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JEKYLL’S MIRROR: Origins Part 1

Hi all

JEKYLL’S MIRROR, my brand new cyber-age take on the legendary story THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE is officially published on 1st January (although you can get it early from Amazon by clicking here!)

I thought it might be interesting to write a series of short blogs about the origins and inspirations for the book. I often get asked ‘Where did you get your idea for your latest book?’, and the answer is almost always – lots of different places! It’s very unusual for an entire book to spring from just one source, and that is very much the case with Jekyll’s Mirror.

Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll be describing these different origins and influences, but let’s begin at the beginning: the first thrill of terror I felt at the idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now, don’t click on the video below until I’ve explained what exactly this clip means to me…

Like most people, I suspect, I’d been vaguely aware of the idea of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous tale: a good doctor drinks a potion he’s concocted and transforms into the evil Mr Hyde. Of course, that’s a bit of a misunderstanding of the story. Dr Jekyll isn’t a saint and Mr Hyde has many more layers than those of a simple bogeyman. I discuss some of the false ideas about the story and what I consider to be its true meaning in Chapter 5 of Jekyll’s Mirror, and will probably write a blog about it, but let’s go back to my childhood and my first encounter with these characters…

Like Dracula and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde has become part of cultural mythology and is deeply ingrained in our shared idea of ‘Story’ and the world around us. Newspaper headlines scream ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ when some foul but hitherto unsuspected murderer has been discovered; we use those richly suggestive names to describe people we know who have behaved out of character; in essence, we use and abuse the idea of the story while many of us probably haven’t read a single page of the original book.

scooby

Mr Hyde encounters those ‘pesky kids’

I’m not sure when I first encountered the good doctor. That introduction is lost in the mists of memory. It might well have been courtesy of that wonderfully batty Scooby Doo episode (I was a Mystery Inc nut when I was a kid), The Ghost of Mr Hyde, in which the great-grandson of the original Dr Jekyll uses his Mr Hyde alias to embark on a career as a jewel thief. Or the notion of the double-personality and the transformation might have come my way courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s thinly-veiled comic book version, the Incredible Hulk, Dr Bruce Banner now using gamma rays rather than those infamous ‘powders’ to unleash his inner monster.

hulk

Stan Lee’s comic book take on the story

However that first meeting occurred, I remained conscious, fascinated (at terrified!) by the  idea of Jekyll & Hyde. A horror story in which the monster isn’t something ‘other’ – isn’t something ‘out there’ waiting to find you – but is hiding (hyding?) inside your very skin.

By the age of eleven I still hadn’t got round to reading the original book, but late one October evening in 1988 I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch a new TV movie starring Michael Caine. On the centenary of the most infamous murders in British history, ITV had produced JACK THE RIPPER, a thriller in which Caine played Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the real-life policemen who had investigated the Whitechapel killings.

mansfield

Richard Mansfield, the first actor to portray Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The programme is a rather unconvincing account of the Ripper murders, using the silly idea of a royal connection to ‘Jack’, but it did feature a moment I found truly mesmerising. In 1888 the renowned American actor Richard Mansfield brought a stage version of Jekyll and Hyde to the West End. I’ll talk a little more about Mansfield and other actors who have tackled the role(s) of Jekyll & Hyde in another blog, but in the TV movie there is a moment where a modern-day actor Armand Assante recreates Mansfield’s transformation scene on stage. For the eleven-year-old me, the scene was absolutely terrifying –

The arrogant Dr Jekyll wishes to prove to his friends that his story is true: that he has shaken ‘the very fortress of identity’ and is able by his genius to transform his features. Assante channels Mansfield in a terrifying way, and it’s easy to imagine how, when the original play premiered in London in those hellish Ripper months of autumn 1888, people fainted in the theatre and the show was eventually banned. This short scene from the TV movie stayed in my mind: Jekyll’s hooting laughter, the bubbling skin, the pulsating face as the dark Mr Hyde begins to emerge.

assante

Armand Assante’s Dr Jekyll prepares to drink the potion…

This was my first proper introduction to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Afterwards, I rushed out, bought the book and, in horror, devoured it. Since then I’ve reread it perhaps fifty times and have even written a stage version of my own. I find the ideas behind it – the nature of who we are and the dangers of repressing parts of our personality – absolutely fascinating.

