To celebrate publication of Ways to See a Ghost, author Emily Diamand has written a post about what inspired her to write it.
Play Misty for Me
My new novel for children, Ways to See a Ghost, is a paranormal adventure about a girl who can see ghosts, her dead little sister and a boy who hunts for UFOs. So what might inspire such a tale? Of course, there are rich veins of inspiration for any writer in this genre, be it folklore, movies, literature or the many ‘true’ experiences, which used to be told around camp fires and now lurk in eldritch corners of the internet. But for me, there is just one title that springs to mind as my introduction to the paranormal.
This is my world… where bats take wing and things swoop from the shadows, while monsters and unnamed terrors stalk your every footstep.
Misty. A horror comic for girls (yes, that’s right) which enjoyed a brief yet glorious existence in the late seventies. Misty’s editor (Pat Mills) had previously headed up 2000AD, which explains why it was so unusual. But as far as I was concerned, it was written by Misty herself. She alone would have been enough to get me reading. Looking like a vamped-up version of Girl’s World, she wore eye makeup thick enough to satisfy my eight year old tastes, and she clearly didn’t leave home without a floaty dress and suitably placed full moon. Twilight? Whatever, Misty was there first.
Misty was first passed to me by one of my sister’s friends, with a dismissive “here, you might like this.” These eleven year old demi-gods were my original source for the comic, since I was considered too young to get it in my own right. Like any addict, I begged, pleaded and carried out any humiliating demand in order to get my fix. But why was I so obsessed? After all, I was allowed other comics. Well, I knew Beano and Dandy were really for boys; the female characters were either hangers-on, or boys in disguise like Minnie the Minx. And in other comics aimed at girls, the heroines seemed so…nice. They liked gymnastics and ballet, they were pretty and their adventures never really hurt anyone.
In Misty, things were different. ‘Moonchild’ was about a girl with telekinetic powers who battled against her own mother and a brace of suitably malevolent bullies. ‘The Four Faces of Eve’ featured a heroine who eventually discovered she had been created from body parts. In ‘The Little White Dot’, a girl falls asleep after a televisual marathon and meets her doom when the channel goes off air. In those distant days, channels went off air in the daytime as well as at night, and I developed a lightning-fast jab for the off switch as soon as any program was over. After all, you couldn’t be too careful.
Misty invited children to enter her world and, delightedly, I did. Now, when I write about a girl called Isis who has secret psychic powers, I know she has parentage in the pages of this comic. And if boys barely featured in Misty stories, UFO-hunting Gray still owes a lot to the fearless characters who ventured into the weird and paranormal. While I can’t claim to have written Ways to See a Ghost in a ‘cave of dreams’, nor am I able to conjure the moon for an accessory, my hope is that readers of my book will get something of the thrill that Misty gave to me.
This is no place to be left alone in – so take a deep breath and make sure that every step of the way you keep with me, your friend and guide.
Ways To See A Ghost is published by Templar.
To find out more about Emily Diamand: