visit – she’s a huge fan of The Cure like me so she can stay as long as she likes – she’s also the author of super creepy novel ‘The Cry of the Lake’ – a gruesome tale of murder and madness- so lets face it she fits right in here at Creepy Central. Welcome Charlie, tell us about what scares you….

I hated The Twits by Roald Dahl. Even though they were really horrible, the way they died at the end really, really upset and bothered me.
I used to have terrible nightmares involving beheading. This was down to the fact my parents had the brochure for Madame Tussauds out on their coffee table, and I looked through it and saw a picture of someone being guillotined. That marked the beginning of my night terrors and sleepless nights (for both me and my parents). I still have to go to sleep with a story playing – I’d sleep with a nightlight on if my husband would let me.
In the right mood I love a scary movie, but I’m not as bothered by horror as I am ghosts. I know it got a bad press, but The Blair Witch Project frightened me, especially the ending. However, The Woman in Black, all versions including the theatre production, absolutely terrifies me. Susan Hill is a genius.

I’ve never had a paranormal experience, but in my late teens I lived in an old vicarage and there were gravestones lining the cellar and it was a really noisy house at night, with lots of clunking and rattling window panes. I was relieved when my parents moved. Someone bought me The Collected Ghost Stories by MR James but I never got beyond ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book’ – it was just too scary to read before bed. Maybe, next year (fingers crossed), I’ll take it on holiday to read on a sun lounger by a pool.
In ‘The Cry of the Lake’, one of the main characters, a teenage girl called Lily, suffers from night terrors because of something she witnessed as a child but then buried in her thoughts. She experiences nightmares, where she sees the same thing; a ghastly skeletal mermaid looking up at her from the bottom of a lake. The dread of falling asleep I had as a child is something I’ve definitely drawn upon in this novel.
I’m on my own a lot and my biggest fear is being woken in the dead of night by a noise and realising there is someone or something in the house. I’ve got quite an overactive imagination and would naturally jump to the conclusion that whatever caused the sound was out to get me. I think it only fair to bestow this gift of paranoia to at least one of my main characters!

Huge thanks for visiting Charlie – you had me at skeletal mermaid….

If you’re desperate to find out what happened at the Lake, check out Charlie’s links below.

In Search of Fear……with Michelle Cook…Part 2.

Happy Saturday folks – Christmas might be looking a little weird this year but I’m still digging around for what scares people. And what scares people these days is ever changing from one Lockdown to the next. So a few weeks back I had the great pleasure of picking the brains of fellow Darkstroke author Michelle Cook; and my probing on the subject of fear inspired her to delve further into her psyche and pull out a few more scares from the depths. I’m very glad to welcome her back this week with a guest post.

True Frit

Recently, while in isolation, I watched the disturbing horror film Hereditary. Alone in the house on a gloomy October day, I scared the bejesus out of myself. 

On one level. 

That kind of paranormal horror always gives me a thrill. I can dare myself to watch scenes of possession by malevolent spirits, all the while knowing the ordinary world lies just beyond my window. It’s easy to imagine the makeup artists painting the blood and the crew rigging furniture to move by itself.

What truly frightens me—primally, I mean—is real world horror. The kind you can’t look away from. Hate, greed and abuse of power. The things that culminate in the most unedifying human failures— poverty; dehumanisation; war; climate destruction. And now we have a pandemic to contend with, too.

These are not coincidences. They are deeply connected by our own limitations. And those limitations are what I found myself writing about when I embarked on my first novel, the eco-thriller Tipping Point.

Not that I’m down on the species entirely. We have huge capacity for love and compassion, demonstrated by countless everyday kindnesses and social progress—in the UK, our beloved, enduring NHS embodies both. We have as much light as darkness within us. Yet our constructs for government and society encourage the basest desires for distraction and accumulation. They need us to act this way to feed growth, that sacred cow and arbitrary yardstick of development. This has never been more evident than in the current pandemic, when we’re battered with confusing messages telling us to get out there and spend our money, while being harangued for spreading a virus that thrives on close contact. There are close to eight billion of us now. It’s hard to get out there somewhere you’re not going to literally bump into each other.

We already know that unending economic expansion is a myth on a finite planet. Our pursuit of it is fatal to both the natural world and less fortunate fellow humans. The 2020 Living Planet report found that between 1970 and 2016, humans killed over two thirds of the world’s mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles at an accelerating rate (World Wildlife Fund 

and Zoological Society of London). Meanwhile, the richest 1% own 44% of global wealth, but pay less than 4% of global tax revenue, even as 10,000 people die every day for lack of access to affordable healthcare (Oxfam 2020). In the age of information, these are not secrets, but shameful, widely known facts.

So I confess my deepest fear is that we have unleashed powers we cannot hope to control, that will destroy us. Not in a demonic, horror film way, but according to the laws of nature and natural justice we have disregarded for so long. For anyone reading Tipping Point, the terror comes from the all-too plausible.

Paradoxically, there may be hope in the very darkness of our current path through the woods. Because we’re surely nearing a crossroads, where our go-to pacifiers stop working. With no option to look away when we get scared, we’ll finally be forced to march right on and fix what we broke.