But I will never forget this moment from the TV movie – that eerie hooting laughter has found an echo in one of my main characters Doreen Lackland who, when she transforms into her very own ‘Hyde’ in JEKYLL’S MIRROR, recreates the laughter of Richard Mansfield…

TO SEE THE TRANSFORMATION GO TO THE 57th SECOND OF THE VIDEO. It’s creepy… you have been warned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC School News Report Interview

Hi all

At the invitation of English teacher Mr Green, I recently took my creative writing workshops into Monks’ Dyke Tennyson College.

After a fun day of plotting stories and creating characters with the students, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by budding reporters Holly and Amy, who are taking part in the BBC School News Report project. Holly and Amy came up with some interesting questions and you can hear my responses by clicking on the audio below. Together we covered what my inspirations are for plots and characters, the history of my writing (including comic books), and my new book Jekyll’s Mirror.

You can also visit the school’s BBC report page by clicking this link

Many thanks to Holly, Amy, Mr Green and the school for allowing me to use this clip.

Exclusive preview of JEKYLL’S MIRROR chapter titles!

Hi all

Only a few weeks now until my new psychological thriller JEKYLL’S MIRROR hits the shelves!

jek

You can pre-order the book by clicking this link, and as a taster of the scares to come here’s a rundown of the chapter titles:

1. Wrath & the Fire Girl

2. The Gorgon’s Invitation

3. Blazing in the Wasteland

4. The Devil Behind His Eyes

5. Gathering of the Four

6. The Experiment Begins

7. This Hungry Path

8. Reach of the Puppet Master

9. A Family of Liars

10. Through the Forgotten Ways

11 Hideously Human

12 Drawn by the Bad Man

13 The Boy and His Troll

14 Dark Revelations

15 Sam Inside the Mirror

16 The Face of Something New

17 Hyde Unbound

18 Secrets Told, Secrets Kept

19 A Curious Confession

20 The Talented Mr Tooms

21 They Are Here

22 Down Among the Monsters

23 Chaos Swarms

24 Retched Ratface

25 Tooms’ Gift

26 The Truth of Flames and Serpents

27 Into Madness

28 His Hellish Game

29 The Secret Potion

30 Sam Unmasked

First JEKYLL’S MIRROR review is in!

Hi all

Well, JEKYLL’S MIRROR, my new update on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic thriller of a man battling his inner demons, is out on 1st January!

Dr-Jekyll-y-Mr-Hyde

Not long to wait! This is always a slightly scary time for writers. You’ve worked for months, even years, on a book which you hope readers will enjoy. Many people have helped you along the way – in the case of Jekyll’s Mirror, my brilliant editors and a few experts in the field of cyber-bullying (which is the central theme of the book). But ultimately the book must be judged on its own merits.

Which means you, the writer, must be judged. Eep!

Thankfully, most of the reviews of my books have been very kind, and I’m hoping that other reviewers enjoy JEKYLL as much as the first reviewer has. Here then is an excerpt from that review, which appears on the brilliant Book Bag website. Check out the full review at the link here:

‘The horror side of the story is great – full of blood and guts and nasty villains with evil intentions. But the story also tackles some very kitchen sink themes – cyber-bullying and domestic abuse.
It’s not easy to marry these very different strands but Hussey manages it really well. You race through the story, thoroughly entertained by the schlocky narrative but underneath that, you’re always hoping that Sam will find a resolution for his “real world” problems.
We all have a dark side. And Jekyll’s Mirror shows us how pernicious it can be if we don’t acknowledge it…

Mirror Mirror…

JM2

Something very dark has decided to make an early appearance this Halloween, bursting from the cold, dead earth of the local cemetery…

I’ll have to wait until midnight and try to rebury this gruesome treasure.

