Early Influences

Happy Bonfire Night, if you’re celebrating I hope you have a lovely, safe evening. We have the customary Phifer family fireworks to illuminate our patch of sky tonight.

This past week I’ve been thinking about all the things that influenced my childhood and I suppose what has made me what I am today. As a child I loved bonfire night because in our house it meant that my mum would make the best treacle toffee I’ve ever tasted. She would make toffee apples and I would be in childhood heaven. Oh to not have to worry about pulling your fillings out and expensive trips to the dentists, those were the days.

I loved Halloween even more, in fact I still do but the last eight years I’ve had to work it. I’m hoping next year I can be off so I can have a big fancy dress party. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the sort of books I write but I adore anything that goes bump in the night, especially if it makes my hair stand on end and I get the chills. Of course I much prefer reading about or watching scary stuff on the television than actually experiencing it but it’s something that I’ve thrived off since I was a kid. I kind of blame my mum (hope she isn’t reading this) because she was the one who introduced me to Hammer House of Horror Films when I was quite young. I loved Dracula, Countess Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy and Frankenstein to name a few. I would watch them curled up on the sofa hiding behind a cushion. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price were the actors that I grew up with.

My favourite television programmes were The Munster’s – Lily and Herman Munster are still my favourite television couple of all time. I also loved The Adam’s Family and Rent a Ghost. As I got older I progressed to even scarier films once I realised that the Hammer House of Horror’s no longer made me afraid to go to bed. I’ll never forget watching a Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time. Seeing Johnny Depp bleeding all over the ceiling and that face coming through the wall was enough to scare me so much that I was petrified to go to sleep for days in case Freddy decided he was coming for me. Halloween was another film that scared me witless when I was a teenager, Michael Myers still scares me to this day. When I couldn’t get enough of the films I turned to reading horror and Stephen King became my hero, the man I could guarantee would scare the socks off me whilst hiding under the duvet with my torch.

Fast forward thirty years and now I write scary stories myself which is sometimes not that easy, you see I’ll be in the garden writing in my office and so engrossed that I won’t notice it’s gone dark outside. It’s not a huge garden but it’s a good distance from the house and when you’ve just written about some demonic shadow that’s lurking around the thought of walking through the dark sometimes scares me stupid. I can guarantee that the kitchen light will have been turned off for the first time that week and the back of the house will be in complete darkness as I walk or normally slip slide along the grass. I have such an over-active imagination which is a blessing most of the time, just ask Annie Graham it gets her in some seriously sticky patches. I write these stories because these are the stories I long to read. For years I would scour bookshops for a book just like my debut novel The Ghost House but it never appeared. Which was why I had to write it and I loved writing it. I also love books two and three  The Forgotten Cottage which was published on Halloween, but for me there will always be something special about book one because I wrote that for myself, the fact that readers worldwide are enjoying reading about Annie’s Adventures make all the sleepless nights as a teenager because of those horror films well worthwhile, so thank you mum for letting me stop up late and watch them 😉

Helen xx


7 thoughts on “Early Influences

  1. Such a lovely post, Helen, and I (along with the rest of your fans) clearly have a lot to thank your mum for 🙂 You brought back lots of memories for me too, I remember Rent A Ghost and being absolutely petrified by Freddy Kreuger! Might have to watch Nightmare on Elm Street again one of these days, to see if it is anywhere near as scary as I thought back then. I might be creating two future horror story telling geniuses of my own, as both my two love things like The Walking Dead and the Scream movies. If they grow up to right something half as wonderful as The Ghost House, I’ll think I’ve done a good job! xx

  2. one of my first scary memories of a film was where an ‘undead’ person came back with long nails that had kept growing and scraped down the door of the person who killed her. I couldn’t sleep for weeks! Grreat post Helen-enjoy your family fireworks night. x

  3. What a brilliant post Helen!! I’m just the same though I don’t watch any scary movies now cos my husband doesn’t like them. But I still love stories, especially true stories, about things that go bump in the night. I’m sure such things do exist but at the moment not even Professor Brian Cox is studying them, and he knows a thing or two about everything! I love the Annie Graham books though, they have had me scared to look over my shoulder a fair few times yet are not beyond the realms of possibility! 🙂

  4. Fascinating post, Helen. I can just see you prowling across your garden at night from your writing den and imagining what might jump out of the bushes! I’ve never been keen on the blood-thirsty stuff but remember a long ago phase when we soaked up horror films even though they seem quite mild compared with what came later. I remember one (don’t know what it was called) which was set in Victorian times where a coffin was being carried over a bridge and tipped so that the lid came off and the body fell out. That was scary enough in itself!

  5. Fab post, Helen! I have to confess I’m a total wuss. I was even scared by Doctor Who the other week. I’m not kidding!
    The scariest I can cope with are the old black and white Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein stories! Tales of the Unexpected used to scare me stiff and Hammer House of Horror too. I did love The Addams Family and The Munsters though.
    When it comes to books, yours are super creepy but I still have to read them. Unputdownable if that’s even a word! 🙂 x

  6. Oh the two Helens are so different! I’m a real scaredy cat and hate things that go bump in the night…I’m a real wimp!
    Lovely to hear how your writing is influenced and I love what a mixture we all are at The Write Romantics. Keep up the great writing Helen…I now have ‘The Forgotten Cottage’ which is shall have to read in daylight when I’m not alone 🙂
    Helen R xx

  7. Thank you my amazing friends, it’s funny you tend to forget these things until you sit down and begin to write. I was trying to figure out where my love of all things ghoulish came from and it all came flooding back 😉

    Helen xx

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