16: Theme Tunes

When writing my books, I see them as scenes played out in my head and so (in my optimistic ‘life goal’ moments) it is not a huge leap to imagine them as an actual film or tv series. As such, I have often wondered what my perfect ‘theme tune’ would be to accompany my imaginary hit show. I particularly admire the choices of ‘Danse Macabre’ (Saint Saëns) for the tv series Jonathan Creek and ‘Adagio from Spartacus’ (Aram Khachaturian) used for the Onedin Line which I think both capture the emotions and essence of the programmes. For Control Alt Delete, I have narrowed down a top 3 I feel would be an interesting fit.

  • Carry On (Chris de Burgh) A particular favourite singer of mine in my youth, this is not too melancholy, and there is a sense of hope and continuity expressed within the lyrics that I have always connected to – ‘They say that the stars in the sky are the souls of the people who die. Will we meet them again when we reach our destination?’.

  • I Try (Macie Gray) I love the emotional tug of these lyrics and feel that it resonates with the conflicted relationship of my 2 main characters for book 1 – ‘I believe that fate has brought us here and we should be together, babe, but we're not’.

  • Streets of Glory (Paloma Faith) A really powerful, emotional song that conveys so much of what I have tried to bring out in my novels, there are so many parts of the lyrics I could quote as illustrations even down to the ‘shattered glass’ in my prologue of book 1, but my favourite line is – ‘I will be your memento mori, while you hide behind your made up story’.

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15: Baring my Soul

Publishing my first novel, Reincarnation, in August 2023 and then my 2nd, Rehabilitation in March 2024 was both exciting and scary – would people read them? (would people even buy them?) and, most importantly – would those readers enjoy them? Well, I was delighted (and relieved) to receive some excellent feedback – including some folk who were not in my typical ‘target audience’ but who still loved the plot twists and youthful angst of my imaginary world.

My personal definition of art, whether it a painting, music or a written piece, is that it will generate an emotion for its audience – it doesn’t even necessarily have to be what we would label a ‘positive’ emotion such as joy, but the ability to make someone pause, reflect, and ultimately feel, is a gift. In achieving that, the art will have part of the creator’s soul somehow imbedded within it, which can be, for an artist, a scary place.

If you consider it – every time a painter hangs a piece of their work or a musician plays their own composition for others to see or hear, they are putting a part of themselves out there to be judged by others. It’s personal. And it reveals something of the creator to the audience. The same is true for a novel. And it isn’t just our technical skills that are under the figurative microscope – forget the grammar police picking up any editing fails – we are talking about psychoanalysis of the characters and plot lines, with the ever-present speculation of who was this based on and what warped mind thought of that?

I wonder how dark my readers think my brain is? Let’s hope they never see my Google search history…

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14: Top 3 cartoons incorporating a ‘beyond the grave’ theme

Who doesn’t love a good cartoon, but in spite of the childlike nature of this medium, they can be pretty violent – I grew up watching classics such as Tom and Jerry, Road Runner and The Pink Panther, but looking back now it is pretty shocking how aggressive the characters were, as well as the almost nonchalant portrayal of death, from which the characters always rebounded quite rapidly and easily in readiness for the next round of fighting their respective nemesis. Remember that little ‘angelic’ version of a character complete with wings and harp drifting up out of an apparently lifeless body?

The feature length animated films obviously have more scope to build up a character arc or create a poignant storyline, and, it is interesting that even thought their intended target is a younger audience, they don’t shy away from the topics of death and loss. There was an urban myth that stated every single Disney princess had at least 1 parent dead by the end of the movie, however true fans will be able to cite at least 5 (Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Tangled, Brave & Moana) where this isn’t the case. None the less, there are some really beautiful animations that deserve to make my top 3.

  • 1: Coco (2017) – a heart rending journey into the afterlife, incorporating the inspiring concept that our loved ones continue to exist providing we remember them. I first saw this not long after losing my own father and the song ‘Remember Me’ still gets me every time

  • 2: Anastasia (1997) – I found inspiration from the idea that Anya had fleeting memories about her past that ultimately resurfaced, although in this film they are from her current life rather than a past incarnation. The scene when she sings ‘Once Upon a December’ and the ghosts spring out of the portraits to dance is a favourite moment.

