In Search of Fear……with Tom Halford

This week I’m joined by author of Deli Meat a darkly humorous crime novel. Tom also contributed to the second volume of Dark London, the charity anthology from Darkstroke Books of amazing stories by amazing authors about my dear love London. Again my need to dredge the brains of others for the truth about what scares them has led me here to this place where I can again see what scares me in others fears aswell. Tom my dear let’s get to it…..

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I was at a friend’s house and they had older siblings. One of them played Nightmare on Elm Street. I was way too young to see that movie. I was terrified.

What was your biggest fear as a child?

I was terrified of a monster that I thought lived in the toilet. It only came out at night. Maybe I’ll write about it at some point.

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

I like scary movies that don’t take themselves too seriously. I like Sam Raimi movies like Drag Me to Hell and Evil Dead, but I’m not really into super serious scary movies.

I am usually most freaked out by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

When I was old enough, I used to live by myself at my parents camp over the summers. At night, I would hear this scratching at the window. It was every night, and it terrified me. One night, I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Whatever it was, I was going face it head on. Turns out, it was just a bug scratching the window, probably looking to get inside.

Has a book ever really scared you?

The Chain by Adrian McKinty is absolutely terrifying. It’s not that I’m afraid that it will actually happen. I’m more afraid by what we’re all capable of if put in terrible situations. That’s an amazing novel.

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

I generally try to undercut fear with humour. In a short-story that I recently published, I have an armed robbery undercut with extreme politeness. I’ll link it here:

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

I can barely talk about it. Something happening to my loved ones. I couldn’t use it. There are certain thoughts where there is no art. There’s just anxiety and pain. I couldn’t even begin to open up that one for writing.

Ok goddammit I want to know about the toilet monster!! What foul beast did your brain create? Sam Raimi is a dude, I struggled with all the chin sucking in Drag Me to Hell but Evil Dead scarred me for life. Ash is just the coolest.

You can find Tom’s books Deli Meat and Dark London over on Amazon here –

If you want to know more about Tom and his work follow him over on Twitter!

In Search of Fear ……with Shani Struthers

Following on from my chat with Rumer Haven last week, who cited this lady as being very capable of scaring her, this week I am honored to welcome Shani Struthers, author of the bestselling Psychic Survey’s series and This Haunted World series. Her latest book ‘Cades Home Farm’ has just been released and looks pretty damn scary. I just love finding out what scares people, especially those who like to scare others….

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I don’t remember being scared by a book or a movie as a child, not to the point of being disturbed by it. Rather I enjoyed the creepy goodness of an author called Ruth Manning Sanders, who is now (sadly) out of print. She wrote twisted fairy tales, and they could get very dark indeed. As a teenager, I moved onto Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker. Of them all, Clive Barker’s books truly scared me, as did those Hellraiser films of his! I remember watching the first one in the franchise and not being able to sleep a wink for fear of those cenobites coming to get me, especially the one with the chattering teeth!

What was your biggest fear as a child?

Spiders! And it still is. I’ve had so much therapy for it, but the fear is too deep-seated. The therapists have all given up on me!

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

I love scary movies; they’re my favourite. An all-time favourite is the black and white version of The Haunting with Claire Bloom, based on Shirley Jackson’s absolutely brilliant The Haunting of Hill House. It’s a real ‘less is more’ type of movie, it leaves so much to interpretation, which, in my opinion, makes it far, far scarier!

I am usually most afraid of ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

Yes, I have and that is perhaps the reason I write about the paranormal now. To be honest, my experiences were mainly as a child, including one that took place on a beach in North Cornwall, when I was five. I’d wandered off from my mother and was playing happily in a cove. There are six of us kids and sometimes we could be hard to keep an eye on! Anyway, next thing I know, I’ve looked up from the sandcastle I’m building, and the tide has come rushing in, effectively cutting me off. I’m the only one in this cove and I can’t swim! I climb onto some rocks, climbing higher and higher as the sea rises. I remember looking out and seeing nothing but sea and being very scared. Suddenly, I turn around to see a couple more people on the rocks, a man and a woman. I remember the woman in particular, she was wearing a tweed jacket and matching tweed skirt, not exactly beach attire! They started talking to me, calming me, telling me I was going to be okay, that whatever happened, it wouldn’t hurt. They assured me they’d stay with me, that they wouldn’t leave me. I did calm right down and remembered thinking that it was true, it was going to be all right, whatever the outcome. A few minutes later, a lifeboat came tearing round the corner with my mum in it, pointing at me and screeching. I was rescued. Only me. When I asked my mum – and this was years later – why the man and woman hadn’t been rescued too, she said ‘what man and woman? There was only you there.’

Has a book ever really scared you?

The only book I’ve never been able to read at night (and I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to horror novels) is Sarah England’s Father of Lies, it kept giving me nightmares!  

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

Fear is a common theme in all my novels, either imagined or real. Actually, it’s the imagined fear that fascinates me, how it can completely paralyse us.

