Joseph Coelho’s Halloween story

Regular readers of MyBookCorner will know that I’m a HUGE fan of Joseph Coelho’s writing. Poetry, picture books and most recently… his verse novels. The latest – Frankenstiltskin – with illustrations by Freya Hartas, is every bit as deliciously dark and funny as Zombierella, (the very first in the Fairy Tales Gone Bad series). Therefore it was with much excitement that I invited Joseph over to MyBookCorner, to share his very own Halloween Story.

Read on… if you dare…

Halloween has always been amongst my favourite holidays. From earliest childhood I had an interest in the gothic and the gory, the macabre and the monstrous. I think it was in part due to where I grew up.

JosephCoelhoPicture1Roehampton was known as the last village in London and despite at one point being one of Europe’s largest council estates it contained more than its fair share of old mansions! Yep, that’s right mansions on a council estate! How unfair is that! Opposite my block of flats was a derelict Victorian mansion complete with a spooky overgrown garden. In that garden was a dried-up old fountain with a white stone basin and an eroded statue of a horned bust. My friends and I called this stone head – The Devil’s Head and would dare each other to touch it… none of us dared. I suspect the bust was not the devil at all but rather the forest sprite/deity Pan but his horns played the part of devil well.

JosephCoelhoPicture2Spitting distance from this fountain was another statue… three bronze block headed figures, they were a work of art known as The Watchers by Lynn Chadwick. But my friends and I referred to them as The Three Witches and we never went near them. The ghoulish and the mysterious were therefore always on my doorstep and I loved it, I loved the thrill of being a little bit scared and would relish all craft activities around Halloween when we got to make spooky cards from black paper and of course go trick or treating. One memorable night of trick or treating had us being told off by a neighbour whose dog had been genuinely scared by our costumes. It felt good to be a convincing monster, though we did feel sorry for the dog.

Whenever I turn my pen to spooky tales I often return to my childhood in Wandsworth. Growing up libraries were very important to me. The library in the Fairy Tales Gone Bad Series was in fact inspired by Westhill Library in Wandsworth where I would do my homework after school. The library had wooden shelves and wood panelled walls and had a reference section where us kids weren’t entirely welcome (we were known to be noisy… sometimes.) The reference section therefor held a lot of mystique for us and so felt like the perfect setting for a place where a strange librarian might find a pile of forgotten, unread, unthumbed books, books where the stories inside have gone… BAD!!!!



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