The compelling aspect when reading supernatural plots is that odd things happen within a context of ordinary, natural life.
If the whole world is ghostly, there is nothing scary or unsettling about the appearance of another ghost. But if the world seems its predictable, even boring self and then the unnatural event occurs, that can put a chill up the spine of the reader.
This isn’t a genre I normally write, but I do take a lot of interest in uncanny coincidences. I decided to write about one. the result was A Ghostly Assignment.
I don’t usually write about mainstream characters. I like the quirky, unpredictable ones. they’re fun to write and create dialogue for. But I’ve given this story two perfectly straightforward students who encounter the unexpected and have to deal with it.
There’s a glance at history, too, and my surprising coincidence had to come in. Witchcraft became a capital offence in Britain in 1563 although denounced as heresy by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484, after which some 200,000 witches were tortured, burnt or hanged in Western Europe. Most supposed witches were usually old women, and invariably poor…but not always. When disasters occurred, there was no scientific body to explain infections, illnesses, failure of crops, wild weather. Another imaginative explanation had to be found by sufferers: Who is causing this? and if you were a stranger, outcast or different in any way, your luck might be out.
There are some good reviews. Here’s one:
Verified Purchase “Some ghost stories are terrifying. Some are ludicrous. This one convinces. It’s psychologically correct, as one might expect from a writer who made a career as a psychologist, and this reader at least feels that he understands the characters and their motivations because of the way they are presented. It’s also historically correct and, if there is a frightening aspect to the story, it comes from the historically accurate representation of human cruelty rather than from the supernatural. The genetic component is icing on the cake. A good read.”
In the historical series, A Relative Invasion, the theme of bullying – psychological bullying – runs throughout.
In the third book, Impact, normal adolescent angst and severe post-war austerity lend tensions to the toxic relationship between Bill and his devious cousin, Kenneth, but the tipping point is the sense of ownership, the removal of control. Kenneth intrudes too shockingly, just too far.
Bill is not perfect, but readers rally to his defence because most of us can easily see how an originally unfair position may be tolerated over and again until one strategic act – touching the secret locus of control – causes a disastrous explosion.
At the end of the war, Bill must now share his home, even his bedroom, with a cousin who has spent his life invading Bill’s personal space. Kenneth has sought to take over Bill’s friends, won favour with his grandparents, charmed his parents and younger sister. All this has happened by the end of Book Two but in Bill’s mind, his parents and sister, his home and his own bedroom will be ahead to fill his future. That outcome is horribly changed, but he still tries to adapt and make the best of things.
Settling back after five years in evacuation and with an increased household causes a lot of work : constant queuing for the family food, and with Bill’s father not yet demobbed, learning to mend things and manage practical task. Kenneth does little or nothing. He draws and paints beautifully, sings and says all the right things, so avoids all hardships. He has gained a scholarship to an excellent school; Bill had no encouragement or support when he took the eleven-plus, and now Kenneth scorns Bill’s basic curriculum while he lounges on the most comfortable chair learning Latin declensions or Wordsworth poems.
This is just the background to the boys’ relationship. Naturally Bill seeks his own supports and escape activities and keeps these secret. It is when these are invaded by Kenneth and directly threatened that the climax of this series comes.
The fall-out is dramatic and pervasive. My aim was to make the reader keep thinking about the dilemma each one of the many characters now finds themself in, not to mention the future plans Kenneth and Bill must now consider.
A Relative Invasion is an apt title for the three books in this series, but in the planning of a Book Four, the two cousins now adult and war well over, “invasion” ends and “retribution” is more appropriate. The promise of personal and career success cannot blind the reader to a more sinister note trailing like smoke in the distance. And isn’t that true after war “ends”?
Yes, the most tortuous crimes have no police detective and occur in the home.
Resigned, Terry thinks, to a dull, predictable life and occasional fantasies of a shinier future, he suddenly spots his double on the metro. Thrilled, he follows to discover who he is then rushes home with the news.
His wife appears uninterested, almost to block discussion, so he starts an identity seach in secret. Nothing is simple, what could be predicted? His life becomes increasingly complex and bizarre. The Pandora’s Box can’t be closed once opened and maybe Terry will have serious regrets. Who is in for a shock? Who’s at fault? Can’t he trust anyone…even himself?
In print and all ebook platforms. Enjoy the many colourful characters and the traps and dilemmas they find themselves caught in.
