Friday 23 March 2018

Helen Moorhouse: Why chick lit never did it for me ... and why I sleep with the lights on

I've always been fascinated by the idea of ghosts - I can remember distinctly asking my mother what ghosts were at roughly the age of three as she tucked me in for the night and thus began a lifetime spent being just that little bit on edge most of the time.

Throughout my childhood it was easy to feed the flames of my unease – TV was and still is, a massive influence and my whole family tuned in weekly to fare such as Arthur C Clarke and Tales of the Unexpected. The Armchair Thriller episode 'Quiet as a Nun', or 'The Black Nun', as she is still known in our house, terrifies me to this day but I have never forgotten it. Weekly, while other girls pored over their copy of Jackie, I waited for my sisters to finish with their copy of The Unexplained magazine to immerse myself into the world of the supernatural. UFO's I could take or leave but it was the ghost photos that fascinated me – look them up – the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, the Staircase ghost of the National Museum in Greenwich. I can't have been more than seven or eight years of age when these images first burned themselves into my consciousness and they've never left me.

All of these influences, combined with living in an old house filled with strange bumps and bangs once the lights went off set my imagination alight, not to mention my nerves. Add in a boarding school education in a convent filled with corridors, nuns and warrens of dark rooms – it's no wonder that when I finally turned to write my first novel that it had an element of a ghost story to it. Write what you know, they say, and I know fear of the unexplained.

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