Reading William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist

If you look up a list of the scariest horror films ever made, William Friedkin’s 1973 movie The Exorcist will most likely be on there.    And deservedly so: it’s an absolute shocker of a film, full of horrifying imagery and terrifying implication.  The Exorcist is more famous as a film than as a book, even though it’s based on an excellent novel by William Peter Blatty.  This Halloween I treated myself to reading the book and, as a writer, I learned a lot from it.

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What You Can Learn from Reading Bad Books

Reading is wonderful. Books are wonderful. But some books are more wonderful than others. Some… are bad books.

We all have different preferences when it comes to reading. Sometimes it’s down to genre, or to what happens in a story, but mostly, I think, it’s down to a writer’s style and the way they construct a story.

I’ve just finished a book I found a struggle. We won’t mention any names here, but it was a genre I don’t dip into very often. But I like to read around and think that all writers should read widely, as you can learn just as much from a book you don’t enjoy as you do from one which is well-written and immersive. For one thing, you’re not so immersed in it as to stop thinking about the mechanics behind the book.

As a writer, you can’t please everyone, but you can still be mindful of a few pitfalls that make a book harder to read and harder to love. Here’s what I learned from reading what was, to me, a bad book.

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Out Now: Death Rattle – a Flash Fiction

My flash fiction story Death Rattle is featured in the just-released The Brighton Prize 2017!

Last year I wrote and entered a flash-fiction story to Rattle Tales, a Brighton-based writing collective, for an evening of readings they were hosting.  My story, Death Rattle, was selected! And I got to read it live in Brighton to an audience of rattle-waving writing enthusiasts.

It was a great night. It was wonderful to see how other writers performed the stories they had written, and the audience questions that followed each story were often illuminating.  It’s notoriously difficult for writers to take their craft to the stage, and I was excited by the opportunity.  Sadly, the 2018 Rattle Tales night falls a little close to my wedding day, so I’ve refrained from submitting to it!

I wrote Death Rattle to be read out loud and tried to emphasise sound throughout the story.  I also tried to avoid certain tongue-twisting combinations of words that I might struggle with on the night!  I’m really proud of the finished tale. I think for such a short piece of writing it tells a much larger story than it first appears.

I’d love for you to check out the The Brighton Prize anthology; not only to read my submission but also check out the stories from the writers I shared a stage with last June as well as the acclaimed tales that were selected The Brighton Prize – the short story competition run by Rattle Tales. And if you liked Death Rattle, why not try some of my other writings?

Happy reading!

Why I Won’t Be Watching American Gods

I first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in my late teens.  It was winter time and I fitted it in between college classes and bus stops and it struck such a chord with me.  The book is full to bursting with rich imagination, and images from that first reading that have stuck with me ever since.  Which is why I won’t be watching the new TV adaptation of the book.

Books aren’t necessarily better

I’m not the kind of person to say the book is always better than the film (although it often is).  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I think The Shining is a better film than it was a book, despite Stephen King being one of my favourite authors.  But books and films and television series are different media and connect with you in different ways.  Obviously, screen adaptations are more visual.  A book can throw pages of description at you but it still relies on its reader interpreting that information and forming an image from it.  If it’s on a screen, well, that’s the image that will wind up in your mind’s eye.

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Robin Jarvis and The Whitby Witches review

The Whitby trilogy by Robin Jarvis is one of the best trilogies… ever. This is a Whitby Witches review of sorts, but one which explores the trilogy’s place in literature instead of trying to rate it against other books.

I first read Robin Jarvis’ The Whitby Witches when I was a child.  I can’t have been any older than ten, because by the time I finished the series I had yet to leave primary school.  And actually, I didn’t read them – my mum read them to me.  It was probably her eyes that first alighted upon that fateful tome, bound with a leering hound front cover that arrested both our attentions in that little library up the road.  We devoured it swiftly and ordered the sequels shortly after.  After reading and loving those too, I requested the boxset from my Grandma for Christmas. She even lived near Whitby! Finally, I owned those fantastic stories for myself.

The trilogy: The Whitby Witches, A Warlock in Whitby and The Whitby Child

I re-read the trilogy a few of times as a child. Yyou can see how well-loved those books were in the picture above. But I hadn’t done so since before my late teens.  By the time I took them from the shelf a couple of months ago it must have been ten years since I’d indulged.  I thought I’d give them a read for a bit of a nostalgia hit, but even before I’d reached the halfway point of Book One I knew that I was reading something truly special.   It wasn’t my childhood love of The Whitby Witches that was informing my enjoyment of it. It was simply that it is a fantastic, gripping and scary book.  I finished the trilogy’s finale, The Whitby Child, this very morning – and I can’t wait to laud its brilliance.

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