This extract is from Blakemort, a book about a very haunted house indeed. Five-year old Corinna and her brother, Ethan, have gone to explore the dark confines of the attic, but her brother – as brothers do – has left her in there, closing the door behind him…

He stepped over me – literally stepped over me – made his way to the door and banged it shut behind him. No longer open, or even ajar, it confined me within – imprisoned me. What was overhead immediately started fluttering again and in dark corners I could sense writhing. Who was it that had whispered? A boy – the same age as Ethan or thereabouts and even worse than him, if such a thing were possible. My arms were on the floor behind me, supporting my weight but I sat up straight and drew them inwards, trying to curl into a ball instead, to make myself tiny, tinier still, invisible. I had to get up, get out of there, but I couldn’t move. I swallowed, my eyes darting to the left and to the right. Who are you? Who’s here?

Something swooped – the bat, the owl, whatever creature it was, black feathers in my face and a smell so bitter it blinded me further. I screamed but worse than that I wet myself, my arms flailing in an attempt to keep the damned thing away. Even in my terror I felt shame that I couldn’t control my bladder – that urine was pouring from me – all over the photos, staining them, destroying them. I wanted them destroyed!

“Get away! Get away! Get away!”

Surely my screaming would alert Ethan and he’d come rushing back.

“Get away!”

I pushed myself upwards. If no one would save me, I had to save myself.

The thing that was beating about my head retreated – vanished, as if it had never been. Gone. Just like that. Somehow that was even more frightening – its sudden disappearance. Looking back, I’m not even sure it was real. In fact, right now, at this moment, sitting here writing, I’d bet money it wasn’t. It was simply an illusion, some kind of magic trick. Certainly, it never appeared again. But alone as I was, or more accurately not alone, I didn’t have time to contemplate it. My chest rising and falling, sobs starting to engulf me, snot pouring from my nose, my legs hot and sticky, I could only contemplate escape – but damn my feet, they wouldn’t work!

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

Nothing terrorises me more than the sight of an eight-legged beastie! I don’t mind the small ones but the big ones, I literally quake with terror. One of my characters in my Psychic Surveys series, Theo, is also scared of spiders. She may battle with dark entities on a regular basis, but it’s an arachnid that can be the undoing of her! In Eve (A Psychic Surveys Prequel), the entity she’s dealing with is turning her own fears back on herself and yep, she’s seeing spiders everywhere, as big as dinner plates. She really has to try and come to terms with her fear, face it head on, but as we know, it’s never that easy…

Thank you so much for answering my questions Shani, I’m definitely with you on The Haunting, I love that movie, suggestion is always more terrifying. And also spiders are a big NOPE for me too, my house is full of them and I’m tempted to buy a flame thrower to deal with them. I’d never heard of Ruth Manning-Sanders but now I’ve seen her books I want them all!

Shani has an amazing back catalogue of terrifying novels, if you haven’t had the pleasure, and you like a good spooking, get yourself onto her website for more info!

Born and bred in Brighton, UK, Shani Struthers is the author of nineteen supernatural thrillers (so far), some set in various locations in England, others in more far-flung destinations such as Venice and America. Having been brought up with an understanding of the Occult and alternative views on religion, she threads this knowledge throughout her books, often drawing on real-life experiences of her own, from people she has known and from well-known Occult figures too. Please Note: her books tend to revolve more around PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR. You won’t find gore, vampires, werewolves, zombies or the like in her fiction. Her various paranormal series have proved very popular indeed, including the Psychic Surveys Series, This Haunted WorldReach for the Dead and Jessamine. She has also written a set of Psychic Surveys Companion Novels and two Christmas Ghost stories: Eve and Carfax House. All have topped the Amazon genre charts in both the UK and the US.  For more information on new releases, competitions and general news, sign up to her newsletter via her website.

In Search of Fear…..with Rumer Haven

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

Halloween may have passed but for some of us folk, its Halloween every day! I’ve been a fan of this lady for a while and have long suspected we have a fair bit on common as far as what things we enjoy watching and reading and this chat made me want to talk even more about spooky stuff! Rumer Haven, author of several excellent books featuring the 1920’s and the dear departed, and most recently a collection of short stories – Myths, Mothers, Mystics. She’s my kinda gal!

What movie/book scared you as a child?

Poltergeist was hands down my favorite scary movie, though it truly frightened the daylights out of me (scary clowns, skeletons in pools, and, good God, that scene where the guy peels his face off? Gah!). I still say that one holds its own; I watched it more times than I could count as a child and have seen it at least a couple of times again as an adult, and…yeah. Still scary. Impressive special effects for the ’80s and actually some great acting. I’m in denial that there was ever a remake in 2015, but I’ll acknowledge it enough to say that it’s absolute rubbish, so stick with the original—ye old cathode ray tube TV as a portal to the dead (“They’re heeeeeere!”) is way scarier than a dumb drone sent into the spirit world. The 1982 Poltergeist even had me fearing the tree outside my bedroom window!

But while the original Poltergeist was (and might still be) my favorite, the film that actually terrified me even more as a kid was The Entity. Starring Barbara Hershey, this was another 1982 horror film that I probably shouldn’t have been watching when I was so young, but it was a sleepover favorite. I don’t think I could watch that one again as an adult, honestly; it frightened me that much. Felt too real, like something that could actually happen if a malevolent spirit were to attack, and while Poltergeist is filled with wonderfully scary and atmospheric visuals, it’s what you can’t see in The Entity that paralyzes me in fear even just thinking about it now.

Book-wise, I automatically think of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. Truly, I think what scared me most about those books as a kid were the illustrations. I don’t know how to describe them, but there’s just something so liminal and watery and…hairy about them…like the kind of loose hair you’d find in a drain, which isn’t to say they’re gross, just creepy AF.

