Monday, 23 February 2015
Feel the Fear and Use it
When I put this picture on the blog, I had to stop my heart racing. To most of you, it is just a picture of a tunnel but to me it signifies everything I fear: blackness and small spaces and crowds. It's a problem that has seen me refuse to use the London underground, visit caves or basically go anywhere with no natural light or the potential to be trapped in darkness.
Unlike some people with claustrophobia, I can pinpoint the exact moment my problem started. I was very little and had arrived in France for a holiday with my parents. I'd fallen asleep in the car and been carried into the gite we were staying in and put to bed. When I woke in the middle of the night, the room was dark... in fact it was so pitched black it felt like I could touch it. I remember holding out my hand to try to push it aside. My first thought was that I had gone blind, swiftly followed by the fear that maybe I had died.
Still thinking I was in my bedroom at home, I got out of bed and felt my way around the wall to where the door should have been but it wasn't there and neither was the light switch. I can feel the mounting panic even now, over forty years later. Of course, I know now that the reason the room was so dark was because the French shutters on the windows had been closed so that no light was able get in. To this day, if I am staying anywhere away from home, I have to make sure that the there is at least a chink of light coming into the room through the curtains.
Fast forward thirty years and I am on a tube train with my sister. It's rush hour... it's hot... the train slows... then stops... the lights flicker.
I won't tell you more because it would spoil it for anyone wanting to read my latest story, 'Out of the Dark', in The People's Friend Special. The story came about because I was determined to take my fear and turn it into something positive. I decided to write about what would happen if someone like myself were forced into a situation where they had to confront their worst fear.
I'm pleased with 'Out of the Dark' because I was able to take the essence of my fear and use it to help write the important scenes, such as the one at the tube station.
Interestingly, the story itself is a big departure from what you might expect from a People's Friend story. There are no cosy kitchen scenes or kittens - just someone trying to overcome a fear to help someone they love. There is also another reason this story is different from the norm but I can't tell you that either without spoiling the ending. Never underestimate the type of story this magazine will accept.
Claustrophobia can still be a problem for me at times (just ask my husband) but I am trying to manage it and I think I am a little better than I was but the moral of this story is to think of something that has happened to you that has caused extreme emotion: fear, hate, jealousy, sorrow and use it to bring your stories to life. You'd be surprised at how affective it can be.
On a lighter note, I have a very exciting announcement. My second collection of short stories, The Last Rose, will be published on 2 March and everyone is invited to the launch party on my blog next Monday. It will be open house all day and there will be music, good food and the chance to win a free paperback. Hope to see you there!