Isobel Blackthorn On Writing: Who Is Eva Stone?

I didn’t plan to write horror. Not at first. It was Christmas 2014. I had my first two novels on submission, and a third in the making. With the first draft complete, I needed another project. I was also hungry for a new direction.

It was my daughter who put me on to horror. She was visiting for the summer and we were chatting about genres, about which one would suit me. ‘You could write horror,’ she said. ‘You’d be good at it.’ I expressed my doubts.

I went off and read Bram Stoker, a little Poe and Lovecraft. Then I found an unabridged copy of Stephen King’s The Stand. That kept me occupied for a while. What a fabulous story! It was King who showed me I could write horror if I wanted. I ordered his memoir, On Writing, too, and gained a deep respect for the author and the man.

That summer, I explored the genre and narrowed down the type of horror I could write. It couldn’t be gore and I won’t go near the supernatural. I’m not averse to natural horror. The movie Jaws won’t keep me up at night, but I still cannot watch movies like The Omen. I’m so impressionable, certain scenes in horror movies will stay with me for decades. I soon saw my niche would be psychological. I also knew I already had a story in formation that was a perfect fit. It was a project I’d begun in 2012 and shelved due to a lack of inspiration.

I had no idea what I was walking into. Wasting no time, I hacked into those early chapters, revised the characters and tightened the plot. When my daughter’s visit came to an end, I started writing, pen and paper style. Two chapters in, and an additional character emerged. Or rather, forced her way into the plot.

I have no clear idea where she came from, or why I thought she might have much of a part to play. All I knew was she had a charge, an incredible force behind her. Taking a risk, I decided to let her have her say in her own diary. What happened after that was totally unexpected.

Her name is Eva Stone. To say that she possessed me is no overstatement. She made me get up at 4am every morning for weeks. I had no choice but to take down her story, stream of consciousness style. I’d write until my hand was cramping. What she had to say shocked me to my core. I couldn’t believe what she wanted me to write. I knew that she was taking over the narrative, but I didn’t try to shut her up, even though at times I was appalled by her. Appalled at how mad, how twisted she was.

What I kept asking myself was where had she come from? I had thought that The Cabin Sessions was entirely fictional. Through Eva, was I engaging with my own inner depths? If true, I wasn’t sure I liked her living inside my own skin but I doubt any exorcism would banish her.

Reading horror is one thing, writing horror another. Whatever feelings The Cabin Sessions evokes in readers, I had to live with similar feelings on and off for two years, especially in those early months of creation. I knew the story would be disturbing, that was the whole point of it after all, but I had no idea I would be putting myself through a strange form of possession.

I can’t say more about Eva Stone other than that she is the most disturbing character I have ever met. – The Cabin Sessions is out October 26, 2017, by HellBound Books

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