I write in multiple genres: literary/contemporary, sci-fi, and horror/suspense. When I planned my first horror book I wanted to write something with a fast pace, a tight grip on the reader, something they wouldn’t want to put down.
I remember pondering it while lay on my bed doodling one day, and decided I would write Turner to tick all those boxes.
I wanted to go to an island in order to write it, to inspire my descriptions of the setting, so called my girlfriend into the room. “Let’s go on a holiday to a mostly-deserted island, preferably without electricity.” She probably thought I was a bit mad, but agreed, and we chose Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island).
Therefore I took a pile of notes and handwrote Turner during a week on Ynys Enlli, working by gaslight at night since there was no electricity, with animated shadows and draughts and strictly rationed spirits for company.
A lot of the details in Turner came from that experience e.g. the cliffs, seals’ haunting cries, Manx shearwaters calling at night, the tunnel to an underground chamber – it really helped me immerse myself in the atmosphere. Bardsey has a lighthouse, and a lighthouse features prominently in Turner as well – leading to a tense scene where the survivors are forced to the top of it in a storm, and it looks like their only way of avoiding a painful and lingering death would be to jump off the top of it, into the raging sea.
Let’s take a step back so I can explain what the story is about. Turner is a tense rural thriller which follows a single night in the lives of a small group of people trying to survive an apparent outbreak of insanity on a remote island which has a history of disappearances. As you can imagine, it was quite scary to go to bed at night in a house with no locks on any doors, even the front door, after writing some of the most tense chapters of Turner. My imagination gets carried away with itself sometimes.
The weather was great for the first few days but soon turned stormy, so much so that we were stranded on the island for a few days at the end because the weather was too bad for a boat to come out. We were low on supplies and morale by that point and I wanted to get the novel typed up in case my only copy got blown away or swallowed by a shark. I actually had to ring my employer – I worked as a university librarian, back in the days before I became a full-time author – and tell them I’d be missing a meeting because I was stuck on an island. Great fun to tell that to your boss and for it to be true.
Note that my novel isn’t set directly on Bardsey. It’s set on a fictional island called Ynys Diawl / Stawl Island, off the east coast of Anglesey. The fictional Ynys Diawl is much larger, and is also heavily forested, whereas Bardsey Island nowadays resembles a large sheep and cattle farm, rather than the natural paradise I’d expected, so that was a big disappointment.
After finally reaching the mainland the novel was typed up and birthed itself in a peal of thunder, blood, and whirring chainsaws.
Turner has a scene in a subterranean crypt. The setting was based on this crypt on Ynys Enlli. The entrance is a tight squeeze. I didn’t want to go into it, way too claustrophobic. I just stuck in my arm with a camera to get a pic of it, below.
The rear wall has a gap where you can see into the crypt. I couldn’t resist using this in Turner. Imagine getting stuck in there? Note the slugs and snails, which appear in the scene within the novel.
Turner is available to buy on Amazon