I love writing twisted tales. As I look back on my writing I notice the common theme throughout my short stories is a twist at the end.
Where did this love for twisted tales come from? First from Roald Dahl’s adult collection of short stories. I loved reading his Tales of the Unexpected. One that sticks with me is a story about a woman who murders her husband with a leg of lamb. She then feeds it to the detective who comes to interview her.
My main inspiration for a twisted tale, however, comes from my childhood. I grew up in a place steeped with sinister adventures and intrigue.
Ten minutes by car from the village I grew up in sits Dungeness. An area so desolate and deserted even nature has packed up its bags and left. Look up Dungeness on any search engine and the first thing you see is the nuclear power station. This stands at the end of the area, surveying all.
This, however, is such a small part of what Dungeness has to offer. Formed from flint shingle Dungeness is the largest cuspate foreland in Britain. The area is so desolate, you could be mistaken in thinking you had jumped into an apocalyptic horror.
Scattered throughout the area are a handful of tiny houses. After World War One railway workers were offered the chance to buy old carriages. These they placed on the land and turned into small holdings to live in. The original structures can still be seen when you visit. Some have been developed, but, many maintain their original shape and structure.
The area is also popular with many music and TV producers as the ideal backdrop for many a drama. Pink Floyd’s 1981 Album Cover, A Collection of Great Dance Songs contains a picture of Dungeness. Prodigy filmed their video for Invaders Must Die there.
Television series have also made use of the desolate area for filming. The Poison Tree (2012) was filmed there. Grand Designs (2016) filmed an episode there. Eastenders (2007) used Dungeness as the location for a special.
Standing on those windswept dunes was one of my favourite past-times as a child. It is here that my imagination started and ideas on Dystopian novels started flooding in.
I dream of retiring there, to write novels.
Dungeness has nothing on adventure compared to the village I grew up in. Dymchurch is a small seaside village that is steeped in history and intrigue. Established in the 16th century, Dymchurch was the headquarters for law and order on the Romney Marsh. It derives its name from Deme a mediaeval English work for a judge.
With its vast stretch of coastline, it was popular with smuggling. Having made the short trip from mainland France, smugglers landed in Dymchurch. There, they could scatter across the Romney Marsh avoiding detection. This link with smuggling inspired Russell Thorndike to write his Dr Syn books.
In the 19th Century, Dymchurch was the home to three impressive Martello Towers. Built during the Napoleonic war, these circular building provided essential security. The three towers provided a coastal wide defence during empire attack.
Dymchurch is also home to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. A functioning miniature railway which was established in 1920 and is as popular today, as it was then.
My childhood involved growing up with tales of smuggling and ghosts. The marsh with its eerie mist, which settles just above the ground inspired my imagination. As a child, I devoured all the literature to do with action and adventure. Enid Blyton’s, Famous Five is my favourite.
Old Tree Cottage
Growing up in these two iconic locations was enough for any child’s imagination. However, neither of these two had anything on the house I grew up in.
Old Tree Cottage is a grade 2 listed cottage. It was originally constructed in the 18th Century as two separate buildings. One half of the building contained the stone masons the other half, the coffin makers. The garden itself was the original cemetery for the area.
Russell Thorndyke stayed in the cottage whilst he wrote some of the Dr Syn books. He includes the cottage in several of his books, as the house of Mr Mipps the Sexton. The house was also the location for many a smuggling meeting. According to the legend, a passage ran from the house to both the Ship Inn and the Church. This passage constructed to help smugglers move around without detection.
It was not just the history of this house that sparked my imagination, but, the strange occurrences there. Under the fireplace was a hollow concrete block. The entrance to a mystery, hidden tunnel maybe. I remember as a child my father trying to break through the concrete to see why it was hollow. He describes a feeling coming over him which was terrifying. He never attempted to break the stone again.
There were also the guests that we shared out life with. Many an evening we would all be sitting in the lounge watching TV, as a family and hear people walking around upstairs.
Jewellery used to go missing on regular occasions. My mum would always ask for it back. Sure enough in a couple of hours, the items would be returned into the most random of places.
As a child, there was never a feeling of malice in the house. It always felt to me that the house had a heart and was looking after us. The strange noises never frightened me, but, rather excited me.
To this day the house holds a special place in my heart. It is responsible for my love of ghost stories and the paranormal. Watching The Hunting of Hill House this week my partner comment, “Why aren’t you scared?” The answer is simple I grew up with strange occurrences and noises. I never felt scared there, why would I now?
These three locations have been the inspiration for my reading and writing. They have provided me with a world of mystery and wonder for as long as I can remember. I had a happy childhood, made even better by the strange environments I grew up in.