Sleepless – What keeps author Lou Morgan awake at night?

Sleepless Author Lou Morgam
Sleepless Author Lou Morgam

New Young Adult imprint Red Eye made their publishing debut this month (January 2015) with two pretty impressive tomes of terror; Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell and Sleepless by Lou Morgan. We like Young Adult stuff that goes bump in the night and gets folks interested in the genre down at the Horror Hothouse.

Sleepless tells the story of a bunch of students at a high achieving public school pressured into taking unlicensed smart drugs bought off the internet. Nothing comes without a price and before long the hallucinations start, then folks start to die. Is it chemically induced suicide or something even more sinister since all trace of the mystery compound has now vanished from the web. Set within the claustrophobic environment of London’s exclusive Barbican estate, Sleepless is a compelling tale of teenage paranoia. I give it a 555/666


There will be more on the dead creepy Frozen Charlotte in a separate post, but to kick off we got to talk to Sleepless author Lou Morgan on the Red Eye blog tour about what scares her. Over to you Lou.

“I’ve been watching season 2 of American Horror Story lately. It’s good, gruesome horror, well written and brilliantly played – but you know what? I can’t watch the title sequence. It scares the living hell out of me. No idea why; it just presses my buttons. Everything that happens in the show itself? Absolutely fine. But that title sequence? Nope. Not happening.

Then there’s the case of You’re Next. I loved this film – but only after [plot spoiler redacted: you’ll just have to watch it yourself…] happened. There was something about the randomness of it that bothered me: the same randomness that bothered me about the opening of The Exorcist. Horror stories that happen for no good reason are guaranteed to freak me out every single time. That idea of being picked at random and then targeted… that’s scary. It could have been the person standing behind you; it could have been the next house along the street – but it wasn’t. It was you. Yes. That’s frightening. It’s frightening in fiction, but expand that concept to the real world and it becomes suddenly, overwhelmingly terrifying.

Maybe, for me, it’s the lack of control. Maybe that’s what really worries me. I’ve spent a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on which way you look at it) amount of time over the years dealing with depression and the related mental health issues that come with it, and one of the very worst, most pernicious things depression does to you is to make you feel like you have no control over it. It makes you feel helpless; tricks you into believing that there is nothing you can do to fight it. It’s one of the crueller weapons in its arsenal, and one of the most effective. Powerlessness. That’s horror, right there – and over the years, plenty of writers and film makers have worked out that being made to feel utterly helpless is a genuinely scary thing.

I’ve been – broadly speaking – free of depression for a few years now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still afraid of it – or the threat of it. That helplessness – the fear of it – that’s what keeps me awake at night. Stories that echo it scare me and unsettle me. I guess – in my case, at least – it shows they’re doing something right. They’re picking up on something real, something I’ve experienced – and possibly you have too – and using it to get under my skin. It works.

Not everything has to be “real” to scare me. I read The Shining for the first time a couple of years ago, and the part that really, really bothered me is the topiary animals. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t… well, I’m not going to spoil it for you. There’s just something about that section of the book; the way it’s written, the atmosphere. The fear. I read it again a little while ago – just that chapter, trying to work out why it worked so well. I convinced myself that it was because of where it came in the book, that by the time you got to that part, your nerves were already so jangled that a small fluffy bunny lolloping through the snow would be enough to break you. I sat down in my kitchen with the sun pouring in through the windows and I started to read. Ten minutes later, I was rocking gently under the table, having turned on the radio, the television and all the lights. In the middle of the day. Just in case. Even reading it in isolation, completely apart from the rest of the book, it’s incredibly effective – on me, at least. Maybe I’ve got some unresolved trauma involving hedges and a hotel playground from when I was little – I don’t know.

A sense of fear, like a sense of humour, is individual, personal. People are afraid of very different things: some of them real, some of them less so. Some people’s fears and phobias stem from experiences – lifts, clowns, enclosed spaces. Some people’s… not so much. We keep our fears safe because they have a power over us – and maybe deep down, that’s what we fear at heart.”

We totally get clowns at the Hothouse dead creepy critters.

Lou Morgan is an award-nominated fantasy and horror author, whose short stories have appeared in several anthologies. Her first novel, Blood and Feathers – an adult urban fantasy – was shortlisted for the 2013 British Fantasy Awards in both the Best Newcomer and Best Fantasy Novel categories, while the sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, was a 2014 BFA finalist for the Best Fantasy Novel. Sleepless is her first YA novel. When not writing, she tweets as @LouMorgan.

Sleepless is available now in the UK price £6.99

You can catch up with the next stop on Lou Morgan’s blog tour tomorrow (January 15) at  A Fantastical Librarian


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