When I was little, I thought my curtains were HAUNTED…
When I was little (perhaps five or six years old) I remember lying in bed in the dark (which I was VERY afraid of) and staring at my curtains. The pattern on my curtains in daylight was gingham, which was certainly NOT what I was seeing that night.
What I saw were two children—a boy and a girl, who I suspect were Jack and Jill (yes, from the nursery rhyme), as they were climbing up the curtain with a bucket. With every two steps forward they would tumble two steps back. I remember watching them with my bedspread pulled up around my chin—equal parts captivated and terrified.
I’ve since worked out that it was an optical illusion—caused by my brain trying to make sense of my surroundings in the dark. They call it pattern recognition and it can leave the shadows to swirl and form hulking shapes (or in my case, little boys and girls carrying buckets). It reminds me of the poem In A Dark Time, by Thomas Roethke: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see, I meet my shadow in the deepening shade.”
In the meantime though, I allowed myself to think there could be two children living in my curtains—much like the little girl living in the painting in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. This concept was further embedded when I saw the chalk drawings in Mary Poppins and, many years later, the living paintings in Harry Potter.
A couple of years ago, I looked up at the sky and wondered whether we are all actually living inside a painting (it was a very picturesque spring day with a bright blue sky and wisps of white clouds).
It was a simple thought that led to my latest young adult release In The Beginning There Was Us. The novel took me about three years to write (in between a few other projects), but as you now know the story was actually sparked more than twenty years ago.
It makes me think, the next time I get writer’s block, I might just turn off the light.