This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Raymond Little, whose debut novel is Eyes of Doom. Here is the publisher’s description:
This is going to hurt . . .
Vinnie, Matt, Jack and Georgina’s friendship survived the fire in Hope House when they were eleven, but their memories of that fateful day did not. Neither did Frankie. But that hasn’t stopped Vinnie from seeing the dead boy years later. As they age, their memories start returning. The friends are plagued by glimpses of a strange, hook-nosed man. Visions of a Ouija board. And a sense that something is watching them. Something that is willing to bring chaos and death to everyone they love. The only thing the four can count on is a friendship that has spanned forty years. The past, the present, the future, it’s all the same. And now that the cycle is coming back on itself, it’s finally time for the friends to face the Eyes of Doom.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Raymond Little:
When Nick gave me this great gig of examining what I found to be the scariest part in the writing of Eyes of Doom, I thought, “Great, easy!” What writer doesn’t like talking about his work, after all? Then I sat at my keyboard, the same one I’ve used to pump out hundreds of thousands of words, and looked at my screen. And looked.
Uh, oh. Trouble.
It wasn’t that there were no scary parts to think of, or that I’d suffered a sudden writer’s block. In fact, it was the opposite, as scene after scene from the novel replayed in my mind. Some were concentrated on tense, psychological terror, others on the horror of extreme physical violence, but as I sifted through them a definite pattern emerged, and I was able to give a name to the particular fear that ran like a barbed thread throughout the novel: helplessness.
Most of us have suffered that feeling at some time in our life, and just replaying a particular predicament in our mind’s eye for which there seemed to be no way out at the time can be enough to cause a cold sweat. From financial dead-ends to dead end jobs, ethical mistakes that can never be taken back to being trodden over by someone in an unquestionable position of power. It hurts, and it’s frightening. But those examples are at the mild end of the Feeling-Helpless-Spectrum. Raise the stakes a little and the adrenalin really kicks in; the moment you step off a kerb and hear the rumble of the truck bearing down, the stranger on the doorstep with the maniacal grin and bloodstained hands that you know you should never have opened the door to, the realisation that the fire escape door at the end of the corridor is locked when the blaze is closing in behind. The feeling when nothing else can be done, other than to wait for the inevitable, and hope for good fortune. I had one such experience in my life, a scaffold staircase collapsing beneath my feet, and in the second or so it took for me to drop to ground level along with the broken tonne of steel, I remember the feeling of relinquished control, the knowledge that my immediate future was owned by gravity, and still somehow having time to think: this is going to hurt.
Eyes of Doom follows the lives of four friends — Jack, Vinnie, Georgina and Matt — from age ten in 1965 to present day. It’s no spoiler to reveal they are pursued by a relentless evil, which is the backbone of the story, and that they each find themselves at different times in their lives at the mercy of fate. And I’m not talking small stuff; they are in serious shit. The repeated motif, this is going to hurt, is a sentence nobody wants to hear. It’s a promise of pain, an assertion that your wish for safety depends on the whim of another. The novel is set against a backdrop of fifty years of cultural, social and political change, and when dropping real events into the chapters to give the reader a sense of time and place, I found the most vivid reminders to be frightening ones. War, terrorist attacks, disease and disasters — we all remember where we were, and how we felt, when witnessing such events either first hand or through our TV screens, and I certainly felt an uneasy chill when using them as a mirror to the lives of my characters.
For twentieth century man-and-womankind, helplessness is surely one of the most diabolical fears to suffer from. We have become masters of our environment. The world is mapped with everything in its right place, and we have created control through technology and medicine. Computers are the new God. Travel between continents can be achieved with relative ease and safety in the comfort of aircraft, diseases that have killed for millennia can be kept at bay with a pill or a jab. We have health and safety rules to keep us from harm, police to uphold our laws, and a universe of facts to draw upon with a tap of the thumb on a phone screen. We are intellectual, non-superstitious beings that no longer believe in monsters.
But don’t computers still crash?
Raymond Little is a Londoner who now lives in Kent, where he writes dark fiction. His short stories have appeared in anthologies including the resurrected Horror Library series and Blood Bound Book’s DOA II and Night Terrors III. He was included in the Dead End Follies article “10 Brilliant Writers You Probably Don’t Know,” and his story “An Englishman in St. Louis” sat alongside some of his own literary heroes such as Dickens and Poe in the Chilling Ghost Short Stories collection. Eyes of Doom is Ray’s first published novel.