Alex Nye was kind enough to do a guest post for Books & Writing, where she talks about herself and the inspiration behind the two books, CHILL and SHIVER.
Hi Everyone, my name is Alex Nye. I was brought up in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, not far from the sea, and loved books and writing stories from an early age. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. I had a teacher called Mr Grant at my first primary school, who let me read my stories out to the rest of the class every week when I was about 8 or 9. They were always loosely based on Enid Blyton books I had read.
There are two books in particular which have inspired me – Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte was the first adult novel I read, when I was 13. We were studying it at school, and I absolutely loved it. Midnight is a Place by Joan Aitken was the most influential children’s novel I ever read, and I was delighted to re-discover it again about 6 years ago.
When I was nineteen I studied at King’s College, London, and afterwards took various jobs that would sit well with being a writer, as I was determined to get my first novel published. I worked in bookshops, libraries, cafes, as well as for a literary agent. In 1995 I moved up from London to live in Scotland, and stayed in a remote cottage on an atmospheric moor next to a large spooky house with a tower. My son was a baby at the time. This was the inspiration for the award-winning CHILL and its sequel, SHIVER, books for 9-12 year olds.
‘Samuel is trapped by huge snowdrifts in an old, remote house. And that’s not the only thing causing a cold shiver to creep down his spine. He feels like the ghostly figure in the locked library has a message… but who is it for? Fiona lives in the big house, but will that help the two of them to break the curse on her family? As the ice sets in, they uncover a deadly tale of betrayal and revenge. Set on bleak Sheriffmuir, near Stirling, this is a spooky tale of the past coming back to haunt the present… He stared up at the dark mass of the house. Then he thought he saw movement in the library window to the right of the drawing room. A shadow moving, backwards and forwards… then it was gone.’ (CHILL)
Excerpt from SHIVER, the sequel to CHILL.
‘A child sat alone in the darkness. No one knew he was there. On the floor before him was a group of clumsy-looking toy soldiers, roughly carved from wood. The red paint on them was faded and peeling, but the boy didn’t notice. He moved them around, dragging them through the dirt, pretending to march them across an imaginary battlefield. It was a way of keeping his misery at bay. He was pretending, entering a world of make-believe, where his only comfort was to be found. They were primitive-looking toys, scarred and marked by their great age. The boy’s loving hands had worn them smooth with handling. They were all he had: the only souvenirs from a life long since faded away. Everything the boy had once known had crumbled into disrepair, leaving nothing but this forlorn little corner of the building, where he and his sister had slept for so many hundreds of years, like children in a fairy tale, waiting to be woken. And now that they were awake… what then? Were they to be forever haunted by their own dreadful memories? He let go of his toy soldiers so that they fell, unsupported, to the ground. Even the world of make-believe could let us down, sometimes. Eliza found her brother in the dusty room they inhabited together. He was still crying. With a rare touch of compassion, Eliza put her arm around him. “Cease that noise. I have returned.” “But you will leave me again,” he whispered. “I know you will.”’
In 2007 CHILL won the Royal Mail Award, and was voted best Scottish children’s novel by pupils around Scotland. The sequel, SHIVER, was published in 2009. Both books are used as set texts in schools. I have called the house in the books Dunadd, but in real life it is a place called Cauldhame. In 1715 the people who lived in the house at that time watched the Battle of Sheriffmuir from their drawing-room windows, as it swept from one side of the moor to the other. The setting and atmosphere described in the books is very much based on this real place, my visual memories of living there in the cottage during the blizzards and snowstorms of a very bad winter. The books were written after I left Sheriffmuir – I moved down into the nearby town – but I missed the moor so badly that I wrote the books sitting at the kitchen table while my kids were in bed, and where I could glimpse a distant view of the moor on the horizon.
I’m not particularly attracted to the horror genre so much as ghost stories. It is these in particular which appeal to me, because of the sense of mystery and because of the fact that they rely so heavily on a profound use of atmosphere and setting.
At the moment I am reading The Greatcoat by Helen Dunsmore. Another favourite of mine is Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black – an excellent piece of literary fiction, much better than the film. A film can’t really do the book justice. My favourite horror/ghost film is The Others, again because of its great use of setting and atmosphere.
As well as writing, I now teach English in secondary schools, and have been reading my new ghost story DARKER ENDS (for 14+ years) out loud to the pupils of St. Mungo’s in Falkirk, who are great kids and all really supportive. I love getting them inspired to write their own original stories. I’m currently writing an Art in Holocaust novel called THE COLOUR OF BIRDS.
If you also want to write a guest post about your books and/or writing, drop me a line. Find my info at http://www.books-writing.com/contact/