Don’t hate me. You’ve just broken up from school, and I’m dreaming of autumn days. It’s not that I don’t love the endless summer holidays – reading in the garden, eating ice-pops; swimming in the sea and eating sandy sandwiches – but autumn has always been the jewel in the year’s seasonal crown for me. I love the smoky, earthy smells and the blaze of colours. I love the treasure that hangs heavy on the branches, ready for gathering to make pies, jams and jellies of ruby and purple.
I saw tiny conkers on a tree today, and a thrill ran through me. Conkers are probably my favourite bounty after a brisk, crisp walk. It’s a long time since my children played conkers, and longer still since I strung conkers for gaming, but I still collect a bowl full every year. Yet all these things pale against that brightest of autumnal offerings: Halloween!
It helps that I was born just after midnight at Halloween, so my childhood was filled with spider web birthday cakes and spooky costumes. My favourite book, still, is The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. I read it every Halloween, and the film is watched too.
My husband and I even got married in a wonderful Halloween wedding (and yes, the bride wore black). This love of Halloween is of course reflected in my writing. We should write what we know – and even more so, write what we love. My stories often contain ghosts and eerie settings. One novel, Walking with Witches, even takes place at Halloween. It is easy for me to lose myself in that world of candy corn, pumpkin lanterns and flickering candles. I close my eyes and my senses are filled with nearly fifty Halloweens, like an orange and black slideshow.
Last Halloween, my husband and I launched our small publishing company, Forest House Press. True to form, it was celebrated with a big Halloween party at a wonderful country house hotel complete with gothic gates and crow filled skeleton tree on the lawn.
For Halloween this year, I am going to hold a writing competition for children and young people – so get your cauldrons ready and your pointed thinking-caps on. The competition will be announced on our Facebook page, so keep your eyes peeled – grim though that sounds…there. I’m in the mood already!