Thursday, 26 October 2017

Spooky Tales from Wales by Eloise Williams

In the lead up to Halloween I’m working away at a ghost story. 

I know, perfect timing, what with the storms every other day, the clocks going back, and the scary unknown faces at the window. Well, maybe not the last one.

Gaslight is out there in the world spreading its dark, gritty, little-bit-scary mystery and I am trying to come up with a design for my pumpkin lantern and a better costume than last year’s. Although I think you’ll agree it was quite a superb effort.

At this time of year, actually at every time of year, I like to curl up and read spooky stories.

There’s something so satisfying in feeling the hairs on the back of your neck prickling up, the uncertainty when you switch off the light, then switch it back on again, then off again with every determination of being a grown-up.

Then back on again TO READ.  

I thought I’d share some of my recent creepily brilliant favourites with you and also a few words from the authors on why they wrote these superlative spooky stories. So here they are – some spooky tales from Wales. Enjoy! 

The Boy who Drew the Future by Rhian Ivory 

"I wrote TBWDTF because I had a nightmare about a boy called Noah who could draw the future but he didn't view it as a gift, he saw it as curse. I was visited by the ghost of a boy and his dog while writing Noah's story. I decided to tell the ghost's story too, he became Blaze who also draws the future but in 1865 when it was much more dangerous to be caught predicting anything. During the writing process I randomly chose Sible Hedingham for my setting as the odd village name appealed to me. I later found out that Sible Hedingham is the last place in the UK to swim a witch. The man known as Dummy was taken down to the river and accused of being a witch because he'd been caught drawing pictures of women the village's fates and futures. Shudder? Yes, I did."

"Fate, destiny, the future, whatever you want to call it, unless you run fast, keep running and don't turn around to see who or what's behind you, it'll find you. It'll find you, catch you and trip you up until you stumble and fall."

Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners by Sharon Marie Jones

As a child I believed in magic. I had a fairy door on the crab apple tree at the bottom of the garden; there was a wishing tree in a field where I would walk and of course, we all knew that a wicked witch lived in the small cottage by the river, with the overgrown garden and dirty, cracked windows.

Halloween was a dress-as-a-witch time, and a gathering of friends where ghost stories were shared in hushed whispers, eyes wide with excited fear. That imagination has never left me. It was no surprise to me that my first children’s book is about a young witch, her rather haughty black cat and a sprinkling of magical mayhem.

Children will always love magic, they’ll always listen with a fear-filled fascination to tales of ghosts and ghouls. And at Halloween, anything can happen…

'Vampire bats and witches’ hats, give us a howl and a scream.
Ghosts and ghouls come out to play, tonight on Halloween.’

The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza 

I do enjoy a bit of dark, dark, darkness so it’s no surprise that it seeps into my children’s books. A little scarifying is a delicious thing.  Of all things dark, I think the unknown is the most unsettling so I use it with glee.

In my latest book ‘The Jewelled Jaguar’ Griff and Cinnamon are lost in a labyrinth of underground tunnels. As if that isn’t scary enough their hearts stop beating when they hear something totally unexpected…

The plink, plink, plink of water echoed in the distance.

Cinnamon’s teeth chattered. ‘Shh,’ she said. Somewhere, in the darkness, deep in the tangle of tunnels and caves, we heard singing.

The House on March Lane by Michelle Briscombe

A few years ago I visited an old reclamation warehouse in Bridgend looking for wood block flooring, it was a fascinating place, a sprawling maze of the most incredible items, yet at the same time it was dark and slightly unnerving in some of the rooms I wandered through. Brimming with objects that had been removed from houses, pubs, Victorian hospitals and schools it started me thinking about the links those objects might have with people and events through time. The idea of a warehouse full of ghosts connected to items and two young detectives helping a girl from almost two hundred years ago bounded into view. 

My son was studying to be a zoologist at Bangor University and it was a visit to him in North Wales that prompted my story link to Darwin. I would have liked to have set the story in Wales but Darwin wasn’t a Welshman and therefore to be (roughly) correct geographically, that wasn’t possible.

I’m a great lover of supernatural tales, perhaps that’s a Welsh thing, we have a wealth of stories based on myths and legends, most of which I enjoyed as a child and then read to my own children.

‘Archie, it’s always drafty in here. Remember that time in the yard when the leaves started to fly around in the wind and came through the door and across the warehouse floor?’ She smiled trying to reassure him but she was starting to feel unsettled by his reaction. Archie was always brave, he had too much going on in his troubled life to be afraid of anything.

‘It wasn’t the wind,’ Archie said harshly and then he spoke so quietly that Flora had to crouch down to hear him. ‘Something…..whispered my name.’

Mr Mahli’s Shed by Laura Sheldon 

I wrote Mr Mahli’s Shed about the ghost of Dylan Thomas because I was teaching a wonderful bunch of Y4 children at the time, who were keen on building a shed in the school grounds, which they could go in to write. I got carried away with the idea of an ‘inspirational writing shed’ and began to imagine what it would be like to be a child who discovered that the shed was occupied by the spirit of a famous writer – dead, naturally – who could help little writers create masterpieces.

The story turned out very differently in the end, but the poet in the shed was too full of mischief to want to help anyone out with their writing ambitions!

It's not the spookiest of tales - the ghost is friendly (if a bit dramatic) but there is a creepy part when the daring duo of Tom and Alys first discover that the seemingly empty shed, isn't empty at all...

The air was cold inside the shed.  Alys and TB moved closer together as they felt shivers creep over their skin.  There was nothing in there.  Just as they'd seen from the outside, the shed was empty, yet they felt as though there was something.  In a strange way, something that could be felt but not seen was in the shed with them.  The door creaked in the wind and Alys jumped.

'I don't like it in here TB, it's spooky,'

'I know,' TB replied 'there's something well odd... why is it so cold?''Ooo yes, it is!  And it smells weird... like... cigarettes.'

'Cigars,' said a deep voice and the children screamed, leaped out of the shed as fast as they could and ran, leaving the shed door swinging in the breeze.

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis
Having grown up hearing the myths and legends of Wales - about monsters and dragons, witches and giants - I learned to look for the weird and spooky in the books I read and enjoyed. When it came to writing my own stories, bringing the creep-factor to the forefront felt like the natural thing to do!

'It's just this town, you know. All the staring, the whispering ... it's this Blackfin weirdness that gets into people's heads. There's nothing special about me, Sean.'

'Except you drowned, then came back.'

Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan 

I love contrasts and mash-ups of different genres, so a sci-fi story with added ghosts really appealed when I was coming up with the idea for Alien Rain.  The spooky action takes place in the National Museum, Cardiff and having known people who've worked there, who've told me real life ghost stories about the place, the setting put me in the right frame of mind for writing a chiller thriller.

 "I could not make out any shape in the chair and yet I knew someone had sat down on it and was sitting so close that I could have reached out and touched them...I was almost too scared to blink, in case in that shaved second the dark matter might suddenly coagulate into my nightmare."

Eloise Williams


Sandal Winback said...

nice book

sara gethin said...

Loved the post, Eloise - and great spooky recommendations from Wales!

Sue Purkiss said...

Wonderfully spooky!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Thank you for this, Eloise. x