The power of adolescent fiction on the subconscious mind.
I started writing novels in my late thirties but have been an avid reader all of my life. When I began penning my eighth book, The Ghost of Marchmont Hall, I knew that I wished to recreate the magic that I’d experienced when reading adolescent fiction such as, A Pattern of Roses by K.M Peyton and The Autumn Ghosts by Ruth M Arthur.
Both titles are now long out of print and I must have read them getting on for thirty years ago. But the effect these stories had upon my subconscious mind was clearly profound. Both novels explore a mystery from the past and interweave these events with the present day. The author then skilfully shows how the resolving of the puzzle has impacted upon the main characters.
To a certain extent, all of my twelve novels play with similar themes and style of plotting. There is always a time shift between events past and present in my books. Of that much I was already aware.
But after finally tracking down a copy of The Autumn Ghosts this afternoon, I discovered something which made me gasp. This particular book was without a doubt the most evocative of my youth. I recalled certain elements of it – that the book was split into two parts; one exploring the summer that Millie spent with her grandparents on their country estate and the love affair she formed there, and the other half exploring the experiences of her granddaughter, returning to the same estate several decades later. What I did not recall, was that the place Millie visits is called Karasay.
When I read that, my heart skipped a beat. In my Imogen and Hugh Croft Mystery novels, the fictional Scottish island that Imogen comes from I named Garansay. I had no conscious awareness that the two locations had such similar names. When I was selecting an appropriate name, the idea must have presented itself from deep within the part of my brain which housed those long forgotten adolescent memories.
My intention was certainly not to plagiarise these works. In many respects, my books are quite different. They are adult mysteries and not YA fiction. However, this coincidence has illustrated just how powerful our adolescent reading experiences can be. Books read and re-read in our youth can have a significant impact upon our future creative endeavours and maybe even the way in which we approach our personal lives.
I hope that through my writing I am paying a compliment to those wonderful writers like K.M Peyton and Ruth M Arthur, who had the skill to touch me so deeply with their storytelling. If my books had the power to affect their readers in such a way I would be really very proud.