Available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and paperback.
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Part 4 WHY SHOULD THEY …? (awaiting the right warning word) ..is in preparation. Read more about what is in story under Work in Progress.
Themes: Identity, family, illusion, dark secrets, misrepresentation, ethical dilemmas, disillusion, personal growth and the craziness of human beings.
I like titles to have some ambiguity. I like to be intrigued. This means striking a difference from what is current, a choice against marketing advice,. This would be to choose something in close kinship to top-rated novels in your genre. So I should go for “The Neighbour’s Husband” or “His Secret Wife” or “The Family that Never Was”, but I haven’t.
To use this title style would be to give away the plot of my series. “Uncommon Relations” describes it well, for the relations Terry, my main cahracter has and the relationships explored within the series are uncommon. From the start, Terry’s wife has an uncommon reaction to his exciting news. He has an uncommon experience: sighting his double when he is squashed up on a metro train during his morning commute. And as the plot continues, the title comes even more into play.
There aren’t many psychological series. This is because the architecture of the psychological thriller is to rise to a climax with twists and turns, one final twist concluding the story.
In writing a psychological series, i have had to strike a difference in this format. Whereas psychological thrillers and domestic dramas may use one or two perspectives, for instance, in Gone Girl where the reader swings from sitting in the head, even heart, of husband and then wife, I have delved into multiple perspectives as the series has developed.
This tends to alter the genre from psychological thriller to psychological literary fiction. That is, one person’s story develops into exploring themes such as Identity, Personal Responsibility, Ethical Disclosure and so on. I hae indicated this by the second part of each title which asks a question. As one of my reviewers stated “It made me examine my own conscience.” Essentially, what would you do if in the said character’s situation?
I am currently writing Book or Part Four of the series, Parts One and Two being published on all platforms, ebook and print, and Part Three up for pre-order on Kindle. This last diverts from Terry’s point of view to show him from someone else’s perspective. I enjoyed writing other characters’ take on him, deliberately choosing some minor characters and placing them on the spot.
In this coming-of-age trilogy, A Relative Invasion, two young cousins meet in 1937. Their developing relationship mirrors the emotions that brought Hitler’s rise to power – envy of strength, desire for new territory.
Readers who like a long read now have the three books of the trilogy: Intrusion, Infiltration and Impact in the one volume. With war rumbling on the horizon, two boy cousins meet and their fateful rivalry is born. Lonely little Billy Wilson is initially excited to learn his cousin is to move nearby, but devious Kenneth proves to be a nightmare. Smaller and frail, but older, this psychological bully envies Billy’s superior strength and home comforts and sets out to threaten both.
After war, evacuation, hardships and loss, the cousins share an even closer psychological space. With adolescence, competing talents in the setting of post-war austerity, tensions rise to breaking point.
The fall-out is dramatic and makes for a thought-provoking read. There’s an unpredictable if logical conclusion. But how long the arm of retribution?
After I’d had these three books out a while, I decided to make a version with all three books in the one volume, plus an introduction.
The INTRODUCTION explains how the trilogy came about including the only contact I had with a person who had lived through the war and experienced evacuation.
The paperback is good to have on your bookshelf. These books have been praised for their historical accuracy by Historical Novel Society, where you can read their reviews.
Wikipedia doesn’t always get things right but its explanation of psychological fiction can hardly be bettered.
“In literature, psychological fiction is a narrative genre that emphasizes interior characterization and motivation to explore the spiritual, emotional, and mental lives of the characters. The mode of narration examines the reasons for the behaviors of the character, which propel the plot and explain the story.”
There are some faces that immediately intrigue, like the photograph above, and “what’s going on” tends to mean “inside his/her head” rather than “round the corner” or “in the kitchen”. You can experience this when you visit the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Many paintings you merely admire, but one or two arrest you, perhaps disturbingly, and of course no answer is offered against the painting for “What’s going on?” It’s online, so I invite you to see what I mean and I deliberately haven’t chosen one for you.
In a novel, it may be an odd behaviour rather than the look on a character’s face. In one of my Curious Men stories, I have a man organising tractor components onto the embossed flowers of a banquet cloth on the lawn. Mending a tractor may be commonplace, but what kind of man, and what thought processes have led him to this situation?
