It would be fair to say I had a bit of a misspent youth. If I wasn’t sneaking off to hire scary movies with my gran’s video card, I was pinching my brother’s Stephen King and James Herbert novels. As a teenager, I was pretty clueless about most things in life, but ask me about creatures of the night (or day) and there wasn’t much I didn’t know. I’m certain this fascination with all things grisly and ghoulish came from family gatherings, where we would revel in telling ghost stories. Films were another great topic of discussion with my uncle and aunt being enthusiastic horror buffs. I would listen in to all the conversations and when it came to bedtime, pretend I was invisible in the hope that my mum would forget I was there. Gran’s house was spooky and my bedroom at the end of a long, dark corridor. Needless to say, I felt right at home creating White Eye, the evil villain of Twister. White Eye doesn’t appear immediately in the story, so I wanted to give him a name which would make the reader start to picture him in their own mind. It was my brilliant editor at Scholastic, Lauren Fortune, who suggested he should be more of a bogeyman figure. This struck a chord with me, as when I was growing up and not behaving myself, I would be told Sawney Bean would come and get me. Sawney Bean lived in a cave in the west coast of Scotland and dragged unsuspecting travellers off the highway to eat them. Although he was only a local legend, the thought of him hunting me down always made me behave as good as gold.
I think the best baddies have something about them that is visually distinctive and with White Eye it was his coat, which had a whole host of undesirable critters crawling around it. One night, as I was working away on Twister, the hairs went up on the back of my neck at the thought of him standing next to me. I knew I had to have a scene in the book where Twister suddenly realises White Eye is right behind her. That moment still gives me a bit of a shiver! Throughout Twister, White Eye never speaks. I felt a voice would somehow make him a little less creepy and so I had to create another character that could do all the talking for him.
I will always love dreaming up terrible villains. And if you think White Eye sounds dreadful, wait until you meet the baddie in my next book.