A flood of dark memories
A return to the wonderful prompts this week, courtesy of The Publicity Hound.
What one event in your childhood had the greatest effect on your writing career?
In my mind’s eye I see myself at the dining-room table in the house I grew up in, a large bookshelf behind me, groaning under the weight of multitudinous hardback volumes in a dazzling array of sizes and colours.
This is the formative event in my childhood, the one that indelibly influenced my writing future. As with so many significant events from my childhood, it is not a true memory but a representative one, a composite of different times, places and events that have coalesced into a cohesive whole for my benefit, because it is heavy with meaning and comfort for me.
These books are the cause and the effect of my writing. They were there before I was born, and have been part of my life forever. I was allowed to touch them, open them, read them and this had a profound influence upon me.
Whatever I may have been forbidden when growing up, whether it was going somewhere, or seeing something, the one thing that was never forbidden to me was knowledge. If a book was in the house, then I was freely allowed to read it, if I so desired.
And read I did, and a cascade of dark and delicious thoughts filled my suggestible mind. I spent many happy hours with Poe, entombing people and guilt behind walls or under floorboards. I fled the Carpathian mountains with Jonathan Harker, the dread hand of Count Dracula never far from my shoulders. Baron Frankenstein guided me through the creation of his new Prometheus, and from there I read about the original Prometheus, and then to an anatomy textbook to see what parts were needed for a monster.
I grew up in a Catholic household, but one that was not so strict as to deny the mysterious side of that religion, and others. And so stories of the Turin Shroud, stigmata, incorruptible saints, angels and demons and apparitions thrilled me, leading on to deeper mysteries; ghosts, monsters, myths and legends, unexplained historical events.
History itself was a rich mine of interest; kings, queens and empires, but also the history of crime. I was six when I first saw the autopsy photos of the unfortunate victims of Jack the Ripper, in a book that collected together profiles of the most infamous criminals in history, from regicides to infanticides, swindlers and outlaws, robbers and murderers.
And so I write. And when I write I am drawn to the light and the dark; of human nature, of good and evil forces. The “other” infests my fictional worlds, whether you choose a rational explanation or one that comes from beyond our plane of existence.
What influenced you?