What was your biggest fear as a child?

Probably that damn tree outside my window! But seriously, aside from day-to-day fears like jumping off the diving board at the local pool or hanging upside down from monkey bars, paranormal stuff was probably the most consistent fright that manifested in many ways: fear of the dark, any creaking in the house, the space underneath my bed, dolls…(I was Team Stuffed Animal, with the exception of my Cabbage Patch Kid. Animals = cuddly and love you. Dolls = creepy and want to kill you.). As much as I was afraid of ghosts, though, I couldn’t get enough of them in stories and movies. I was just asking to be scared.

I will say, though, that my early fascination with the afterlife may have, unbeknownst to me at the time, been very closely related to another fear: death. Even as a young child, while saying my prayers at night, the line “And if I die before I wake” gave me pause. I think I really did fear every night that I might die in my sleep. What a blessing it was, then, to wake in the morning to my mom whistling and throwing open the curtains, letting in the light.

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

You bet I do! Not gory slasher films (though I’ll indulge in those, too, around Halloween) but ones about spiritual hauntings. As mentioned earlier, Poltergeist has remained a firm favorite since childhood, though another one to emerge during my adult life is The Others with Nicole Kidman. Released in 2001, that film is exactly the Gothic atmosphere and subtle touch that I love in a scary story. It’s what’s left to the imagination that I personally find most frightening, which is why blood-n-guts or easy jump scares ultimately don’t do it for me.

I am usually scared the most by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

The closest I’ve come to a paranormal experience was while staying at a Tudor-era holiday cottage in Herefordshire, England several years ago. By then, I had already come to realize that I can sense…something in certain places, that I’ll sometimes feel a distinct pressure on my chest that leaves me gasping for air a little. Some places are heavy with their histories, I figure. But during our first night at that cottage, I saw the fringe of my husband’s scarf sort of flutter upward from where the scarf was hanging on a coatrack. But it didn’t so much look like it had been blown upward as it was being tugged at. Just when I was about to dismiss it as my eyes deceiving me, I hear my husband say, “Did you see that, too?”

He’d witnessed the exact same thing and was actually the one staring at it more straight-on than me. That had us up on our feet and investigating the entryway around the coatrack, trying to debunk the movement as having been caused by the wind. We checked the gaps between the front door and the doorframe, the mail slot, etc., but for an old cottage, it had actually been renovated with quite modern features and was airtight. There was no breeze coming through from anywhere, and it wasn’t windy outside in the first place. We even checked the radiator, but no blowing heat was coming from that, and there weren’t any vents to be found—and, anyway, if air had blown in from any of these possibilities, the scarf was on the opposite side, facing a wall and shielded on the other side by our coats. In any case, we just dismissed it for the time being and went about our leisurely evening, watching TV and snacking.

And that’s when I heard a scraping sound right in front of me. I looked down at the floor at my feet in time to see the Doritos bag that was setting there tip over a few inches and then return to right-side up, scraping against the edge of the coffee table as it did so. Directly in front of me, with the lights on; I watched this happen plainly—the bag leaning at an impossible angle without tipping over, and not only did it not fall, it stood itself back up. My husband was on his laptop at the time, so he didn’t see it himself, but he was sitting right next to me and did hear the scraping. And once again, we immediately set about debunking what I saw. I know I had not moved my feet, but my husband had been sitting with his legs crossed and wondered if he’d been swinging his foot, causing a breeze. We tried to recreate it, with him swinging so feverishly it was funny and obviously not what had happened, and again, windows and everything were sealed tightly with no draught, and we’d have been hard-pressed to explain how one could’ve caused the bag to sway side to side the way it did anyway.

Later that night, I experienced a lucid dream in which I thought I had woken up in the same bedroom where we were staying—everything the same except for a desk by the window and an armoire against a different wall—and I met a little ghost girl who told me her name was Sarah. She had long blond hair in braids and wore an old-fashioned dress, and I clearly remember the brief conversation I had with her, asking if she minded that we were there and if there were others there, too. Fortunately, she was fine with us being there but didn’t seem as reassuring about the others, who apparently were there. At any rate, there were no occurrences beyond that first night, only that heavy pressure on my chest every time I entered the bedroom. We were intrigued by it all but not scared; it felt harmless, indeed like a curious child inspecting our things and feeling out the new strangers in a house that was probably used to sitting empty.

Has a book ever really scared you?

Automatically, I think of how American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis nearly made me vomit—literally—but that was more to do with its graphic nature. Otherwise, I’m racking my brain for one that would’ve had me leaving the light on at night… Not to say that hasn’t happened, as I certainly have gotten chills from Gothic tales like The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Woman in Black—and anything these days by Shani Struthers and Sarah England is sure to frighten!—but for being so bookish, I actually think I’m more skittish when it comes to movies. Not sure why.

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

Fear creeps across all my stories, and in my paranormal ones it’s usually my main characters’ fears that render them more vulnerable to the supernatural—not in that they’re preyed upon by a malevolent entity for that reason, but that their human frailty genuinely connects them to someone in the past. That’s usually the point of any “haunting” in my stories, not really to terrify but to show the universality of the human condition across time.

