Feel the Fear and Write It Anyway – guest post by Cass Green

Category: Uncategorized

FEEL THE FEAR AND WRITE IT ANYWAY

Cass Green on why she draws on her own worst fears to evoke terror in her readers, the brilliant authors who inspire her, and what she’s just too afraid to write about…

 

In my new book, Don’t You Cry, my character Nina is on a miserable blind date with – frankly – a bit of an idiot. She is just plotting her escape when she pops an olive into her mouth and that is the moment her date clumsily propositions her.

Here’s what happens next:

A surge of hysterical laughter rises in my throat. I inhale sharply and the olive shoots backwards, covering my windpipe. I try to cough it away but my throat just spasms uselessly, silently, failing to budge it. The olive is a solid mass. There’s a split second of disbelief before I accept that I’m choking. My pulse thunders in my head and there’s a whooshing in my ears.

I can’t breathe . . .

I can’t breathe.’

When I wrote this, I got so hot and clammy I had to stand up and walk around a bit. Because you see, choking like this is one of my biggest fears. I once got a fish bone stuck in my throat (thank you, M&S goujon) and I swear I saw my life passing in front of me for the moments it took for me to hook it out again with a shaking finger.

In my last book, In a Cottage in a Wood, my character Neve has to let herself into a horrible creepy cottage in the middle of nowhere. In the dead of night, the lights fail, and she realises someone or something is in the room with her…

And there is another one of my more fundamental terrors, right there: the night-time intruder.

I have previous form for this sort of thing too, having started out writing YA and covering both a haunted fairground (roller-coasters and ghosts – check) and drowning (yep).

So why the hell do I keep writing about things that scare the bejaysus out of me? Maybe by forcing myself to imagine every second of that choking scene, for example, it will offer some sort of mental buffer if it ever happened in real life?

(Spoiler: it won’t.)

Perhaps it is more that I genuinely want to cause my readers to have clammy hands and thundering hearts when they read my books, and the best way I can replicate that is to dig deep into my own fears?

I’m not alone in taking this approach, it seems. Shirley Jackson, author of, among other things, the brilliant spine-tingler The Haunting of Hill House, once said, ‘I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.’

Master of the chills himself, Stephen King is not above roping in some of his own private horrors too. He has said in an interview, ‘There’s a scene in the book where they find this dumping ground where there are all these discarded appliances, and there’s a refrigerator… And one of the things I remember is we were all told: If you’re playing and you see a discarded refrigerator, don’t go in that, because kids can get in there and get locked in there and die. So I put a discarded refrigerator in the book and when one of the kids opens the door of it, it’s full of these leeches that come out… And that scared me…’

I’ll probably continue to explore the things that scare me in my writing, even if it does make me uncomfortable while I’m doing it. But if you are ever hoping for a book that features giant spiders, I’m telling you now that there are some places I’m just not prepared to go.

Don’t You Cry is out now!

Our Top Summer Picks

Category: Favourites

Make the most of the last of the warm temperatures with our pick of holiday thrillers – from the simmering heat and dark secrets of Bitter Sun, to bestselling author Alex Lake’s page-turner Copycat, these are the books to read before Autumn is in full swing!

 

The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs Parrish packshot

How far would you go to make all your dreams come true?

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody: an invisible woman who melts into the background. She deserves more. She deserves a life of wealth, luxury and leisure.

Daphne Parrish is the golden girl of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. With her model looks, her picture-perfect mansion and her millionaire husband, Jackson, she has everything Amber wants.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive—if she didn’t have a plan. Before long, she has become Daphne’s closest friend, and is catching the eye of Jackson. But a skeleton from her past could destroy everything and, if discovered, Amber’s well-laid plan may end in disaster…

 

In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green

In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death into the icy Thames below.

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…

 

Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis

Bitter Sun

It all started when we found the body. Then nothing was ever the same.

In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.

Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.

As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.

And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…

 

Copycat by Alex Lake

Copy Cat

Imitation is the most terrifying form of flattery…

When an old friend gets in touch, Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name. One is hers. The other, she has never seen.

But everything in it is accurate. Photos of her friends, her husband, her kids. Photos from the day before. Photos of her new kitchen. Photos taken inside her house.

And this is just the beginning. Because whoever has set up the second profile has been waiting for Sarah to find it. And now that she has, her life will no longer be her own…

 

Killing Season by Faye Kellerman

Killing Season

He went searching for the truth. Now a killer has found him.

Three years ago, fifteen-year-old Ellen Vicksburg went missing in a quiet town in New Mexico. On the first anniversary of her death, her brother Ben found her body in a shallow grave by the river’s edge.

The police believe she was the victim of a known psychopath. But Ben continues to pore over the evidence and finds patterns that link Ellen’s case to similar unsolved murders.