  • 3: Watership Down (1978) – From Fiver’s first mystical visions to Hazel’s final visit from the ghostly rabbit, this story is full of both lovely symbolism and harsh reminders of the fragility of life. ‘Bright Eyes’ was the first single I ever bought, and would be on my list to be played at my funeral!

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13: Top 3 Books

I find there is nothing better than discovering a book that you just can’t wait to keep reading. I tend to gravitate towards Young Adult fiction such as The Mortality Doctrine – James Dashner, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs, The Fault in Our Stars – John Green but these 3 have probably had the most profound impact on me:

  • 1: Life After Life (Kate Atkinson) – a heart rending tale of a girl who keeps reverting back to the beginning of her own life each time she dies. Managing to get a little older and wiser each time, she attempts to change the recurring fatal outcomes with each reincarnation. A book I have re-read many times and always enjoy returning to.

  • 2: The Little World of Don Camillo (Giovannino Guareschi) – I first read this as a child and was instantly enchanted by the gentle ‘frenemy’ relationship between the Catholic priest and the Communist mayor. An easy read with each chapter a separate mini story, my favourite part has always been the 2-way conversations Don Camillo has with the Jesus statue in his church.

  • 3: Romeo & Juliet (William Shakespeare) – There are plenty of alternative Shakespeare plays that feature ghosts, hauntings, and the supernatural and it isn’t like he doesn’t warn you that the main characters are doomed from the outset, but for me, it was the unexpected death of Mercutio that really struck me when we studied this play at school – first time I have ever actually cried over a story!

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12: Happy Halloween

It is that time of the year when pumpkins are carved, costumes are worn and children go trick or treating for bucket loads of sweets – a tradition we very much enjoyed when our daughter was young and we lived in London. Halloween actually has its roots from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a celebration of the harvest at the end of the summer and where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

But my recent visit to South America has reminded me that not all cultures see ghosts as something to fear or chase off. Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is widely celebrated across that continent at the start of November and is a beautiful occasion where it is believed that the gates of the afterlife are opened for 24 hours allowing lost loved ones to return, welcomed back with food offerings and marigold flowers. In fact, this even has some links to the Roman Catholic festival ‘All Souls Day’ on 1st November, when prayers are offered to the deceased in the hope they will find eternal rest.

With this in mind, I thought I would look at a few other festivals designed to celebrate the dearly departed…

  • 1: Zhongyuan – translated as ‘The Festival of the Hungry Ghost’, this is a Chinese celebration where restless spirits are said to emerge from the lower realm and roam the streets, causing mischief unless appeased with offerings of food. Paper creations in the form of cars, books, phones and ‘hell money’ are burned.

  • 2: Obon - celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, which usually falls in late summer, Obon – sometimes shortened to Bon – is a Japanese Buddhist festival, in which it is traditionally believed that the souls of the dead revisit the living. The festival is defined by dancing, family reunions but most especially light - lanterns are hung outside doors that are said to guide the dead back home.

  • 3: Chuseok - Celebrated in both North and South Korea, this means ‘autumn evening’. It has a strong tradition of honouring ancestors. Rites include bulcho and sungmyo, which involve grave tending and cleaning followed with a symbolic bow or offering to the deceased; and charyeis which is a food ritual, featuring an intricately arranged offering of meats, rice and drink favoured by departed relatives (who are believed to still be present for four generations).

  • 4: Pitru Paksha - Also known as Shraddha, this festival is observed in Hindu faiths and is colloquially known as the ‘fortnight of the ancestors,’ Celebrated around September – it takes the form of ritualistic food offerings, and is subdivided into various observances, such as for those who have met an unexpected or violent death, those particularly close in relationship, and those who have passed away most recently. Abstinence, pure thoughts and pilgrimage are often observed during this time.

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11: What's in a Name?