Yet to cite a specific example for this question, I’ll look to my most recent story, “Revolve Her,” a novella that now features in my short story collection, Myths, Mothers, and Mystics. In this one, my main character, Ellie, immediately finds herself freaked by a murder she might have just committed, only to find it was all in her mind, which proves almost (if not just) as scary. She’s questioning whether she’s had a psychotic break or not when she begins to suspect there could be someone else’s emotional baggage that’s affecting her—a presence in her hotel room that haunts her both in dreams and her waking life. Ellie has just experienced a shocking heartbreak in her relationship with a doctor, and she’s traveled far from home, feeling alone in an unfamiliar landscape, so her sense of betrayal and sadness and loneliness all compounds to make her relatable to a ghost because of what had led to that person’s death and the ethereal existence they’ve had since. Over the course of the story, we see not just fear but the different ways people might choose to act on that fear and what the consequences could be.

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

Currently, my biggest fear is anything happening to my family while I’m overseas. I live in London, UK but am originally from Chicago, Illinois, and this separation from my family in the States during COVID is a nightmare. Aside from missing siblings, nieces, and nephews terribly, my parents are highly at risk right now, so I’m terrified of them having any contact with this virus, along with just not knowing how long it will be before I see them again, if I’m losing precious time.

I honestly think that fear is actually preventing me from writing lately. But moving away from my family in the first place did heavily influence my first novel manuscript, which was my second book to be published: What the Clocks Know. I started drafting that story while in the throes of depression, soon after relocating to London from Chicago in 2008. Since I wasn’t working for a time to follow the move, I ended up pouring my emotions into Clocks…the loneliness of missing family and friends back home and not having anyone near me besides my husband, the blank and drifting feeling I had without familiar surroundings and a sense of structure and purpose…

That big unknown about the future and not having a local network of support was incredibly frightening, and even scarier was the fact that, most days, I didn’t even really know myself anymore. I didn’t know what defined me any longer, if what I thought defined me before even had in the first place. In my early thirties, I was facing a bigger identity crisis than in adolescence, so a lot of that got dumped into poor Margot, my protagonist. I had her come to London on her own steam in an attempt to live vicariously, to feel more empowered about my own situation overseas rather than feeling like the “trailing spouse” (a horrid term, if you ask me), and I gave her my depression but with the hope that, hey, maybe it isn’t her—maybe it’s a ghost! A presence in her new flat that might be imparting its own emotions onto her, just like I pondered when I myself sat alone in my new Victorian-era space. I wished so badly that it was just residual negative energy, trapped within those walls, that would explain why I felt the way I did, why I didn’t feel like myself—because that would be less scary than the realities of my mental and emotional health. So, I explored that in the book, and, well…now it is what it is!

That’s probably the most personal example of how I’ve used fear in my writing, but even as the characters I write become less and less like myself, I still use my own fears in thinking up scenarios that would frighten me as a reader. And even if I can’t relate directly to a character’s life experience, I think fear is key to finding common ground. Ultimately, we’re all human and vulnerable and afraid of something, and even if those fears take different forms, their nature is essentially the same at the core and can topple even the giants among us.

Huge thanks Rumer, we really do have alot in common! The Entity ruined me for years, I still can’t watch it, and Poltergeist is absolute tops (and yes that remake didn’t last very long on my screen, eve with the presence of Sam Rockwell). And on the subject of American Psycho – the reason I only read it once? The Rat.

If you fancy a dip into the paranormal world of Rumer, please use the links below and get yourself some lockdown reading by stacking her books up on your shelf or virtual shelf.

In Search of Fear…..with Morwenna Blackwood

  “Fear," the doctor said, "is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” 
 ― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House 

Back again for the most wonderful time of the year! Its Halloween at last, although some of us celebrate all year round, whatever you call it, Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, I know its different this year for those who would be out celebrating or Trick or Treating, but we can still celebrate at home there’s plenty to watch and read so you scare the pants off of yourself without even leaving the house. This lady knows a thing or two about dishing out scares, so lets talk to Morwenna Blackwood, author of the thriller ‘The (D)Evolution of Us’ about what it takes to scare her….

What movie/book scared you as a child?

For someone who writes dark fiction, I scare pretty easily!  As a child, I remember my mum rushing me out of a cinema when we went to see The Wizard of Oz – I was having a hysterical crying fit because of the Wheelers.  They are SO creepy!  And then when I was about 12, some friends held my eyelids open and forced me to watch Child’s Play.  They had no idea that this wasn’t funny and that I’d be traumatised by it to this day – I can’t have a doll in the house, and going up the doll aisle in toy shops…urgggg!  The blend of horror with kids’ stuff totally freaks me out.  And don’t even get me started on Watership Down!

What was your biggest fear as a child?

When I was young, I was scared of “the Baddies getting me”.  I used to run up the stairs in case “they” were coming up behind me, and I’d jump into bed from as far away as I could so that the ones under my bed couldn’t grab my ankles!  Also, Christianity scared me – the bit about going to Hell if I wasn’t good, obviously, but the implication that someone invisible was constantly watching all I did and thought was so much worse.

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

As a rule, I don’t like scary movies, but I’m drawn to them because all the feel-good stuff just doesn’t ring true for me.  I know it’s a spoof, but Shaun of the Dead, is one of my all-time favourite films, and because of it, I watched Dawn of the Dead.  I seem to be okay with zombies!

