I recently published a short story collection, comprising 14 original stories and entitled 'Beyond Twilight'. At the end of the book, I wrote an Afterword detailing how I came to be inspired to write many of the stories. I reproduce it here for those that are interested:
I wanted to write an opening story for this collection that was a bit tongue-in-cheek from my point of view but I also created a sense of atmosphere for the stories that would follow. This is the companion piece for the ‘Verity Jamieson’ story’. I just thought of the concept for the story after reading about rock musicians like Marilyn Manson and Norwegian death metal bands that were into Satanism and alternative cultures. I did online research about bands I liked when I was an undergraduate and postgraduate student. I like rock music, but I don’t like Marilyn Manson or death metal.
The idea for Epiphany came from a dream that I had. The dream was simply that of a man and a woman in a car, speeding across a desert and being pursued by unknown forces. From that simple concept, the rest of the story wrote itself. There’s obviously influence from post-apocalypse stories and films, like Mad Max, The Postman, and others.
Garden of Illusion
Like Epiphany, the story came from a dream I had, of a woman alone in an apartment block, while a menagerie of animals was active in the gardens below. The virtual reality concept and the stalking assassin idea wrote themselves after that initial thought.
Hell Hath No Fury
I had an idea about a man who wakes up alone, trapped in a room, with no idea of who he is or how he got there. I didn’t really know where to go with it or what would happen afterward, for a while. Then one day, I sat down and wrote the story pretty much in its entirety. I probably took a lot of bad action movies and an Avengers plot as my general inspiration for this one- which is always good policy, I think!
I took up a writing challenge for updating a classic fairytale in a modern or futuristic setting. ‘Red’ was the result, and it was the quickest to be written of all these stories, in about two days. Yep, it’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’
This is the oldest story in the collection. I originally started it around 2001. It’s been rewritten several times before you see it in the form it is here. I just wanted to write a classic supernatural short story, and this one is heavily influenced by the likes of James Herbert. Stephen King, James Herbert and Clive Barker were my favourite writers as a teenager. I also wanted to write a story based around a witch and witchcraft theme, and as you have seen, it isn’t the first time I’ve used this typical horror staple.
The Birthday Box
As I mentioned in the Foreword, I absolutely hate spiders. If they were big enough, they would devour the human race and take over the world.
The Book of Witchcraft
They always say ‘write about what you know’. Some might read this and believe there are autobiographical elements to this story. I couldn’t possibly say. It is a story about self-realisation, and wishful thinking, from the author’s point of view. From the reader’s point of view, it is an updated Faust. Again, I returned to the themes of Satanism, demonology and witchcraft.
The Fenland Witches
This is another story heavily influenced by personal experience and also a story involving witches. The inspiration for this probably comes from my grandmother…thanks Nan.
The Legacy of Steeple Hill
I have always been very interested in the history of the paranormal, and the study of it. My knowledge of people like Aleister Crowley and the paranormal investigator Harry Price were the main inspirations for this story, as well as the descriptions of what happened at Borley Rectory, the ‘most haunted house in Britain’ during the early part of the twentieth century. I also wanted to write a classic Victorian/Edwardian-era ghost story with Victorian characters. Along with ‘Requiem’ and, in a sense, ‘City by the Sea’, it’s one of three ‘haunted house’-style horror stories in this collection.
Under Foreign Skies
The opening paragraphs to this story were written in 2002. We were shown a black and white photograph of an old lady pushing a pram outside a decaying shop in a desolate city. This was in a PGCE teacher training session, and the tutor asked us to respond to it by writing a work of fiction. What followed was probably the most enjoyable half hour I ever spent while doing teaching training. I wrote the opening paragraphs but wasn’t sure where to go with it afterward, so it stalled there. In 2008, I came across the opening written on note paper while sorting my things out. I thought that it would make a good opening for a new short story, and so the paranoid spy plot that followed, essentially wrote itself.
Veronica and the Men
Originally called ‘Veronica’s Shadow’, this one is a curiosity. For the author, it is an experiment. Originally, it was going to be a typical paranoid horror story with a woman being stalked by a madman but after a while I found the plot predictable, unsavoury and boring. ‘Garden of Illusion’ is another version of that story anyway. I worked on this one a little and it mutated into something else entirely. It now serves as a piece of comic satire, and forms a little bit of light relief amid the dark stories in this collection. Rather than ending with something horrible happening, it ends with someone getting a date! I have played around with some deeper meanings and some observations upon life and our society. It’s heavily influenced by Will Self, after I discovered his fiction and was thoroughly entertained by it. The title is a twist on the title of the film ‘Dr T and the Women’. Actually, that film and this story have something in common.
The story-within-the-story that Richard Gadman-Hoyte has written and shows Veronica is actually a piece of juvenilia that I wrote when I was eighteen, a comic short story called ‘The Question.’ So in fact, that’s the oldest piece of writing here, rather than ‘Requiem’ (it was written in 1997). That story was kicking around, and I didn’t know what to do with it. In the end, it became part of ‘Veronica and the Men’, simply because I thought it suited the tone of that story.
City by the Sea
The idea for this story came from a dream (or nightmare) I had, about a strange ancient city built upon a faraway coastline. The idea of evil lurking deep within came a little bit afterward. This one has a little bit of Lovecraftian atmosphere about it, I think. I believe that it’s one of the most sinister stories in this collection. I think there’s also a little bit of inspiration from Eric Von Daniken’s theories.
The Last Days of Verity Jamieson
They say that you should write about what you know, and I have never been to Tennessee. So, I broke that rule. Nevertheless, this is my own piece of Southern Gothic. I once remembered reading articles about the FBI investigating devil worship and the sacrifice of cattle in the American Deep South, and these influenced my concept for the story. It is the companion story to ‘Death Head’ and it is appropriate that both bookend the collection.