Those of you who have flicked through the opening pages of book 01 – Reincarnation will have maybe noted the dedication to my late father-in-law, and how I ‘stole’ his wonderfully unusual middle name – Oakley – for my favourite character. But naming my other characters wasn’t quite so easy! I have probably spent a disproportionate amount of time doing internet searches on popular baby names, as well as their meanings and origins, in order to find something that I felt properly suited each individual.

Freya is the Norse goddess of love and beauty, something that is referenced in a later book – an appropriate name for the main ‘love interest’, but also a particular favourite name of mine, that was a strong contender when I was actually choosing baby names for real.

Jake is an interesting dichotomy. His biblical namesake twice deprived his brother of his rights (a hint of future plot twists?) and so the name has a meaning of ‘supplanter’ suggesting he might be someone you can’t trust. But there is also a claim that it means ‘may God protect’, which I feel might also be appropriate, given what I have put him through in the story so far!

Heidi, specially chosen so she could have the nickname of Hades, actually means ‘noble’, and although this might seem to be a misnomer based on her initial representation, her character arc is not completed within the first book. Whereas the origin of Eamon as ‘blessed protector’ possibly appears less appropriate as the story progresses. In contrast, Shabbi was, quite literally, the name of a friend’s pet cat!

Where surnames are given for characters, this has added an extra layer of complication and I once spent an entire 3-hour car journey saying the first names then randomly adding whatever I saw out of the window, from objects to sign posts, simply to hear whether it sounded ‘right’. Oakley became Oakley Brookes thanks to a road name just outside of Oxford!

Funnily enough, it was often the incidental peripheral characters who caused me the most difficulty. Using the name of someone you know, whilst both convenient and logical, immediately raises that – ‘is that person supposed to be me?’ dilemma, thus making every description, word spoken and action taken a potential minefield. Many names that I really like had to be rejected just in case some distant 2nd cousin or former work colleague, who I may not have even seen for 20 years, took offence that ‘their’ character was too annoying, or worse, didn’t get a more important part to play!

On the other hand, there are a few people I have deliberately chosen to ‘honour’ with a passing mention, knowing that (if they do ever read the book) that they will be amused, and hopefully a little bit flattered, that I included them – John and Sylvia, my dear neighbours, will now forever be immortalised as competitors in a crazy afterlife gameshow!

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10: Suicide – Prevention & Awareness

As September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and next week we are in National Suicide Prevention Week, I felt that this would be a good time to address this very sensitive subject that features early on in my 1st novel – Reincarnation.

“Freya’s life sucks. So naturally she is delighted to discover she has escaped it…”

Without giving away any spoilers for those of you yet to read this story, the lead up to this tragedy is Freya’s belief that her life isn’t ever going to get any better, with that frustration resulting in a moment of provoked, defiant anger. Further insight into this seemingly ‘accidental’ death is explored later in the book, but the concept of this character arc stemmed from an article I read about teenage brain development – in summary, until around the age of 25, the brain finds it more difficult to frame a long term perspective, resulting in the perception that whatever is occurring in the present is potentially unassailable and therefore more daunting, disastrous and devastating. I would suggest that this situation, for Freya, is more a cry for help rather than a planned desperate act of someone suffering from depression, although neither of those scenarios or experiences are any less significant or in need of our empathy.

It is estimated that over 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year, with around 58% of those being before the age of 50. Over 1 in 100 deaths are as a result of suicide, and it is twice as high among men than women, although suicides among teenage girls and young women have almost doubled in recent years.

A campaign that resonated with me personally is Project Semicolon, founded in 2013 – which defines itself as “dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury…” The significance of the semi colon is that, in writing, a sentence doesn’t have to come to a definite end with a full stop, but can pause for a moment with a semi colon and then continue. So too, in life, when things are getting too tough, we are reminded that it is ok to take a pause rather than end it all.

Hope can be challenging to hold onto. For myself, the affirmation that ‘this too shall pass’ and the notion of ‘just do one thing’ continue to support me through the darker moments, but the greatest understanding came when I could acknowledge that our emotions are not ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, they are simply valid emotions that should be accepted as part of us, that we don’t need to feel guilty about not ‘snapping out of it’, and most importantly, that it is ok to ask for help.

