Beneath the Skin
by Sandra Ireland
Published by Polygon
Paperback – £9.99 Ebook – £4.74
Taking a job in the studio of an Edinburgh taxidermist probably isn’t Walt’s wisest decision. Suffering from combat stress and struggling to outrun the demons from his past, he now finds himself confronted by the undead on a daily basis.
His enigmatic boss, Alys, and her sister, Mouse, have their own uneasy relationship with the past. Someone doesn’t want to let them go. Can Walt save Mouse’s eight-year-old son, William, from becoming the next victim? And can he save himself?
Deliciously disturbing, this psychological thriller peels back the skin of one modern family to reveal the wounds no one wants to see. It deals with the effects of trauma and how facing up to vulnerability is sometimes the only way to let go of the past.
Writing Spooky Fiction
Guest Post by Sandra Ireland
The nights are drawing in, the cold wind is moaning and the shops are stuffed with pumpkins, ‘Scream’ masks and witches’ hats. We’re approaching All Hallow’s Eve, the ancient Feast of Samhain, when the veil between worlds is stretched to its thinnest…
Not surprising, then, that our writerly musings turn to thoughts of ghost stories and all things spooky! But what makes a tale spooky? What is it that thrills us, while simultaneously making us want to hide behind the sofa?
I think we have to start with character. You can add as many scary tropes as you can shake a stick at, but the real terror lies in your character’s reaction to the circumstances they face. What is a ghost, a demon or a villain without someone to interact with? This may seem obvious, but the drama comes from within the protagonist…gut-trembling emotional response is what resonates with the reader. Often writers are afraid of going OTT with emotion, but in teasing out such reactions, you are inviting your audience to bond with this character, to experience their fear and feel for themselves the darkness, the tension, the danger.
This is perfectly played out in Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story The Woman in Black. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is called upon to attend to the affairs of the deceased owner of the decidedly creepy Eel Marsh House. Wreathed in mist and mystery, the house and its eerie setting play a big part in ramping up the tension, but it is Kipps’ sheer mounting terror when he realises he is not alone that sends shivers down the spine.
In the following passage, Arthur, having heard the anguished cry of a child trapped in the marsh, finds himself paralysed with fear (As in all good ghost stories, his torch is broken and it’s dark).
‘For a moment I was as near to weeping tears of despair and fear, frustration and tension as I had ever been since my childhood. But instead of crying, I drummed my fists upon the floorboards, in a burst of violent rage, until they throbbed. It was Spider [the dog] who brought me to my senses by scratching a little at my arm and by licking the hand I stretched out to her. We sat on the floor together, and I hugged her warm body to me…and again and again I heard that child’s terrible cry borne on the gusts towards me.’
Notice how the haunting cry of the ghost child is almost peripheral- there are no mad shrieks, or howlings, or faces at the window. We are totally invested in Arthur’s fear, and even that pares down to an image of this man, vulnerable and close to tears, cuddling his dog for comfort. We’re immediately returned to the seat of our childhood fears; dark nights and monsters under the bed. We can’t help but relive our own fear.
And that, Dear Writer, is my recipe for crafting a spooky story. Keep it simple, keep it emotional, and let the reader do the work!
About the author:
Sandra Ireland is an award-winning writer, poet and artist. Born in Yorkshire, she was brought up in the North East and lived for many years in Éire. Her work has appeared in various women’s magazines and publications such as New Writing Dundee, Dundee Writes and ‘Furies’, an anthology of women’s poetry. Beneath the Skin is her first novel and was inspired by a love of all things curious and unseen.
Praise for Beneath the Skin…
“The debut novel from Sandra Ireland is an exceptional calling card.” The Courier
“Sandra Ireland shows an impressive skill at locating her reader’s empathy and drawing it out to make you both emotionally invested and totally hooked on the action.” Becky Hinshelwood, Books etc.
“Powerful, unsettling, captivating.” Liz Robinson, Love Reading UK
Sandra is available for interviews and features. Photographs are also available on request.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Sandra, please contact:
Dawn Geddes, Freelance Publicity Officer at Bookish PR
Tel: 07548 710980 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.dawngeddes.co.uk
Thanks Heather, great blog.
I’m glad you like it! Usually, I try to do reviews, but I’ve been swamped 🙂 The book looks fantastic though!