I am usually scared the most by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

Have I ever had a paranormal experience?  I don’t know.  I can never be sure if I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing, and I’m not entirely sure what I believe about the world.  There was an incident where a name was written in dust, which I can only explain as paranormal; I can’t decide if I am unsettled or comforted by it this.

This sounds fascinating I’d love to hear more about the words in the dust!

Has a book ever really scared you?

Many books have scared me.  I’ve written about it a million times, but whenever I read Dracula I have to have a clove of garlic on my person, because it scares me that much!  It was the primary reason I’d chosen a module in Irish Literature for my  course at uni.  However, shortly before I started reading it, I fell out of a window and broke my back.  Long story short (ha!), I was very lucky and got away with having my spine fused, but I was flat on my back in hospital unable to move more than my head and my arms for several weeks.  I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to sit my finals, but I read and revised as much as I could, just in case.  And so, lying on a hospital bed attached to goodness knows what, I picked up Dracula.  It scared the living daylights out of me, and as I wasn’t in control of my environment, my body, or even my mind at times (there was a lot of morphine and Valium!) it was probably the most scared I’ve ever been, but I couldn’t put the book down!  It is so wonderfully written and constructed and imagined; honestly I am in awe of Bram Stoker.  It’s a book that I keep coming back to, probably because it has that power over me.

Nineteen Eighty-Four frightens me, but on a deeper level.  I found it plausible when I read it as a teen, but the older I get, the more possible it seems – if we’re not living it already.  Maybe we always have been…

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

Fear is central to my debut novel, The (D)Evolution of Us.  The protagonists experience it in many different ways, but the overriding fear for each of them is the perception that they have no control.  What they do with this fear, drives the story.

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

My biggest fear in real life?  That what I perceive to be happening, isn’t what is actually happening.  And, yes, I use this in my writing all the time!

Some great choices there, I admist I have an issue with zombie movies, they usually make me feel nauseous – all that brain eating, but I do love Shaun of the Dead! I too was very affected by reading Dracula, as I recall I ended up going to sleep with stuff around my neck for a while to create access issues for any vamp that might pay me a visit. And the fear of a dystopian world has long sat with me, I must admit when we went into lockdown in March it caused a fair few anxieties to arise, were we all about to lose our freedoms? Morwenna is right, we have been living in an Orwellian nightmare of sorts for some time.

Very grateful to Morwenna for sharing her fears with us, if you would like to have her scare you even more check out her book, heres a taster….

“… the water was red and translucent, like when you rinse a paint brush in a jam jar. The deeper into the water, the darker the red got. No, the thicker it got. It wasn’t water, it was human. It was Cath.

Cath is dead, but how and why isn’t clear-cut to her best friend, Kayleigh.

As Kayleigh searches for answers, she is drawn deeper into Cath’s hidden world.

The (D)Evolution of Us questions where a story really begins, and whether the world in our heads is more real than reality.

Morwenna’s book is currently in the big DarkStroke Halloween Sale over on Amazon! You can bag this book for just 99c/99c this weekend!

In Search of Fear…..with Jennifer Wilson

“Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed” – William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part One

So very happy to welcome Jennifer Wilson to my blog during the festive season! As you may know Jennifer loves writing about spooks as much as I do, only hers are a tad more regal than mine. Author of the Kindred Spirits series, Jennifer has raised the dead monarchy so many times she deserves a spot on Most Haunted. I think her stories are awesome so I’m very excited to have her here to talk about fear…..

Hi Anne-Marie, thanks for inviting me to your blog today. It’s fair to say I’m a naturally jumpy and easily-frightened individual, so I’m confident that of all your guests, my responses are at the coward’s end of the fear scale…

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I have really vivid memories of reading a book from the ‘upstairs’ library, for the upper juniors in primary school, which really freaked me out. I can see the cover, with two boys running, and I’m sure it was called ‘The Runaways’ or something similar. In one scene, a wall fell over, almost crushing either one or both of them. That image stuck with me for a long, long time, and gave me nightmares about being crushed. Horrific. I should have stayed in the ‘downstairs’ library, where I belonged, but I’d finished all the books it had to offer!

What was your biggest fear as a child?

Well, apart from walls… I’ve always had the most random fear of dust-bin lorries. That, and dinosaurs. Both stem from films. I watched the Turtles live-action film, where Shredder is, well, shredded, in a dust-bin lorry, and from that day, I’ve hated them. We used to have to walk up a really narrow wynd to get up to college, and on dust-bin day, I’d be petrified of accidentally slipping into the back of it. As for dinosaurs, that’s the fault of Jurassic Park. I had this terrible fear that if I opened my curtains at night, I’d see the eye of a t-rex, just staring back at me…

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

As you can probably guess from the above, no, I do not like scary movies… I’m not really a film person anyway, but the most I can tolerate is a bit of a ‘jump scare’ which at least is over quickly!