If you, or someone you know has been affected by any of the themes in this blog, my novels, or are experiencing difficulties with mental health including suicidal thoughts, then I would urge you to seek professional help.

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9: My Vision of The Afterlife - The Hub

We are introduced to The Hub early in the first book as the place people find themselves when they die. Research into the actual numbers of deaths (the Office for National Statistics lists around 65 per hour in the UK at the time of writing!) suggested to me that the whole set up needed to be pretty efficient and streamlined, and so my version of Heaven/Hell is depicted as a far more functional business-like ‘operations centre’. As with all corporation style organisations, there is a hierarchy, with those employed there answerable to The Management, but I found it amusing to include the idea that there were different international divisions, each targeted on their ‘numbers’ and each competing for the best ‘results’ – namely, how quickly they can process dead people to be ready for reincarnation.

I chose the names deliberately to emulate the traditional words Heaven and Hell, with each division having a similar moniker, some of which are mentioned in passing in the early chapters, including –

  • The Hexagon – USA (I couldn’t resist the link with The Pentagon!)
  • The Hadaf – Pakistan (translated as ‘target, objective, goal’)
  • The Hlạngcāk – Thailand (translated as ‘after’)
  • The Hacienda – Spain (translated as ranch, large estate)

My vision for The Hub, described initially as “… a myriad of honeycomb glass panels glittering with soap bubble iridescence - filtered shafts of light that shifted as though invisible clouds drifted overhead. It was as if someone had said – “design me heaven”, and a trendy architect desperately seeking some top award or, at the very least, a magazine feature, had seriously gone to town…” comes from the Harpa in Reykjavík, Iceland which took my breath away when I visited in 2015 and is well deserving of the awards it has won.

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8: Control-alt-delete – the long journey to a finished novel

The original idea for a book about the transition to an afterlife began around 15 years ago on a long and boring tube ride across London on my way to work. Confronted with the seemingly perpetual flow of commuters filing down the escalators and onto the trains, it evolved around the concept that there was a separate ‘ghostly’ line where the newly departed boarded a train and were greeted on the platform on the ‘other side’ by dead friends or relatives. The idea that there was an ominous ‘management’ running the system using a big computer and a group of rebels fighting against an unfair system was only loosely designed, and in parts, it almost felt like the sinister shadowy figures who patrolled the endless corridors of the underground searching for souls to lure away from the train were more the enemy.

Under the working title of ‘Mind The Gap’, I warmed to my theme, and even went as far as naming all the characters after tube stations – our main protagonist was Elizabeth Ellen Green (subtly shortened to Beth Nell Green!), the shy ‘hero’ was James Park and the ‘tech support/best friend was Warren Street – each very early iterations of the main characters in Reincarnation, Freya, Jake and Oakley.

An extremely useful session with a professional editor highlighted that my technical writing skills were somewhat outweighed by my general enthusiasm for writing – I had blasted off writing chapter one without any complete idea of an overall plot outline and just kept going! She also suggested that what I had produced was more like two different stories/ideas mashed together and that I should consider simplifying it by just picking one idea to run with.

Not long afterwards, I happened upon a Neil Gaiman novel that also incorporated an ethereal underground therefore making it an easy decision to drop that part of my idea and run with the computer based iteration of the afterlife – and thus, The Hub was created.

The first draft of Reincarnation was, incredibly, completed about 10 years ago and although it was initially designed to be a stand alone novel, I realised during the writing process that I had more ideas and that my characters had more stories to tell. Suddenly, the single plot plan had evolved into five potential books. With more time on my hands, I adopted a disciplined approach, resolving to write a chapter a week, and my routine enthusiastically became writing during the day then reading out that chapter to my very supportive husband in the evening so that I could make sure my story lines made sense and had the right amount of suspense and explanation.

It was during the writing of book 3 that two separate events occurred, influencing the course of my progress. The first was an incredibly positive reinforcement – an editor I had worked with when one of my short stories was selected for an anthology, had highly praised my writing and expressed an interest in seeing my novel. Having sent the usual ‘1st 3 chapters and a synopsis’ as is typical when touting for agents and publishers, I was thrilled when she subsequently asked to see the whole novel and then informed me she wanted to champion my work for publication through her company. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, timing, and sheer quantity of great manuscripts, the project fizzled to nothing, and although she tried to help me secure an agent, the Young Adult book market is heavily saturated, and nothing was forthcoming.

