Thursday, 18 October 2012

Vampires, teenage monsters and what lies beneath

At Lancaster Litfest on Wednesday evening Celia Rees, Chris Priestley and Cliff McNish shared their love of monsters and the thrill of scaring and being scared.

It was Coppola's film Dracula that inspired Rees to write about vampires. She read from Blood Sinister and explained how the idea of a narrative based on found documents helped make her vampire real for a modern audience.

Priestley told the audience how his 'macabre sensibility' shaped his writing. Struck by the similarity between Frankenstein's monster and a needy teenager, he wrote Mister Creecher. Like Frankenstein's creation, the young Billy is shunned by society and Priestley's book tells the story of  the child deprived of a loving family making friends with a monster. As Billy and Mister Creecher look through the window into a cosy family home to what extent, we wonder, is the monster a product of his environment and upbringing?

Another fan of illicit horror film viewing, McNish is 'in it for the monsters'. Fascinated by the 'misunderstood' monster, he considers what makes and restrains the monster. He read the opening pages of Savannah Grey. We followed the monster up the stairs of Savannah's house, anticipating the awful attack, only for McNish to end his reading just before the crucial moment. How the audience groaned!

Apart from a brief spell on the door, my main task for the evening was to tweet about the event. Apologies to Lancaster Litfest for neglecting my job, but the discussion after the break was just too interesting. From nightmares and dark corners to houses that should be safe but aren't, the writers shared their thoughts on what makes a Gothic story. They speculated on the reasons for the recent popularity of the Gothic, particularly amongst young adult readers. Is it that their lives ahead are already mapped out for them, and they want to escape from the mundane? Have physical dangers been replaced by more psychological ones? Are teenagers in that twilight zone between child and adult? Are they 'other' too?

As is the way with these things, as many questions were raised as answered and the time passed far too quickly. Certainly, it has whetted my appetite for the Litfest events ahead.

You can find out more about Lancaster Litfest here.

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