I am usually scared the most by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

Yes, and the most recent was in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in Edinburgh. As it’s the setting for part of my own book, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, and it was a lovely, quiet morning (I was early for an exhibition), I decided to pop in and get some nice photos of the blossom. There was one guy sitting having a coffee on a bench as I walked in, but that was it. Around the front of the church there was a lovely view down the graveyard of blossom, which I snapped, but as I went to put my phone away, I felt somebody touch my handbag. I panicked slightly, and put my own hand down to the zipper / strap, whilst turning to my left to confront them. Out the corner of my eye, I saw a tall gentleman in a dark suit and a white shirt, with dark hair. Later, I thought he had also been wearing a hat, but I cannot swear to that, and may have added it in my imagination afterwards. But the man himself was clear as day. Heart racing now, I turned fully around, only… Nothing. Nobody anywhere near me. Anyone who knows the site will know that if you’re in the middle of the paving in front of the church itself, there’s not enough time to get somewhere hide in the second it took me to turn around (Usain Bolt himself wouldn’t make it). The only other thing I felt was the strangest sensation of cold.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

I got out of there quicker than I’ve ever done anything in my life! Once out the gates, I did what every self-respecting thirty-something who has had a scare would do, and called my mum. She laughed initially when I told her, but then admitted she believed me, because she could hear the genuine fear in my voice. I was very glad to get away into the safety of the museum after that…

Has a book ever really scared you?

Other than the one I talked about above, not really, but that’s partly down to the fact that I can usually sense when something is about to get too much for me, and I skim / skip appropriately. It’s the same technique I use with overly-graphic crime novels!

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

Since the Kindred Spirits series follows the adventures of the ghostly communities inhabiting some of Britain’s most famous landmarks, fear definitely plays a part in my novels. For the most part, this is the ghosts instilling fear in the tourists who visit their homes, such as George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, rising from a barrel of malmsey in the Tower of London, or Katherine Howard haunting ‘her’ corridor at Hampton Court Palace. In one of the closes off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, some students ready to play a trick on those taking part in one of the city’s famous ‘ghost tours’, the students themselves become the victims, terrified as Mary Queen of Scots enjoys herself in the occasional haunting. In these situations though, I think it’s fair to say that the living are almost-willing participants in the game. After all, you wouldn’t go on a ghost tour along a famously haunted street, at night, with somebody dressed as a ghoul, if you weren’t at least partially expecting to be scared witless, would you? So can the ghosts really be blamed, when they’re practically giving the tourists what they’re expecting?

In some instances though, I’ve wanted to explore things a little ‘bigger’ than just ghosts jumping out at unsuspecting visitors. I’ve talked about ghostly characters finding their ‘white light’ and moving on from their haunting, but this is by choice – if the white light appears, then a ghost can choose to move on, or stay. But I also wanted to give the ghosts something to genuinely fear, otherwise, they seemed a bit too invincible. I had this idea that if a ghost was injured too many times, they would gradually fade away to nothing. That would stop characters fighting each other – there had to be a consequence of their actions.

In Kindred Spirits: York, I pushed things a little further, and actually introduced a ‘bad guy’ into things, rather than just an unpopular character. Here, the ghosts didn’t quite know what was going on, which, for characters who can slip through walls and overhear almost any conversation without being observed, was something unknown, and for a lot of people, isn’t that one of the most frightening things?

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

If you take away dust-bin lorries and dinosaurs, then being very serious for a moment, I’m always scared of letting people down, or disappointing them. Perhaps this isn’t quite as relevant in the Kindred Spirits series, but in The Raided Heart, Meg has a strong sense of wanting to do the right thing, and not let her family down, and in the WIP I’m currently working on, loyalty and needing to work together are strong motivations for the key characters, as they try to do their best in difficult situations.

Thank you so much for joining my study of fear Jennifer. I too fell foul of Jurassic Park, had several T Rex nightmares after seeing that at the cinema! And your Greyfriars experience deserves a blog post of its own! How creepy was that? Feel free to stop by with ghost stories again please!

All of Jennifer’s books are currently in the big DarkStroke Halloween sale over on Amazon, you can get all titles for 99p/99c this weekend! Go go go!

About Jennifer C. Wilson

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.

You can connect with Jennifer online:






In Search of Fear…..with Michelle Cook

We still have a little time to go before Halloween but as any of my Instagram followers know – its 31 Days of Halloween over there (plus its Halloween every day for me) so im still digging about in peoples brains for whats scary and this week I have another guest willing to answer my probing questions! The awesome Michelle Cook – author of The Tipping Point – lets get spooky….

What movie/book scared you as a child?

When I was five, my parents took me to the cinema for the first time. Watership Down must have seemed a good option—an animated film about rabbits, what could possibly go wrong?

Well… the Black Rabbit, that’s what. I was petrified of this mythical creature, which was a sort of dark, leporine messiah. Add to that, scenes depicting violent human destruction of warrens, and the terrifying General Woundwort, and you’ve got a not-so cosy introduction to the movies. For most of my subsequent childhood, I would lie awake at night searching the shadows for two long black ears…

Years later, I read the book and not only appreciated what a feat of imagination it is, but also realised how much scarier the movie could have been. The rabbits in the book have a strong story-telling tradition, and most of the tales they tell are dark. I‘m glad on behalf of my five-year-old self that they left a lot of it out.

Honestly right there with you on that one – thoroughly traumatised by that movie, I wonder if i’d still be bothered by it now. Anyone seen it since reaching adulthood?

What was your biggest fear as a child?

