Location played a big role in Emergence. Before I’d even figured out what the story was going to be about, I knew it would be based in Horden; the ex-coal-mining village on the northeast coast of England in County Durham; the place where I grew up.
Edged by the cold North Sea and displaying many a graffitied wall in its streets, you’d be forgiven for thinking Horden is a grey, dismal place. Especially on days when it’s not favoured with sunshiny weather – which seems more often than not. But if you overlook Horden’s hardened facade, you’ll see it has impressive traits, too. Particularly its beach and connecting woods, which are great for exploring.
Horden is rich with history, but also deeply haunted by the demise of its coal mining heritage. When Horden Pit closed in the 1980s, the village took a massive blow. Since then, it’s never recovered (nor forgotten), and has, over the years, become somewhat socially and economically troubled. It seemed, therefore, a wholly appropriate setting for my protagonist, John Gimmerick.
Gimmerick. Bit of an odd name, isn’t it? It came to me in a dream. Sort of. After wrapping up the last book in The Reluctant Vampire Trilogy, and during the stages of making preparatory notes for Emergence, an inner voice said to me one night while I slept: ‘Hey, this next book you’re going to write will be about a man called Gimmerick John. It’ll be the best book you’ve written yet. So remember, Gimmerick John, okay?’ But Gimmerick as a first name seemed a bit too outlandish, my waking self thought, so I swapped the names round and honoured my subconscious’ wishes.
So what happens to John Gimmerick? I wondered.
He’s a young widower who rather reluctantly comes back to Horden, the place of his youth. He brings his little girl along, too. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, upon returning to his childhood home, his presence awakens something evil that had lain dormant inside the house for years.
Yep, I thought, good starting point: John’s homecoming turns into a scarefest.
And because I no longer live in Horden myself, I felt I could easily step into John’s shoes. I went on several field trips – seeing, feeling and breathing it all just as he did – thus giving the story depth and believability.
Ghosts and haunted houses have always been my favourite horror subgenre, and that was definitely the driving force when I thought about which direction I wanted to take Emergence. One thing I didn’t want was for the story to be filled with categorical monsters and gore. I wanted something far subtler than that. Something ambiguously dark and unnerving, where you’re afraid to turn off the lights in case something’s waiting in the shadows, watching and breathing.
There’s a huge dose of supernatural at play, and I wanted to pair this with John’s decline into questionable madness as he battles to put past wrongs right. And whether or not he’s to succeed, I wanted him to evolve throughout the book, so that by the end, good or bad, he’s a totally different person.
As for the ghosts? Let’s just say two friends of mine who are retired nurses inspired me greatly with creepy tales of the wards and corridors of the local old maternity hospital. The place I was born.
Well, you can take advantage of my current promotion and grab a copy of Emergence for 99c (99p) to find out what evil John Gimmerick finds himself up against.
Oh, and check out the new 2021 cover, too! 🖤