The second was the protracted illness and death of a close family member, whom I had utilised as a proofreader for my first two novels. Suddenly, motivation drained, the entire series festered in the depths of my laptop for several years while I tinkered with a few short story ideas and made lots of excuses as to why I wasn’t writing much. And, the longer I stayed away from my stories, the more I forgot the characters and plot lines, and the more work I knew I would have in trying to catch up again.

However, all the while, there was a nagging urge to ‘get back to it’, - a sense that I had a good story to tell and that I wanted people to read it, reinforced by the knowledge that ‘real professionals in the industry’ thought my work was fantastic. And so, this year, with renewed resolution, I dusted off the old files, gave them a new identity of ‘Control-Alt-Delete’ and began reading…

I am so glad I did, and I am proud to present to you the first novel in my series – Reincarnation. I really hope you enjoy it.

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7: Happy Birthday!

I recently celebrated my birthday (31st July) and I share it with a number of ‘significant’ people – including (obviously) my twin! It is also the birthday of the brilliant author JK Rowling (as well as Harry Potter!), and the lesser known Thomas Story Kirkbride, the first superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. Interestingly he put forward the theory that patients being kept occupied was key to their recovery. (I can’t help thinking he would approve of the workings of The Hub in my Control-Alt-Delete series!)

So I thought I would use this blog to mention 3 of my favourite ‘book’ related presents that I have received over the past few years…

  • Lego Action Figures – during a conversation with my daughter about becoming a successful author, I commented that in order to really become famous, you need to have films or TV series made of your books, but that the ultimate sign that you’ve 'made it' is when there are Lego action figures made of your characters. Her gift brought such a huge smile to my face, and the little replicas of Jake, Freya and Oakley she custom built stand on my desk to inspire me as I write.

  • Coaster – it’s the message that makes me laugh – ‘Please do not annoy the writer, she may put you in a book and kill you’. What can I say – it’s true!

  • Banned Books Bracelet – an eye catching piece which includes titles such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Color Purple’, it serves as a good reminder that we are lucky to be able to access and read so many wonderful books – even ones with ‘difficult’ story lines and ‘problematic’ characters.

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6: More About Me

Thankyou for your interest – I am delighted to answer a few of your questions…

  • 1. What was the book you mention in your bio that your Grandad loaned you?

    The Reader’s Digest Book Strange Stories Amazing Facts (1975). It was a big old red hardback book with some black and white and sepia pictures that used to fascinate me. It covered a whole range of theories and stories, (many of which have since been disproved or disputed) ranging from tarot to telepathy, and poltergeists to prophecies.

  • 2. What made you choose to write for Young Adults about life after death?

    When I started writing, I saw an interesting piece of advice about what you should write about – think of something that happened to you/had a major impact on you, and think about what age you were when it happened. That’s what you should write about and that’s the age group you should aim for.

  • 3. Have you seen anyone die?

    Yes. I have sat with elderly relatives in hospital on 3 separate occasions and been privileged to hold their hands and talk to them as they passed. It’s not easy, but it helped me come to terms with the loss.

  • 4. Have you ever saved a life?

    I have never had to administer CPR, but I do firmly believe this skill, and basic first aid, is something everyone should learn. I did once have to deal with an emergency where someone had accidentally slashed 2 veins and an artery in their arm, and I am told my actions saved their life and the use of their arm. I don’t remember many details except there was a hell of a lot of blood.

  • 5. Are you religious?

    Although I currently do not attend any specific church, I would still consider my beliefs most closely aligned with Spiritualism. I feel that taking responsibility for your personal path, your ‘soul’, or your own spiritual development, as well as understanding the consequences of our behaviours and choices, is an important lesson. And I appreciated the way that, at the church I did used to frequent, it felt like an exploratory learning journey rather than a set doctrine that I had to conform to.

If you have any questions for me then do please get in touch and I will try to answer them in future posts.