Psychological fiction can be found in different genres. I have written crime short stories, satire, historical and contemporary fiction, and I’d class all as psychological fiction because they are character-driven stories, the plot only emerging as characters develop and create situations. And as in real life, there is humour, sometimes, as well as drama. TV offerings appear to assume that murders are all that counts.
“…The portrayal of the characters and their development is outstanding, and I was completely invested in Terry and his families. The book uncovers some disturbing family situations and even more disturbing individual decisions and these are both honestly and sensitively handled, making them both understandable and plausible.”
In which 28-year-old Terry has an amazing encounter. It will change his prosaic life forever. Why can’t he tell gauche wife, Gudrun, about the search he’s embarking upon? This psychological domestic drama will compel you towards examining your conscience. Bizarre situations touched with dark humour. Will Terry ever mature and discover what he really needs to know? Many characters – some worthy, some nefarious – colour his journey. Then there’s Part Two and its excruciating moral dilemmas.
It seems odd, now, that I wrote my trilogy, A Relative Invasion, during years when we were so free: free to go where we wanted, free to say what we wanted, buy what we wanted, free to arrange our daily routine as we liked, with children or with children cared for by teachers and playschemes. Not being able to come and go is particularly hard for the teenagers, but a luxury, now, like being able to breathe, that we all took for granted.
I wrote about two young boys, cousins, whose freedom to live at home had been ripped away. In the first book, Intrusion, war threatened and they developed a rivalry. The London blitz meant they had to be evacuated to the country where the second book, Infiltration, is set.
However traumatic, they were still able to go to school and play outside. One of my grandchildren said the hardest thing for him was not seeing his friends. “It’s been a whole week!” I hadn’t the heart to warn him it would likely be a month or even longer. At least he has siblings, a garden and a trampoline.
Wartime children had no play equipment like that and it was long before Health and Safety initiatives, so they climbed on building structures, bomb sites and slid down hillsides on whatever flat object they could find, sharp edges or not.
Cuts and bruises were not the danger they feared but what planes overhead might drop on them, or what family members they might lose. And there’s the similarity: in WW2 everyone knew someone, most with someone close, that had lost their life in the conflict. And it’s getting that way for us now.
In A Relative Invasion I tried to show both the best and poor responses to the war effort. I’m afraid Billy’s mother gave the latter, but his foster parents the former. Meanwhile his rival, cousin Kenneth, capitalised on their situation by invading Billy’s personal space even further.
Billy turned to his icon for imaginary power to resist: a Cossack sabre he’d secretly seen. That sabre had a wartime story of its own, in WW1, as Billy discovers during a library visit to the nearby manor.
Book 3, Impact, begins as war ends. Now in adolescence, the boys’ rivalry intensifies. It’s doubtless worsened by the severe shortages in post-war austerity London. We’ve had just a tiny taste of this, but it IS tiny by comparison.
How lovely to read this really warm review for my trilogy on the red-headed reader’s website, here:
The reviewer has been transported to those times, she says. It’s the right time, now, to be transported to other places and times through books. I hope A Relative Invasion might do this for you.
My little review (also on Amazon and Goodreads) *****
I enjoyed that the word ‘umpteen’ appeared in the first chapter,
reminding me of how older relatives used to talk when I was a child in
the 70s and 80s. I knew then that the prose was going to be lovely and
fitting. Billy, aged five is excited about his cousin Kenneth staying.
He turns out to be a real bully – his parents believe anything he says. I
noticed his character so why didn’t they, even when Kenneth’s eyelashes
were compared to a camel Billy’s dad commented ‘Displays calm, the
camel, but they can turn nasty’ (quote from the book). This was a great
piece of foreshadowing. Billy’s only saviour is his neighbour who has a
fancy Russian knife (for display purposes, but looking at it made Billy
feel brave). Not only is Billy’s life intruded by his cousin, but World
War II is about to start. The reader learns from Billy’s observations of
his parents how scary this is going to be. Billy is evacuated early on,
his journey to the country is so enthralling, children wondering where
their next meal is coming from – and some sharing out food. The
heartbreaking bit when Billy is the last to be chosen. Gas masks, uncles
returning from Dunkirk, it’s all in there. The most heartwarming bit
for me was Billy’s stay with Mrs Youlden, her two younger children and
another evacuee Alan. Billy has never experienced poverty before or been
cold and dirty but here, he is loved and makes a true friend with Alan.
Reading this book was like going back in time to childhood.