Tuesday, 28 September 2010


There are certain places in the world that seem to be inherently creepy. The coast of New England in the USA is one, East Anglia in the UK is another.

Whether these places were already creepy, or whether they have become creepy over time through association, is harder to judge. New England has the connection with devil-obsessed Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials, the writings of H P Lovecraft and latterly Stephen King, as well as countless movies. East Anglia has Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General, and the writings of M R James.

Oddly enough, a quick glance at a map of New England will show you that many of the settlers there were from East Anglia and took the names of their towns and villages with them. They also, sadly, took their superstitions with them. I wrote a book about the Salem Witch trials and examined the court records and family history of those involved and the links with East Anglia and Norfolk are very clear. But I digress. . .

The wonderful thing about Norfolk is the feeling of openness. Certainly in the north-west, where my story is set, the view to the distant horizon is often unbroken. This effect is even more pronounced on the coast, with its tidal marshes and long beaches. Then there is the light of course, and the wild weather.

And the long stretches of deep, glutinous mud. . .

I was thinking of the area around Thornham when I was writing the scenes in Mud where the brothers come ashore. I think it is always a good idea to have an actual place in your mind as a guide whenever possible. If you have the location firmly in your head, then it will be easier to make the setting real to the reader, even if you are not actually setting the story in an identifiable place.

Mud is also about twins. Twins are fascinating as characters, and they give lots of scope for a writer of chillers. Once again, it brings up notions of the doppelganger and the demonic double. It can also cause confusion in the reader and the characters themselves. Controlled confusion can be very useful to a writer.

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