Social Media:


In Search of Fear……with Karla Forbes

To learn what we fear is to learn who we are. Horror defies our boundaries and illuminates our souls.”
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Another week drops off the calendar, another week closer to Christmas, and I’m still searching peoples heads for their fears. This week I have a wonderful guest in Karla Forbes author of the Nick Sullivan series of political thrillers, including her latest offering Fallout, who has shared her darkest fears with me, and again I am fascinated by how we are all fearful of something, and that it always seems to come from something in our younger days when our young minds are grasping at the threads of the world, pulling our dreams out of the clouds and sometimes, unveiling nightmares. Welcome Karla….

Even though I don’t actually remember watching it, I know for a fact that the film that scared me most as a child was the original Walt Disney version of Snow White. Let me explain.

I have a lifelong phobia of ghosts and the dark. I didn’t admit it to anyone, not even to close family members until just a few Christmases ago when we had driven to a holiday home we used to own in Germany. It was late in the afternoon on the shortest day of the year when my husband slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. As I watched him being taken away by ambulance, I knew that I’d be spending the night alone in this large house situated on the outskirts of a dark and gloomy forest. For the first time ever, I was being forced to face up to my biggest fear and I didn’t cope at all well. I spent most of the evening on the phone in tears to my two adult children who were not only shocked that their dad was in hospital but that their mum was blubbing down the phone because of a phobia that no one had ever suspected.

The moment we arrived back in the UK, I decided I needed professional help. Since then, I’ve had numerous counselling sessions and even tried hypnotherapy but nothing has changed. My phobia is as severe today as ever but my bank balance is a bit lighter as counselling and hypnotherapy don’t come cheap.

So where did it come from? Well, that’s an easy one to answer. My mum was heavily into spiritualism and filled my young head with her talk of the spirit world. In my mother’s defence, she had no idea of the damage she was causing and for some reason, I never plucked up the courage to admit that she was scaring me witless.

But I have an older sister who was also frightened by all this talk of ghosts but as she grew up, she left her fears behind whereas I have been stuck with them for my entire life. I have often asked myself why this could be. What was different about my sister which enabled her to move on whereas I become a small, scared child whenever I’m alone in a house at night?

One possible answer brings me back to Snow White. At the age of three, I was so frightened by Snow White that I had to be taken out of the cinema, screaming in terror. I don’t even remember the incident as I’ve probably blocked it from my mind but I know it happened because my mum mentioned it in conversation a few years later when I was a young woman. I suspect that it’s this incident that cemented my fears somewhere in my child brain and meant I could never move on. 

The irony is that I’ve never had a paranormal experience in my life. I’ve never seen, heard or even sensed a ghost. The problem for me is that authors have too much imagination. I don’t need to see a ghost to fear it because it’s all there in my head.

I avoid anything ghostly. I never read anything spooky and if I find myself accidentally watching anything vaguely supernatural on the television I panic and grab the remote control to change the channel.

A literary agent once told me that I should embrace my phobia and learn to love it because it helps bring out the best in my writing. I refrained from telling her what I thought of that particular theory.

My fear of the paranormal, doesn’t mean that I can’t write anything scary. My books contain murder, terrorism and blackmail. Fallout is the first book in a series of nine thrillers featuring the same protagonist. It’s about a consignment of plutonium, left over from the cold war, which is discovered by terrorists and used to make dirty bombs. It’s contains scenes of violence but there is also humour because that’s what life is like, a mixture of good and bad, nice and nasty. One thing you can be sure of though is that none of my books will ever contain anything even slightly supernatural.

I think you are onto something here Karla – I realized while reading this that its the only Disney movie I watched once and wont watch again. Looking at images from it now I am reminded of how terrified I was of the witch and of the woods. And anyone who’s read my book Purgatory Hotel knows I might have an issue with woodland…..Thank you so much for sharing this with me, and for awakening my own fears again…..

Universal link to Fallout

Twitter; @karlaforbes


In Search of Fear……with Penny Hampson

This week on my hunt for horrors, I am joined by author Penny Hampson whose novel The Unquiet Spirit is a Cornwall based feast of spooks and suspense. I’m very happy that she has taken time to be my guest – take it away Penny!

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Anne-Marie. It’s great to talk with you about scary things!

As a child, the scariest programme I watched was Dr Who, usually from behind the sofa! I didn’t like the Daleks, but because at that time they couldn’t climb stairs I always thought they weren’t much of a threat.

The Cybermen however were something completely different – humanoid but expressionless, they terrified me. They still do, if I’m honest!

The scariest stories for me are those that are rooted in reality, when something innocuous suddenly becomes a real threat. I remember reading Jaws (before the movie was made) and being terrified. It really put me off swimming in the sea for quite some time, even though I knew how unlikely it would be for a great white shark to turn up in UK waters.

As for scary films, my favourite has to be The Shining. Those scenes where Danny, the little boy, cycles along the hotel corridors and you just know he’s going to see something around the next corner, have me cowering behind a cushion every time. Stanley Kubrick the director, certainly knew how to rack up the tension.  

