Here comes the Fluff
This is it, people. This is not a drill. The second novel is out. Which is crazy. I’ve managed to write another one. Three decades on this planet, two novels published. That’s not bad when you consider the whole first decade and some of the second was spent primarily being forced to learn things in various classrooms.
“So, where did this new novel come from,” I hear you ask. “And what’s with the pink rabbit?”
I guess it’s time I properly introduced you to Fluff.
For those of you who don’t know, the second novel was going to be something rooted in science fiction originally. A story with a twist of dystopia, using a very fake religion to talk about the way our world world was changing as it raced towards financial crisis and political upheaval. The only problem being that our world got messy up as I was trying to write about it. I began to feel like I was competing against the worst headlines the news had to offer, which is not a healthy way to live. In the end, I had to abandon the idea before it sent me spiralling into a breakdown.
Sadly, I didn’t feel any better for letting it go. I’d spent so long honing that idea; I couldn’t face finding anything to replace it. I convinced myself I’d failed. Missed my chance. It didn’t help that my obsession with it had disconnected me from so much of my normal life. My family and friends. Any sense of free time. I was exhausted, whilst everyone else was getting on with things. Their happiness didn’t seem dependant on the act of creating something. So, what hell was wrong with me?
That abject hollowness I was feeling began to feed a character in my head. A lead character in need of a story, whose own actions had stranded them beyond the margins of their own life. You see, that sort of disconnection is the ideal place to stir some horror. When you don’t fit into any room, you already feel haunted. In fact, if anything, you begin to feel like you’re haunting other people.
The character became an older man. Someone forced to live in a residential flat by his failing circumstances. Someone who believed he was cast aside but understood his own actions had stranded him there. I just needed something to plague him. To torment him at his loneliest moment.
Enter the pink rabbit.
It began when I was looking at classic ghost stories. Surely, this old boy could disturb something or steal something to seal his doom. Only all the standard spectres felt a bit trite. The shadowy figures forever on the horizon. The screaming skulls in the walls. The rattling chains and lumbering footsteps. The Rolodex of monsters in my head had become pretty thin. This new novel needed something to hook my curiosity. I was at work when it hit me. What if he wasn’t pursued by anything monstrous or spectral? What if it was something so everyday that you could almost ignore it at first?
You see, I grew up in the 80s. The era when the slasher flick made an icon of the monster. Before I ever watched a horror movie, I knew who Freddy was. Chucky. Jason. Michael. Even Leatherface and Pinhead. My love of ghost stories probably started as a reaction to that. James, Fanu, Lovecraft and Blackwood all used something subtler and more lingering to create terror. They played with the whisper you feel at the back of your neck as you’re falling asleep. The shadow that crosses the window just as you go to close the curtains. The unwanted pair of eyes you catch sight of as you turn a dark corner. It’s more abstract than the brutal intrusion of horror, but it causes a primal jolt of fear that rattles your senses before it allows you to settle.
I wanted to use something that didn’t leap off the page as a clear threat to create that emotion. Something innocent, with no hint of darkness on first inspection. I wanted something chirpy. Something playful. That’s where the pink rabbit came from.
Picture it. A man driven mad by a little soft toy. It would do nothing more than appear by his side every time he woke up. It sounds manageable at first. I think that’s the key. This wasn’t some supernatural, snarling beast. You could just keep throwing the little, pink rabbit away. Only, after a while, wouldn’t you want to know what was causing it? Wouldn’t you start to realise that it kept happening, no matter what you did? Wouldn’t you begin to dread waking up to the sight of it every single morning?
As I worked through the first draft, I found myself taking out the most identifiable cues from the ghost story formula. Instead, I lent towards paranoia and madness. My lead character became a man conflicted by his terror. He didn’t want to face it. He wanted to live a normal life. If anything, he was already trying to repair his life. He couldn’t cope with this impossible rabbit on top of his own grief and grievances. Only the rabbit wouldn’t leave him alone.
His terror powered the novel far more than I expected. It became less of a ghost story and more of a decent into chaos. A descent that explored how far fear can alienate you and how terror can exist during the most normal of days. Maybe on your morning commute or at a family meal.
So, here it is. Fluff is ready for you. I hope you enjoy what it has to offer. Also, if I’m being honest, I hope it gives a few people a mild phobia of little, pink rabbits. After all, isn’t that the main reason we’re here?