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.


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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….



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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 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 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?

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