Soon, a picture emerges of a ruthless killer, and Ben’s obsession marks him as a threat. Will he uncover the truth in time to keep him and those he loves safe?

 

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

The Lies We Told

Do you promise not to tell?

Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.

Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.

As Clara digs into the past she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late?

 

You Let Me In extract

Category: Extract

Meet Elle – a famous writer living in a beautiful house in Cornwall. Today, she’s giving a Facebook live with her top writing tips…

 

The timer on my phone beeps.

One minute to go.

My stomach turns over with nerves. Several thousand people tuning in live.

I sit up straighter, pull my shoulders back. I know what I need to do. What everyone is expecting from me.

I reset my focus, drawing my gaze to my laptop. My own face glares back at me on screen using the laptop’s camera. Perhaps it’s just the tilt of the screen, or the way the light pours into the room, but for a moment, I don’t recognise myself.

I reach for the mouse, hovering it over the GO LIVE button.

I click.

My smile stretches across my face. I can hear it in my voice as I say, ‘Hello, everyone. I’m author, Elle Fielding, and I’m live today from my writing room here in Cornwall. Thanks so much for joining me. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the author of Wild Fear, a psychological thriller that was published last year.

‘Over the coming weeks I’m planning on chatting about my writing journey, sharing tips of what I’ve learned so far, and answering any of your questions.

‘Right, I suppose a good place to start would be with today’s writing tip. It’s something simple that we can all do: get a notebook. Keep it with you at all times. Our short-term memory retains information for three minutes, so unless it’s written down, ideas can be lost. This is my current one,’ I say, holding up a plain black notebook. ‘I keep it in my handbag, or by my bed at night, or anywhere I go. It reminds me that I’m always a writer, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing.’

I’m careful not to open it.

Not to show what is inside.

I take a breath. ‘Okay, so now it’s over to you and your questions.’ I peer at the left-hand side of the screen, where viewers are typing them in real-time. ‘I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can. The first one is from Cheryl Down. She asks, Your debut novel was an international bestseller. Does that put pressure on you for your second novel?

I’m aware that Jane and her team will be watching. ‘Yes, there is some pressure – but, the good thing is that I began my second novel before Wild Fear was released, so I didn’t have any expectation at that point. I must admit, I’m a little behind in delivering – there was a house move and a big book tour – but things are finally settling, so I’m planning on getting my head down now.’

Tick.

‘Next up, Adam Grant asks, What did you do before you became an author?’ I smile. ‘What didn’t I do? I waited tables, served coffees, worked on a reception desk, manned a nightclub cloakroom, cleaned offices. I travelled as much as I could afford. I lived in New Zealand for a while, and later, Canada. I pretty much spent my twenties bouncing from one thing to the next trying to work out what I wanted to do.’

Who I wanted to be.

‘And then I found it: writing. It just clicked. I felt stupid for not recognizing it earlier. The moment I started to write, I fell in love with it. I didn’t know if I was any good at it, or whether I could ever make my living from it. All I knew was that I loved it.’

That is the truth.

I answer half a dozen more questions, then take a sip of water and glance at the clock.

‘Time for just two more questions today. Amy Werden asks, Do you have any writing rituals? PS You have the perfect life!

‘Perfect life? I’m obviously using too many filters! With regards to writing rituals, something that is important to me is writing down my early ideas by hand. There is something about the germ of an idea, when it feels too precious, too delicate to be tapped into a computer screen and locked there. I like the curve of words on the page, a lack of uniformity, the scratch of a pencil on cream paper. The ideas can flow and find their rhythm.’

If Fiona is watching this, she’ll be rolling her eyes.

‘The final question is from Booklover101.’ I immediately recognise the username. The accompanying profile picture is of a bike, its wicker basket filled with books. Booklover101 has followed me from the very beginning, commenting on almost every post I write. She tweets me, sends me direct messages, has sent me handwritten cards via my publishers.

As your no.1 fan,’ I read now, ‘I’m interested to know, does an author need to have a dark mind to write dark books?

I should have skipped it – chosen a different question.

I keep my face set in a smile.

‘What you need,’ I say slowly, giving myself a moment to think, to get it right, ‘is an enquiring mind. To be able to look at any situation and see the possibility for shadows. To always ask, What if?

I leave it there. I thank everyone again for tuning in and remind them that I’ll be live again next week.

My face disappears from the screen.

*

I sit for a moment, taking several deep, slow breaths. Almost pitch-perfect, I think. Jane will be pleased.

Then I push to my feet, moving away from the desk, and I open the window wider. Hooking a finger under the neckline of my top, I shake it to let air circulate to my flushed skin.

I stand there, gaze mapping the waves, waiting for my heartbeat to settle.

 

 

Tune into HarperCollins UK at 1pm on Thursday 30th August for a Facebook Live with real life author of You Let Me In, Lucy Clarke.