Visited my favourite place in the world, recently: the north west Highlands.
Finding inspiration as a writer comes easily when you live in an inspiring place, rich in scenery, culture, heritage and lore … lots of lore.
My second novel, The Ghost Tree, is due to be published on October 1 this year by Urbane Publications.
Staying true to my unhealthy dislike of genre compartmentalisation, this is a paranormal romance, thriller, crime fiction with its roots firmly planted in a ‘true’ poltergeist account that allegedly took place in the Parish of Rerrick, Auchencairn, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, in 1695.
You can read the published account by Alexander Telfair, the minister who performed the two-week-long exorcism, here: http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/dumfriesshire/hauntings/rerrick-poltergeist-1695.html
The old gnarled tree in the picture is all that remains of the haunted plantation in Telfair’s account, then called The Ringcroft of Stocking, where stone mason and farmer Andrew MacKie contended with a violent noisy spirit that pestered his family for a few months at the turn of the 17th century.
There were three trees in living memory. The locals call them ‘The Ghost Trees’. The two beeches died some time ago. This enduring oak was more resilient to the sweeping winds of the Solway hills and has survived both the ravages of time and, if Telfair’s account is to be believed, the poltergeist.
Legend has it that, when the last of the Ghost Trees dies, the Rerrick Parish Poltergeist will return.
My work of contemporary fiction took me to surprising places, from the realms of the dead to quantum physics, and my research on the subject came up with more unanswered questions than solutions to the phenomena of the paranormal and supernatural.
I’m still unsure whether I believe that “a ghost” can be described as a visitation from the dead, a symptom of a vivid imagination or a piece of observable data from a scientific equation. What is evident from all the theories and accounts I have read and all the ‘experts’ I have spoken to, is that many people truly believe that the dead can in some way return from the grave and interact with the living. It is also worrying to note that it seems to take a ritual involving God to remove it.
The Ghost Tree follows the misfortunes of a young man, MacAoidh Armstrong, who unwittingly buys a smallholding on the former subjects of the MacKie plantation. The ghost tree has died and the poltergeist has returned, but the pragmatic and stubborn Highlander does not believe in ghosts.
As the story unfolded during its construction, I found there was far more than the paranormal to contend with when a violent spirit haunts a 21st century home.
The result was a terrifying but fascinating journey for me, especially when I was writing it in the middle of the night with my back to a draughty door.
Whether I believe in ghosts or not, I am still uncomfortable with the inexplicable and, until science proves one way or another that death is merely a transition into another form of existence, I will still need the light on at night when I face the reality of going to the loo.