The making of High Moor: Part 1
Writing a novel has been a hell of a learning curve for me. High Moor has been a project that, in many ways, I’ve been working on for most of my life. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to go through some of the things that influenced the creation of the book, as well as the seemingly endless tasks that I’ve had to carry out after I typed the last line, including how I tackled the subsequent drafts, my editing process and finally how its going to all come together, later this year, to become a finished novel.
Today, I’m going to go through why the book was written and the reasons for some of the themes, plus how I pulled it all together.
I’ve always been fascinated and terrified by werewolves. I remember a book that I owned as a child that was essentially an encyclopedia of monsters. Out of everything in that book, the illustration for the werewolf scared the life out of me. The image of the half man, half beast, with claws dripping blood drew me to it. I’d be afraid to open that page, yet was drawn to the picture.
Around the same time, I saw the classic Curse of the werewolf on TV, after my parents allowed me to stay up late to watch it. I can remember relating the story, more or less word for word to my cousin the next day. My parents were astonished that an eight year old child would be able to remember the entire plot and half the dialogue from a movie after a single viewing. The film had affected me and stayed with me for a long long time, until, at least, I saw American Werewolf in London and The Howling.
It was around this time that I went camping with the cub scouts and one of the other kids managed to scare me witless, talking about a werewolf book that he’d allegedly read, where the werewolf attacked a scout camp and killed everyone. Years later I found that the book had nothing to do with that, and the kid made it up on the spur of the moment, the mental image of that scene stayed with me and formed the initial kernel of what would become High Moor. In many respects, without that tall tale, told to me in the middle of the night over thirty years ago, High Moor might never have been written at all.
A couple of years later, something else happened in the small North East town where I grew up. Sheep were being attacked in fields on the outskirts of town and torn to pieces. The police came into all of the local schools and warned us about a large cat, probably a puma, that had been sighted in the area. We were warned to stay away from woodlands, and to travel in groups. Experts gave talks in local church halls, and the rumour mill at the local school began to churn out more tall tales. Someone had allegedly found a set of huge paw prints in the snow. A truck driver had seen the beast, late one night, and only survived by locking himself in his cab. The children started to whisper that it might not be a large cat. It might be a werewolf.
Of course, it really was a big cat. Someone managed to get a photograph of it near the river wear. It was never caught or killed, however. This was one more piece of the puzzle that had slotted into place. I was starting to get a picture of the book that I wanted to write.
They say that most author’s first novel is autobiographical. Certainly, Part 1 of High Moor contains fictional interpretations of things that happened to me, or things that I did as a child. The tree house described in Chapter 2, for example, is something that we tried to build. There is also a scene, later on that involves a VCR that I have to hold my hands up to and admit that it’s true. The scenes with the bullies, again, while they didn’t happen the way that it did in the story, was also a theme I wanted to explore. I missed a few months of school when I was twelve, because a gang of other kids jumped me while I was out walking the dog, carved me up with a knife and then spent the next hour beating the hell out of me until someone chased them off. To this day I have no idea why they did what they did, and I’d not even realised that I’d been stabbed until the ambulance arrived. No-one in the novel is based on a real person, but there are bits of people that I’ve known incorporated into many of the characters, along with bits of myself. Its a case of not only writing what you know, but writing about who you know.
When I finished Part 1, I was a little stuck. I’d written the story that I originally wanted to tell – the one that I’d spent years thinking about and was not sure where to go after that. I tried to bring it back to the present day but my muse dug her heels in and refused to budge. I wrote a chapter and it was awful, so I scrapped it and picked the story up where I’d left it. I dealt with the aftermath – what happens the next day after a horror story, looked at the consequences of what had taken place and ran with it. I’m glad I did. Part 2 is probably my favorite part of the book, and its not a part that I ever saw myself writing.
So, in a nutshell, that’s how the idea for High Moor came about. The next post in the series will go into what happened once I finished my first draft and my editing process.