Apart from mythical rabbits, I think being left behind. As a child, I once fell asleep on a drive in Norfolk and my parents left me to sleep with the car on the driveway. When I woke up, I was child-locked inside the car and became quite hysterical.  My family were only inside the house, and I think I knew that from the off, but my rational mind was swallowed by this primal fear of being left there alone.

I’m making it sound like I had a terribly traumatic early life, but it’s not actually true. Apart from being fed too many Super Noodles, I did okay.

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

I love them, though don’t watch so many these days as my hubby isn’t a fan. The Blair Witch Project was good fun. I recently watched Hereditary on my own in the house when I was isolating. That’s terrifying! Some of the old classics you can’t beat—Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Demonic possession and spooky stuff always does it for me much more than blood and gore.

I am usually scared the most by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

No, and I hate to say it but I don’t really believe in that stuff in real life. I believe in the power of the mind to fill in gaps, and that we humans have sensitivities to atmosphere that we don’t understand. As for entire, enduring consciousness after death, I’m afraid not. I’m too much of a scientist, I guess. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being spooked fictionally, though.

Has a book ever really scared you?

Quite a few have got to me. I find spooky books scarier than films, because your imagination is more active and gets to play more tricks on you.

As a teenager I read everything Stephen King wrote, though looking back most of them I just enjoyed and didn’t feel frightened as such. With the possible exception of The Shining, which did well and truly scare me. Oh, and It. Clowns… that’ll do it.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters was a smart and ambiguous ghost story with some really chilling scenes. I like stories that might be one thing or the other, and in that book you’re never sure if there’s just a perfectly human explanation. Turn of the Screw by Henry James is another of my favourites for the same reason. I’ve lapped up quite a few of Susan Hill’s creepy tales—The Woman in Black and The Man in the Picture were particularly chilling.

The book that scared me the most of all was Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. It’s set at the North Pole and is just so atmospheric from the outset. When the paranormal things happen, they are so disturbing and malevolent I spend a lot of the time with goose bumps and watery eyes reading that book!

Great choices there – you cant beat Susan Hill for creepy stories. Ive never heard of the The Little Stranger though so its going straight on my TBR pile! Also Clowns can just sod off…

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

My debut novel Tipping Point is full of fear! Its central theme is climate change, which is an anxiety that preoccupies me and many others these days, I think. On top of the existential threat, it’s a girls’ own adventure, and the main character Essie gets into some serious scrapes. She experiences a lot of fear throughout the novel, poor lass. The great thing about writing stories is you can do awful things to your main characters, make them scared, and give them a chance to prove what they’re made of. Essie is incredible. She stands up to way more than I ever could.

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

The things that scare me in real life are more down to earth. As a parent, the idea of anything happening to my kids is my worst nightmare. My son had some health problems a few years ago when he was four, and that was the scariest time in my life by a long way. I haven’t been able to write about that as yet, but maybe one day.

I do worry a lot about the future of the planet, and us humans too. We seem to be racing faster and faster in the wrong direction, with crazy inequality and a climate catastrophe just around the corner. My writing returns periodically to topics like this, even if I set out to tell a story about something completely different. The power of the mind, eh?

Thank you so much for stopping by Michelle!

Check out her book here –


And you can catch her on social media here:

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In Search of Fear….with Dean Bryant.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

Hey guys its been a while! Crazy year and crazy times and I realised I spent alot of this year dealing with fear in my weird new every day pandemic life, so I decided I wanted to get back in the saddle again and have a chinwag with people about fear and what scares people. Lets face it my books show I’m pretty fixated on scares.

So first up on my study of fear is author Dean Bryant whose new book The Stairwell is out on 30 October (SPOOKY) through DarkStroke Books.

What movie/book scared you as a child?

Thanks for having me on your blog! I remember watching The Others as a child and being quite scared! It probably wouldn’t affect me at all anymore, but back then it was really creepy (I still watched it multiple times though!). Also, I used to love the Goosebumps books – they used to scare me but I loved them. I wouldn’t go to sleep until I had read some, then I often couldn’t sleep after reading them!

I loved The Others too good old fashioned simple scares are oftem the best…..only just discovered Goosebumps when my daughter wanted to to watch the Jack Black movie, I’d have loved them when I was little!

What was your biggest fear as a child?

I used to have recurring nightmares about cats. We didn’t own a cat at the time, but in the dream I would leave my bedroom and there’d be a cat there waiting for me. It would bite me and I’d wake up and could feel the bite in my leg. The first time it was just a normal cat, then the next time I had the dream it was a cat without skin, then a flaming cat, then a robot cat. I was only six or seven years old, so these dreams were quite frightening! I was only scared of the cat in the nightmares though – we had pet cats that I loved. Dogs, however, I was very scared of. As a child I was chased by a huge dog and only just managed to get back home in time. I’ve been very uncomfortable around big dogs since.

Oh no this is terrifying – I love cats, I cant imagine being scared of them but the whole cat without skin/flaming cat/robot would give me some trouble too. 100% with you on the dog thing though, Ive been scared of dogs for as long as I can remember, not even sure why.

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

I do, but I’m not sure I could name just one. There are so many – It, Carrie, Room 237, (all Stephen King so far!), Shaun Of The Dead (that’s a horror/comedy if that counts), 28 Days Later, The Blair Witch Project, I could go on and on! I recently watched The Haunting Of Bly Manor on Netflix. It’s not a sequel to the excellent The Haunting Of Hill House, but it’s from the same creators, and it was brilliant. It’s not terribly scary, but well-written, and the characters really demand empathy from the viewer. I watched it all in one weekend.