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5: My Top 3 Series

There are so many supernatural/mystery dramas available to stream and, whilst many of them start with a very interesting premise, introducing the foundations with stand alone episodes delving into individual characters or building up the general theme, I am often left disappointed when it appears the writers feel the need to then add some overarching conspiracy theory type sub plot usually along the lines of a powerful sinister group seeking world domination, leaving me with the conclusion that the show probably should have wrapped up a few seasons earlier – Fringe (2008), Lost (2004), and The 4400 (2004) to name a few. For me, the following series were spot on:

  • 1. Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes (2006/2008) – on the surface a delightful romp into the cliches of a 1970’s cop drama, the sinister undertones ripple behind the scenes into a thrilling conclusion. The sequel did not disappoint, building on from the season 1 finale and escalating the supernatural life after death tension into one of the most unexpected and satisfising series conclusions I have seen – I aspire to write plots that good.

  • 2. Afterlife (2019) – Throughout this series, I lurched between outright laughter and uncontrollable tears as this beautifully scripted series that takes you along for the ride on Tony’s chaotic struggle with the loss of his wife. Not afraid to delve into painful topics such as suicide, the overarching message is one of hope, and the final conclusion is beautifully understated.

  • 3. Black Mirror (2011) – although more sci-fi than supernatural, I included this because of the clever incorporation of advanced 'almost possible' technology that made this series inciteful and scary in equal measure. Not a fan of every episode, my favourites were White Bear (the ultimate punishment wrapped up as entertainment) and Be Right Back (using AI to enable conversations with a deceased relative based on their social media content)

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4: The Reality of Fantasy

Obviously, when we write about anything, it has to be believable and authentic, hence the well-known advice of ‘write what you know’. And therein lies the first problem when writing within a fantasy world – a considerable part of it is quite simply ‘made up’. However, that doesn’t mean that we can just ignore all ‘rules’ and allow anything to happen – we still have to carefully define what those new rules are, then stick to them. Whether it is a mythical realm, superpowers or magic, a dystopian future or science fiction, it is just as important to construct a believable and authentic sphere for the characters to exist in. For example, in my ‘fantasy’ of life after death, I had to consider the logistics around what happens when you die. An early draft came back from an editor with the comment – why are there so few people? which forced me to rethink, resulting in me researching statistics about the numbers of people who actually die, and thus forming the basis for how my particular ‘afterlife’ ultimately looked, felt and operated.

But in addition to the larger context, the smaller details also matter hugely – I have certainly read stories and been left with questions (In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hermione states how she has been practising spells during the holiday before she started at Hogwarts, and yet in subsequent books, we see the Ministry of Magic rebuking Harry for using magic outside of school in front of muggles as an underage wizard…?) and this type of anomaly or inconsistency can be frustrating and distracting to the reader.

Creating a fantasy world will often involve a massive amount of background planning with levels of details sometimes not even specifically mentioned within the published pages, but that are none the less still there within the author’s head in order to maintain a credible framework in which the characters interact and behave. I quite enjoy the insights you can gain from fan forums and authors’ websites where theories are discussed, and more background is revealed. For me, the specifics such as what my characters are wearing (the clothes they died in), whether a ‘ghost’ can feel sweaty or breathless (my characters do experience some physical traits associated with their emotions however there are no heart beats) and even down to why a character might be wearing glasses if he is no longer a physical being and therefore would have no physical ailments such as short sightedness (referenced in book 2) are just some of the minutiae I have considered.

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3: My Top 3 Films

There are a lot of great films that I have seen that explore aspects of the supernatural in a unique and interesting way, and so narrowing this list down to just 3 was quite a challenge. Bypassing some of the more obvious ones I enjoyed in my youth - Ghost (1990) – a touchingly funny way of looking at communication with the dead including the fakery around it as well as a very literal interpretation of the fate of good or evil souls, Flatliners (1990) – a chilling rendition of near death experiences, Dead Again (1991) – a charming journey through reincarnation, and Sixth Sense (1999) – still the best plot twist I have experienced, I have narrowed it down to these:

  • 1. Truly, Madly Deeply (1990) – Struggling to cope with the death of her partner, Nina gets a 2nd chance when he moves back into her apartment as a ghost, causing complications as she begins the process of moving on. A poignant exploration of how profound grief can make us cling onto the past, some of the dialogue from this film was even used at a bereavement counselling course I attended.