As to paranormal experiences, I couldn’t say for sure, but I’ve certainly experienced events that creeped me out. Some years ago, when I was pregnant, my husband, two year old son and I rented a very old cottage in the Lakes for a few weeks, while my husband was working in the area. At the same time every night our son, who slept in the next room to us, woke up screaming, but could never say what was wrong. If that wasn’t unnerving enough, one particular night, my husband went in to comfort our son and I was left in our bedroom alone. Suddenly the doors of the large walk-in cupboard at my side of the bed burst open. Well, it wasn’t just my son who was screaming!

Not long after that, I decided I couldn’t stay there any longer and my son and I returned home. Strangely enough, my parents rented the same cottage for a week (and I hadn’t told them about my experience). They too came home early, my mother complaining about strange noises she kept hearing in the middle of the night.

In my book, The Unquiet Spirit, my heroine, Kate has lots of fears, she’s nervous around dogs and doesn’t go in elevators. She also has several unnerving experiences in her new home.

Here’s an extract where Sal, the neighbour’s dog seems to sense something spooky going on:

An eerie howl cut through the house, making the hairs on the back of Kate’s neck leap to attention again. Tom pushed his chair back with a squeal on the flagstone floor and charged out of the kitchen towards the noise. Kate stumbled after him, nerves on edge and heart pounding. Her mind somehow registered that the sound was being made by Sal. Nothing supernatural, but that did not make it any the less unnerving. Kate halted at the door to the dining room and took in the sight of Sal crouched at the bottom of the separate staircase leading up to the east wing, ears flattened against her head, and a low rumbling coming from her throat.

“What’s the matter, girl? There’s nothing there, you daft dog,” Tom got a grip on Sal’s collar and pulled her away. “Never known her do that before. Is there someone else in the house?” He tugged the now quiet Sal back into the kitchen, brusquely brushing past Kate.

“No.” Not as far as I know. Kate bit her lip, and followed them back into the kitchen. She propped herself against the counter top, certain that she would slide on to the floor without support, her legs were shaking so much.

Tom must have noticed her ashen face.

“Would you like me to check? Can’t understand why Sal carried on like that.” His voice had lost its brusqueness.

“No, it’s OK. I’m sure it’s nothing… Probably a mouse or something,” Yes, that’s all it was, she told herself, not quite believing it. Tom’s expression told her she hadn’t convinced him either. She glanced at Sal, now curled up in the corner as if nothing had happened. Well, she wasn’t bothered. It can’t have been anything.

I too, like Kate, am nervous around dogs and because I don’t like enclosed spaces I rarely use lifts. It was therefore easy for me to conjure up her feelings when she was faced with both these ordeals.

My biggest fear though is of the dark. As a child I always had to have a light on at night. I’m not that bad now, but I hate it when I’m somewhere that’s totally dark, I find it suffocating. A couple of years ago I was going round a museum in Italy and there was a powercut. My husband and I were in a room with no natural light and when the lights went out it was absolutely pitch black. Fortunately, the power didn’t stay off for long, but for me it seemed like a lifetime. If you read The Unquiet Spirit, you’ll discover exactly how I felt!

Thanks so much Penny, I’m totally with you on The Shining – for me the scariest movie Ive ever seen. And also – how scary were the first Cybermen?? Check out Penny’s links below to get involved her conjuring’s of fear….



Facebook Author Page:

Facebook Personal Page:

Here are the links to her books:

The Unquiet Spirit –

Regency mystery/romance

An Officer’s Vow –

A Bachelor’s Pledge –

In Search of Fear…..with Karen E Stokes

While the world continues to throw its scares at us I continue to search for fear in other places. Mainly the brains of my fellow authors. This week I’m joined by Karen E Stokes, bestselling author of paranormal thriller The Healing.

What movie/book scared you as a child?

Just can’t think -I didn’t watch many movies as a child – I’ll give this one some thought…

What was your biggest fear as a child?

The dark 

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?

I love them – I have two favourites – The Keeping Hours and The Haunting in Connecticut  

When I’m reading a book, storylines involving ghosts usually scare me the most. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

Yes, when I went with friends to a haunted house in Pontefract – East Drive, when a cupboard door opened by itself! 

80 East Drive, Pontefract.

Has a book ever really scared you?

Can’t say that it has. 

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels? 

In The Healing there is a scene where the main character meets with the ghost boy. By some kind of thought transference, experiences the boy’s despair and for a few fleeting moments, feels as if she too is dead. 

In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?

I still don’t like the dark and looking into mirrors at night time. I used a mirror scene in The Healing but because of this fear, approached it differently, though it was still ghostly! I l believe that less is more in films too – firing the imagination is far scarier than monsters!

A big thank you to Karen for dropping in, massively impressed that you got to go to one of the most haunted houses in England! I want to hear more! The Haunting in Connecticut is a great movie, a fascinating true case. I think I watched the feature documentary about the case a few too many times!

If you want to know more about Karen, check out her links below.

You can grab a copy of her book here!




(3) Karen E Stokes – Author | Facebook