Facing the Strange - Embracing Weirdness in Stories
By Lucy Banks
It took me a long time to write the story that I really wanted to tell. For many years, I wrote novels that I believed people wanted to read—though quite what I thought that was, I’m not sure. Commercial books; you know the sort. The ones where the hero saves the day, where the couple fall in love, where the little guy overcomes adversity.
Or Perhaps Not?
Fourteen years later, I finally had a revelation. The best story to tell is the one that’s inside you; regardless of whether it’s got “commercially viable” written all over it or not. With that in mind, I started work on the first in the Dr Ribero series, The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost. That book came from a pretty odd place. The initial inspiration was taken from a newspaper article I’d read a few years back about rhubarb theft in a village in Dorset (I kid you not). But as for the rest of it? The desire to normalise the supernatural, to take ghosts and give them a place in our world . . . where did that come from?
For me, the desire to write about the supernatural comes from my childhood experiences. I hate to draw concrete conclusions, mainly because I’m not that kind of a gal; but I can testify that I grew up in a very odd house. Where to start? Well, we used to hear laughter on the staircase. We saw shadows on the walls, which ran away when you came too near. Objects would disappear, only to turn up in very odd places (my favourite being a pen, which I discovered tucked up in bed, peeking over the duvet like a naughty child). There was the occasional strong sense of being watched. And the usual, of course—lights switching themselves off, usually at the most inconvenient moments. Our pet dogs growled at unseen things in the corner of rooms. Cold patches, that came and went without any rational explanation. It wasn’t just our family that experienced this. It seemed that many visitors had their own story to tell; some freakier than others. However, it was all normal for us, especially me, who’d never known any different. It was only when I moved away that I realised it had been an unusual childhood home, and those early memories stayed with me, long into my adult years.
Gagging to Emerge
I noticed that recurring themes kept sneaking into my writing; namely, strange occurrences and eerie figures. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realise that these themes were emerging because they were desperate to be set free. My subconscious was crying out to explore them further—and (to coin the late great David Bowie) to “turn and face the strange”. So I did. I wrote the supernatural as I myself experienced it—not as something to be frightened of, but something that is an everyday (albeit secretive) part of our existence. I also wrote about the funny side of it—based on incidences from my youth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again . . . fear really can be funny; it’s just a matter of perspective.