  • 2. The Illusionist (2006) – although not actually supernatural, this romantic tale incorporates people’s fascination with and abhorrence of the mystery of occult at the turn of the century and offers some wonderful demonstrations of trickery. I adore the cleverness of it and how the illusion is revealed. My go to romantic movie.

  • 3. The Omen (1976) – The original film is the best in my opinion and far more sinister than subsequent remakes or sequels. Not old enough to watch it when it was first released, just hearing brief synopsis in the playground was enough to give me nightmares (and forced my Mum to invent a whole different ‘happy ending’ to the plot so that I could sleep!) The chanting in the film score still gives me chills.

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2: Memento Mori

Popular in the Victorian era, the Latin phrase Memento Mori, translated as remember you must die, was often accompanied by an image of a skull, or an hourglass illustrating the sands of time running out. However, rather than an ominous warning, it was intended as a positive reinforcement to make the most of the life, look forward to the future, appreciate what you have and to not waste time on superficial vanities and grudges. It is a sentiment I embrace (although my tattoo of this phrase is accompanied by angel wings).

Whenever I tell people that my books are about dead people, I am often faced with a surprised expression – who knew that I was so dark and twisty? True, on the surface, the subject can seem gruesome, but in reality, death is something we are all, at some point, forced to consider. There is such a fascinating and wide-ranging wealth of opinion, research, belief and superstition surrounding death, and the depth of focus spans from religion to science, and from fact to fiction.

Fiction aside, I have, since my teenage years, read extensively on the subject (no doubt worrying my parents that at best I had an unhealthy morbid curiosity and at worst I was at risk of joining a cult or becoming a psychopath). However, I feel that my research and interest has definitely assisted me through the years when death has inevitably touched my life.

The following 2 books offer some insight as to the sheer diversity of experience and knowledge out there on death, and both struck a chord with me.

  • 1. Seven Steps to Eternity (Stephen Turoff) – a psychic surgeon, this is the account dictated to him by a World War I soldier recounting his experiences after death.

  • 2. On Death and Dying (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross) - a pioneer of studies on dying people, she proposed the patient-focused, death-adjustment pattern, the ‘Five Stages of Grief’.

Ultimately, we don’t really know what happens when we die, but we are all eventually going to find out, which maybe makes it the next big adventure. That in itself makes it a fascinating subject to base a fiction series on. Let us not forget Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote – “...nothing is certain except death and taxes.” And, quite frankly, who wants to read a novel about taxes?

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1: Welcome to my World

CONTROL- What if you discover a computer system in the afterlife controls your destiny?

ALT- What if you want to programme an alternate fate?

DELETE- And what if you got caught trying...?

I am really excited to be announcing the launch of my new website dedicated to my first series of novels – CONTROL-ALT-DELETE. This is a 5 book supernatural thriller series for young adults which explores life after death.

Due to be published this summer, book 1, REINCARNATION, asks the question - what choice do we really have?

We are introduced to Freya, a 16 year old girl glad to escape her miserable life, and Jake, who is still traumatised by his fatal motorbike accident many years earlier as they join the dead, contracted to work at The Hub under the watchful eyes of The Management, inputting code into The Generation Optimisation Database - the computer programme that controls the destiny of everyone alive.

But too many people at The Hub are taking an interest in Freya’s unexpected arrival. And someone is desperate for Freya to go back to her old life. They will stop at nothing to make this happen but are they motivated by genuine concern, self-preservation or revenge? As each connection with Freya and her past life is revealed, Freya must decide who to trust as she discovers the same powerful emotions still haunt them all, even after death, including ambition, loyalty, suspicion, defiance and, most importantly, love.

Threatened by the ultimate punishment facing anyone who doesn’t comply with The Management – deletion, Freya and Jake must decide whether to accept their destiny, or fight for the future they want.

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