Louisa Reid Talks To Bookbag About All Kinds Of Nasty

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Louisa Reid Talks To Bookbag About All Kinds Of Nasty

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Summary: We thought that Black Heart Blue was incredibly powerful and more than a little bit frightening. Louisa Reid popped into Bookbag Tower to tell us about All Things Nasty.
Date: 31 October 2012

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All Kinds of Nasty

Gothic is my bag, big time.

Everything we don't talk about, all the ways in which we delude ourselves, all the darkness that's buried in people's hearts: this is what fascinates me.

Just before I started writing Black Heart Blue, I'd attempted to create a paranormal romance about angels and devils, based loosely on Milton's Paradise Lost. So it's no wonder that the evil I'd had on my mind for many months spilled over into my next novel, but this time in a wholly human and contemporary sense.

Literary villains have always interested me. From Iago, whose motiveless malignity has been puzzling English Lit classes for decades, to Count Dracula whose antics, whilst melodramatic in description can still send a shiver down your spine; from Heathcliff, the perfect anti-hero who just so happens to deal in the murder of puppies and digging up of graves, to James Hogg's Gil-Martin – the very devil within and Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, another sinner who thinks he's justified. Of course villains abound in children's and YA literature too, from Mother Gothel and Lord Voldemort to President Snow and David Almond's Wilfred in the superb The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. One of my earliest memories is watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and hiding behind my grandmother's sofa when the child-catcher came dancing on screen waving lollypops and calling for the children, those poor little kiddiwinkies, to follow him. I was horrified. And then there was the time playing out until almost dusk in my back garden with my brother - I remember him running off and leaving me saying if I didn't hurry Myra Hindley and Ian Brady would get me. No matter they were well and truly in prison by that time, the fear those words instilled in me still makes me feel slightly sick now.

In some way we all love to be scared. That's why the Gothic and horror genres are so popular. But in the traditional Gothic the threat is usually one of a supernatural order and thus, once the story is over we can dust ourselves down, catharsis achieved, safe in the knowledge that ghosts and ghouls, demons and devils aren't likely to come knocking – they've been safely put back into their cupboards with all the other rattling bones. But over the years I've been writing, I've become interested in translating some of that fear into a realistic setting. Sometimes horror shouldn't be something so easily left behind. I recently read Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott a novel that achieves a lingering sense of devastation with great skill. Emma Donoghue's Room has a similar effect. Then there is Sapphire's Push, a book which made me feel nauseous throughout, but which I knew was an important story that had to be told.

The Father in Black Heart Blue is certainly an evil creature; I can't think of a single redeeming feature in his character. He's good at pretending to be good though - that's why he's so dangerous. His type have featured prominently in the news over the last month or so – Jimmy Savile: untouchable because of his charitable works and powerful position in the media but accused of being a predatory and unashamed paedophile; Mark Bridger, a family friend, ex life-guard and serviceman - accused of the murder of a five year old girl. These cases are horrific and they're all too common.

William Golding's Lord of the Flies has a lot to tell us about human villainy and our innate capacity for evil: the notion that the beast is an internal force, latent within all of us is terrifying. The novel shows that beast at large and the consequences of its rampaging blood lust are horrific. But Golding also gives us the character of Piggy, the true, wise friend; his human goodness, although literally defeated by the savage tribe led by Jack and Roger, is the point to which our hearts return.

Ultimately literature can scare us out of our complacency. It can encourage a little soul searching. Some empathy. It can also be redemptive, offer hope and salvation. You get what you're looking for I suppose. I don't think I'll ever tire of books that scare me and that take me to places I'd never normally go. They may not be books I'll read twice, but a short sharp shock is an unforgettable thing.