OMG I’m OBSESSED with Hill House and Bly Manor. Just brilliant story telling and I bawled my eyes out with both in between swearing when I got a scare.

I am usually most freaked out by ghosts in books and movies . Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

I haven’t had any paranormal experiences, not directly anyway. However, seven years ago, my girlfriend and I were living in Plymouth in South East England whilst she was a university student. We lived with a couple of friends in a huge old building. Being alone there always felt kind of… oppressive. There was a quite unpleasant atmosphere, and most of us who lived there didn’t like being alone in the house. Then, one day, when we went out to get an ice cream, we saw a Plymouth Ghost Tours bus stop right outside our building! We never found out why, but that was the closest I’ve come to a paranormal experience.

Oh I wanna know who the Plymouth Ghost Tour stopped for!!

Has a book ever really scared you?

Yes! I read a lot of horror, and for the most part, though I greatly enjoy them, I don’t get very scared. However, Midnight by Dean Koontz terrified me! It’s perhaps not his most objectively scary book, but there’s a scene involving a boy and his computer. Those of you who have read it know what part I mean. If you haven’t, I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but it’s one of my favourite books of all time and well worth a read. Also, I found Misery by Stephen King particularly frightening. It’s the realism of it. I’m not egotistical enough to imagine that I’ll be famous enough of a writer to one day find myself in the position of the main character in the book, but the plausibility and bleakness of the story is what scared me.

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

Both of the main characters in my new novel The Stairwell experience mind-bending, violent visions of horrific, unexplainable events. As if that’s not enough, these also begin to bleed into reality. They both witness people they care about being hurt or worse, both in visions and in the real world. It’s the feeling of total helplessness that the characters experience that I think readers will find frightening. Without giving too much away, both characters, though non-believers in the paranormal, experience events that can be described in no other way, than paranormal. Their entire belief systems are laid bare as they are confronted by all manner of dark, violent and disturbing events.

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

I think my biggest fear is losing my memories, or not being able to trust my own mind. This fear plays quite a big part in The Stairwell. Naturally, with what the characters go through, they question their own sanity, and the thought of this is frightening to me. I have lost two grandparents to Alzheimer’s, so I’ve seen first hand the effects of losing memories and confidence in one’s own mind, and it’s terrifying. I’m also scared of crabs! They’re huge, armoured spiders and I’m not sure why more people aren’t frightened of them when in the sea! I couldn’t find a way to fit crabs into the story, however.

Thank you so much Dean! You better put scary crabs in your next book or I’ll never get over it….

Dean Bryant

Author of horror novel The Stairwell

Releasing on 30th October 2020.

Published by Darkstroke.




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Dark London – An Anthology

When I first heard about Dark London, an anthology for charity of dark stories set in or about London it felt like a perfect match, I was thrilled when my short story got accepted to be in it.

I was at the end of a year and a half of writing my last novel The Tower which is set in the East End of London with some meanderings into the City and I felt like my mind was saturated with the dark side of the London I had left behind when I moved out to the coast. Ghosts and murder were all I had thought about for a long time while writing, and that shows no sign of slowing.

I miss London a lot, I dream about being there almost every night, it haunts me daily and follows at my heels. I am happy being haunted by it though.

As I still felt so immersed in the city it was easy for me to cast the nets in my head for another little dark tale to share, and I settled on the name of it before I even knew where the story would go.

I had an image in my head of London Fields late at night, a scene from The Tower that had some roots in reality, and I thought of terrible things that had happened in London parks in real life and my earliest awareness of how a park could be unsafe even in the middle of the day was the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992. I have always been haunted by the thought of a person, murdered and abandoned somewhere to be found by unsuspecting dog walkers. And the title of the story was there – ‘The Place Where She Stopped Living.’

And so somehow my nameless protagonist was born, a non descript woman in her 40’s who likes to go for walks during the night and chat to whatever ghosts she encounters on her wanderings, often helping them to relax into their afterlife or just be there to talk to. In this short window into her life she comes across the titular ‘She’ shortly after someone ended her young life.

She is a gentle person, her ordinariness making her almost invisible in the surge of the city streets and her softness seems at odds with the dark side of London, but she knows the streets of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green better than most.

Location Inspirations;

Commercial Road and Whitechapel High Street – an area I first learned about quite young when I stumbled across my dad’s Jack the Ripper books, also somewhere I frequented at night for a while.

Brick Lane – one of my favourite places, full of great food smells, fabulous shops and markets and by night a great place to drink and buy bagels.

Hackney Road – anyone who has read The Tower knows this place is special to me and one of the locations sits on the junction of the fabulously named Allgood Street.

Shoreditch and Spitalfields – the church of St Leonards sits on the Junction of Hackney Road and Shoreditch High Street and I used to pass it on my commute every day – fans of the TV series Rev would know it well. Also Christchurch beside Spitalfields Market the market is a familiar sight.


Dark London is being released to raise money for The London Community Project and Centrepoint. Please do treat yourself to a bunch of amazing stories from some wonderful writers and help support some of the most disadvantaged people in London.

Pre-orders are available for the e-books now, via these links: &

Paperback editions will be released on 25 June and 2 July.