Spring Haunts: Amanda Mason


23 April 2024
Part of the Spring Haunts in-person horror writing event, the author talks to organiser Alex Davis

Ahead of Spring Haunts on the 11 and 12 May, we caught up with author Amanda Mason to chat about her writing, her inspirations and her workshop for the big weekend itself in York!'

1) What was it that first drew you to Gothic fiction?

I really don’t know. I think it’s just the way I’m made. When I was a kid, it was always the scary stories that were the most fun, the most engaging, the most satisfying; and that has persisted into adulthood.  On the one hand, there are some very reliable tropes in Gothic fiction, and there’s comfort in that, but we’re also dealing with the dark and uncanny, where anything can happen, so there’s the thrill of the unknown too. As a writer, I enjoy the tension between those two elements; it’s a very playful genre, and it can be very subtle too.

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2) The sense of place is very important to both your books - how do you go about developing that as a writer?

The Wayward Girls and The Hiding Place are set in locations I know well and that’s probably the key. I was able to draw on personal memories: places, weather, and even certain emotional responses because I wanted to describe locations through my characters’ eyes. So in those novels it was a matter of processing or adapting memories, and finding my way back to a particular moment or sensation as much as it was checking factual details.

More generally, when I’m writing about somewhere beyond my experience, if I’m not able to travel and see for myself, then - as well as all the obvious research - I look for parallels. If I want to write a scene in a rain-washed cobbled street in Prague (where, sadly, I have never been) I can at least draw on my memories of a rain-washed cobbled street in Yorkshire. I think you really need to work on placing yourself inside a scene, feeling it, making it a full sensory experience.

Which isn’t to say you overload your writing, but you give yourself the luxury of picking out the right detail, depending on character and mood, and the direction you want the narrative to take.  

3) Childhood is also an important theme – what attracts you to writing about that in your fiction?

We are all haunted by our pasts, so I suppose that’s one attraction. We often overlook kids, so they can function as outsiders, which I find interesting. I also think if we look at the idea of the uncanny existing in relation to the homely and the familiar, then for most adults, looking back, childhood will be perceived as safe. Whereas I think for children the actual experience of childhood can be a lot more ambiguous, and it’s something we forget, or repress.

I often write younger characters who have a clearer, more instinctive understanding of the supernatural because I like the idea that ambiguity can result in children or teenagers being closer to those possibilities, more open to them. I also think young girls, in particular, can be all too easily dismissed, but they are intelligent, powerful, complex individuals, even if they are inexperienced or naïve, and why wouldn’t you want to write about that?

4) What are you working on right now?

A novel set in a remote coastal village during the power cuts of 1972. It has folklore and folk horror elements; I’m fascinated by things that hide in the dark.

5) What can people expect from your workshop at Spring Haunts?

I want to spend some time looking at how writers evoke the uncanny in everyday life. I’m interested in the moment where something cracks in the real world, allowing something odd, or wrong, or dangerous to creep in, and in the balance between those two states; how we play with that tension. And I’m very interested in the moment were the characters in the story and the reader starts to realise that all is not well. How do we show that in our writing? How do we create unease? How do we place these little shivers that give a reader pause, but also draws them in?

I’m in the middle of looking for some examples, so we can learn from the experts, I hope we’ll have some fun with a few exercises to test our thinking, and I want to send people away enthused and ready to take what we’ve discovered on into their own work.


Spring Haunts - book your place today!

Where? The Guildhall, York
When? 11 and 12 May (10am - 4pm)
Who? Four expert authors, facilitator Alex Davies, you… and perhaps a few uninvited guests?
Why? You'll be inspired in a remarkable setting in a historic city