I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Though ‘The Corpse Rooms’ was released as my debut novel, ‘Reading the Palms of Dolls’ is in actual fact, my true debut. This was written at least twelve whole months before I began to develop Theo, Rhea and Bill’s stories as The Rose Maiden Manor metaphorically engulfed their lives. I thought I would use this week’s blog entry to offer a little more of an insight into the story, its origins and (drum roll please) how it is connected with ‘The Corpse Rooms!’
Thirteen years ago, I studied Psychology at the University of Salford and part of the reason I chose this course was due to my interest in mental health conditions, particularly what was known as ‘Atypical Psychology’. This area looked at conditions that manifested in unusual behaviours, thoughts and/or emotions. Prior to clinical research, it would have been long believed that such conditions were due to demonic possession and devil worship. These days however, we understand that there are biological and environmental influences. I spend a lot of my time typically reading up on articles or watching documentaries on reports of unusual conditions and it was through reading one of these articles that I stumbled across the disorder known as ‘scopophobia’ or ‘the extreme/often irrational fear of being looked at or seen’. As I dug a little deeper into the condition, I became obsessed with how it could impact our normal everyday lives.
The idea of ‘what would it be like to live in the shadows, too fearful to be seen’ was the driving force behind ‘Reading the Palms of Dolls.’
As I began to develop the story, it was clear from fairly early on that I had to approach it from the standpoint of a young person. Previously, I had only really written from a child’s perspective for short stories and I was unsure about going into the story fully aware that there would be a fair amount of adult-themed situations and understanding how a child/teenager would confront these. I toyed around with various starting points but it didn’t work from an adult’s perspective, particularly with the journey I wanted to take the reader on. So Jesse put himself forward and I worked on his back-story and how scopophobia had presented itself to him.
One thing that a few people have commented on is that ‘Reading the Palms of Dolls’ appears to occur in the same universe as ‘The Corpse Rooms’. Specifically the fictional town of Blackwood, Kansas and more specifically an exact location that is important in introducing a character in ‘The Corpse Rooms’. I don’t want to spoil too much but this was intentional and may be part of an overall ‘bigger’ picture at some point. These two stories occur in two different time periods, ‘The Corpse Rooms’ is set in the present day whereas ‘Reading the Palms of Dolls’ is set in the early nineties. They are not sequels or prequels or tie together directly but I will say that there is a larger theme I’m exploring with these fictional pieces. This should hopefully become more prevalent as time goes on. It was tremendous fun revisiting Blackwood with a bunch of new characters but I’m not sure any future stories will be set there again. It might have seemed unusual for an English writer to set his stories in an entirely different country but sometimes the stories cannot exist anywhere else. ‘Malevolent Flesh’ will technically occur over three continents!
For those that have read ‘Reading the Palms of the Dolls’, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I’m always interested to hear what you think about the story and the characters.
Look out for ‘Malevolent Flesh’ – the upcoming novel from Drew Forest, scheduled for release August 2017.