writing

Ways of being scary – and scared

And so… I have the Hallowe’en blog! I originally thought I’d write something about what it’s like writing publisher led books but instead, given the date, I decided to write about how fear, and the scary in general, gets into my writing.

I’ve always loved horror. I’m fascinated by it, even when it keeps me awake at night. When I was a teenager I used to watch lots of horror films. I liked supernatural scary things best, but anything that delivered jumps, shocks, and tense minutes biting your nails on the edge of your seat was acceptable. I was easily scared, too. I remember having to find someone to come and watch Indiana Jones with me when I was as old as twelve or thirteen. (I know, I know – it’s embarrassing). But I loved it.

The Bathsheba books don’t look scary at all from the covers, and they’re not – there is a thrilling spooky sort of bit in Doughnuts Dreams and Drama Queens, but that’s about it. But the book I’ve just finished writing is supernatural scary. I enjoyed writing it so much – I loved building up the tension and creating atmosphere. Writing supernatural is fun, it’s like peeping over the precipice and I like the idea that there’s a precipice there to peep over. That there’s not just what we see, in the world. I’m not sure why, perhaps because I have a strong imagination. Sometimes being a writer feels like living with a world of ghosts – people and feelings and places that are real to you although no-one else can see them.

But there are other scary things in life that aren’t supernatural. Really scary things, like growing up, like your parents leaving, like not being safe in your own home. I like to link in and loop up plot elements like those together with the supernatural elements, because they’re the real scary stuff, the things we can’t stop happening, the things we all have to deal with to some extent, at some point in our lives. When I’m writing I like to show that there are ways of finding your way safely out of those fearful places. The supernatural scariness becomes a kind of metaphor for the real life scariness. I’m already planning the next book, as you can tell…

To finish with, here are my favourite frightening books:

The Owl Service by Alan Garner – this is still one of the creepiest and best books I’ve ever read. It has a brilliantly tense first chapter and the tension doesn’t stop throughout.

Elidor by Alan Garner– the shadow on the wall! The thing at the door! The things that come out of the burial mound!

glass demon

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant – a great modern ghost story.

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – There are some really frightening bits in this book.

Enjoy your trick or treating!

Leila Rasheed x

3 thoughts on “Ways of being scary – and scared

  1. if you like scary stories Leila you’ll love Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough. Its the scariest story I’ve ever read and that includes Dracula! I hate feeling scared but I just cant seem to stop myself reading scary stories! I cant watch anything scary on the telly tho! even Casualty and crime series are too much for me, probably because as you say there are scary elements to real life too. I like practical jokes though, i’m amused to hear about people getting back on trick or treaters by wrapping brussell sprouts in Frerrer Rocher wrappers !

  2. I don’t like being scared because my imagination runs away with me *is embarrassed* but I will admit to having been gripped by Robert Westall’s The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral, which is deeply spooky.

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