It isn’t due to be born until January 2015!

But you can preorder it by clicking this link

 

MARVEL Heroes Help To Stomp Out Bullying!

Hi guys

My next book, JEKYLL’S MIRROR, will be coming out in January and a central theme of the story is cyberbullying. With every book I write, I feel that it’s really important to research the characters and the situations they’re in so that, although the story might be fantastical or supernatural, the problems of the characters seem real.

starlord

For Jekyll, I had to do some very upsetting research into cyberbullying. Now, I was very badly bullied while I was at secondary school, but this was in the dusty old days before the internet (yes, there really was such a time!). The bullying I suffered was horrible. It made me feel scared and humiliated and worthless. But at least I knew, when I went home from school, the bullying would stop.

In the modern world bullying doesn’t always stop when children go home. It can happen to them virtually twenty-four hours a day. The reasons why and the consequences of this I tried to explore in Jekyll’s Mirror, and it gave me a real understanding and sympathy for victims.

That is why I’m thrilled that the brilliant MARVEL COMICS has taken this issue head-on by supporting the STOMP OUT BULLYING organisation in the United States. Check out this link to see the Hulk, Captain America, Starlord, Rocket Racoon and Gamora all supporting the campaign against cyberbullying. Not only is it super-cool in a geeky way (GEEKS RULE!) but it highlights a serious issue.

hulk

If you’re reading this in the UK and you’re suffering from bullying of any kind, there are lots of places you can get help and advice. Check out the links below:

http://www.childline.org.uk/

http://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/

http://www.beatbullying.org/

http://www.cybersmile.org/

Ghoulish Goings On At St George’s College!

Hello all

Before the summer holidays I visited the brilliant St George’s College in Weybridge. Mr Waight kindly wrote up this report of the events for the school newsletter and has allowed me to reproduce it here (names of students have been removed due to school policy):

‘On July 3, author William Hussey visited St George’s College to give three presentations. He started the day by discussing the writer’s craft with the Sixth Form English students, followed this with a terrifying mock witch trial with the First Years and finally gave a haunting talk on the Gothic genre to the Second Years.

The First Year students were immediately engaged by William’s presence, learning how he became interested in writing and the historical events surrounding witchcraft in Civil War Britain. Having been educated on the traditional instruments used by witchfinders of the time, including the terrifying bodkin, the students were ready for their very own witch trial. [student name] was the unfortunate student accused of being a witch – and with the help of townsfolk, his fate – guilty! – was sealed by the jury of 120 first years.

When the Second Years arrived in the afternoon, they were given a brief history of the horror story before William focused on the classic novel ‘Dracula’, dispelling certain myths about vampires – Stoker’s original creation CAN walk in sunlight. This was followed by the ultimate battle: Dracula versus Van Helsing.

In all three sessions, the students were totally engaged with William, which is testament to his fantastic public speaking ability. All of the lower school students were treated to a reading from one of William’s books, where new meaning was given to the phrase ‘bringing words to life’. The students asked thought-provoking and interesting questions once each presentation was completed, although the Second Years did have a strange obsession with discovering William’s favourite horror film (The Shining).

The students and staff at St George’s are incredibly grateful to William for giving up his time. The queue of students lining up to purchase a signed copy of his novels speaks volumes as to the impact that William had on his young listeners. The event was a roaring success and was described by Mrs Rowlatt, Head of English, as: “thoroughly entertaining and spine-chilling; William Hussey has the gift of stimulating and surprising his audience in equal measure”.

KESWICK SCHOOL WRITING CLUB PUBLISHES BOOK!

Front cover

Last year, during my schools tour for Haunted, I was lucky enough to be invited into Keswick School in Cumbria. After performing my Gothic Masterclass I was invited by Mrs Robinson to take a tour of the school library. Straight away I could tell that the students of Keswick were a creative bunch for the walls and bookcases were teeming with sculptures and other pieces of art depicting favourite literary characters.

While chatting to Mrs Robinson, I discovered that there was a very active writing group within the school (see their website here) and that they had been collaborating on a real book! Mrs Robinson gave me a rough copy of this magnificent tome and it accompanied me from Scotland to Bristol during the tour.

The essential idea for the story is depictions of history and historical characters, some famous some not, which are seen through the character of ‘The Book’ itself: a wonderful and innovative conceit. The more I read the more I became engrossed in this brilliant act of collective storytelling and, returning home, fired off an email to praise to Mrs Robinson and her students. A little time later I heard that the group were hoping to publish THE READER properly, and I gave a few tips to get them started.

Well, I’m delighted to share the news that the book has indeed been published! Fellow writer Jim Eldridge commented on the finished product saying ‘This pooling of talents creates a book that is a sheer delight to read’ while my own words of praise can be found on the back cover.

Below, I’m printing the prologue to this very clever book, but before I do I’m very pleased to say you can buy the book from Mrs Robinson for the bargain price of £3.99! You will also get a free bookmark – what a bargain! Please, if you support young writers and want a thought-provoking, engrossing read, do drop Mrs Robinson a line at helenrobinson@keswick.cumbria.sch.uk

Click below to continue reading… THE READER!

Read the rest of this entry »

Turkish edition of Witchfinder!

Hello all

A quick post to share this amazing artwork for the Turkish edition of Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide. Isn’t it great?! I love the variation on the original cover, here with the infamous Demon Father reimagined as a Djinn-type figure. Many thanks to the brilliant people at Ithaki Publishing for this lovely (and terrifying) piece of art!

turkish

A Shout Out To Terrific Teachers & Their Crazily Creative Kids!

 

A creepy reading in the school hall – lights off, of course!

A quick post to say a BIG thank you to the children, the staff, and especially brilliant English teacher Miss Andrew of Christ’s Hospital School in Lincoln.

I always get a kick out of visiting schools with my events and workshops. Getting kids excited and engaged with reading and writing has been one of the unexpected joys of being a children’s author, and I think I speak for a lot of that crazy crew who write kids’ books when I say, although school visits can be exhausting, the buzz and energy we get from enthusing young people about stories sends us scurrying back to our keyboards, full of fresh zest and new ideas! (I also enjoy making whole assembly groups leap out of their skins at the JUMP! moments in my books, but that’s just my evil mastermind side speaking. Mwhahaha!)

hospital school

Christ’s Hospital School Library Display (thanks to the awesome librarian!)

Anyway, last Friday I had the pleasure of joining a group of very creative students at Christ’s Hospital and, over the course of an hour, we came up with a frankly terrifying idea for a zombie novel crossed with Les Misérables and touching on the issues of slavery! Brainstorming, the children devised a really interesting central character and the outline of a breathlessly exciting plot. I really hope they continue with it – I can’t wait to see how it turns out for Joe and his zombie friend Claire (or 24601 as Joe’s despicable dad calls her!).

You can find a fun report on the visit by clicking this link

Now, I don’t post after every school visit – it would get a bit repetitive if I did! – but I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight the wonderful kids & staff at Christ’s Hospital and, in so doing, send out a big thank you to ALL the schools I’ve recently attended. Contrary to what we often read about in the press and see in certain TV documentaries, the teenagers I encounter up and down the country on a weekly basis are considerate, polite, engaged and VERY hardworking. Similarly, the teachers I work with (and enjoy cups of tea with in the staffroom) are tireless champions of education who put 110% (I was never good at maths!) into their work and care about each and every child they teach. So thank you again Christ’s Hospital, Miss Andrew, and all the teachers and pupils who’ve been so kind as to invite me into their school!