Graham Masterton is the author of the Kate McGuire books including White Bones and Dead Men Whistling, the Beatrice Scarlet books starting with Scarlet Widow. His latest novel. Ghost Virus, was published by Head of Zeus in ebook on 1 May 2018 and is published in hardback on 4 October 2018.
Graham kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Ghost Virus.
GHOST VIRUS explores the possibility that second-hand clothes can be imbued with the personalities of the dead people who once owned them, and that their personalities can infect their new owners – particularly if they are resentful because they are no longer living, or because they have been mistreated or cheated or misrepresented during their lifetime. By possessing their new owners – or even when nobody is wearing them – these second-hand clothes can be vengeful and murderous, and create widespread havoc.
2. What inspired the book?
I have a friend Dawn Harris – a new writer of supernatural fiction but also the manager of a charity shop. One day when I was visiting her at her shop, a woman came in with black plastic bags crammed with clothes which had belonged to her recently-deceased mother. I asked her if she was sentimental about giving them away, but she said no, because her mother had been ‘quite a nasty person.’ I have often thought that the walls of rooms in which violent or emotional incidents have taken place might still resonate with those emotions even after decades have gone by, and it occurred to me then that second-hand clothes could have a similar resonance, just as they still smelled of the dead people who had once worn them. I was also inspired by the (real) activities of Lithuanian gangs who steal bags of clothes that people leave on their doorsteps for various charities. They send these clothes to Lithuania for remodelling or shredding for new yarns. But there are folk tales in Lithuania about clothes which have been infected by a virus and come to life to seek vengeance for their long-deceased owners.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I always have a basic idea of what my story is going to be, but not in any great detail, and I very rarely know how it is all going to be tied up in the end. It is not the words that drive the story so much as the characters. Once I have created them, they carry the action along in the way that they want to, regardless of what I have originally planned. And often new characters will appear who will eventually turn out to dominate the entire novel.
4. Having been through the publishing process many times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
It still surprises me that I can write some scene at the beginning of a book which seems to be completely random, but which at the very end turns out to be essential to the winding-up of the entire plot. It is a bit like being a clock-maker with an array of cogs and springs spread out in front of me, but by the very end of the process I have a clock that ticks and no cogs left over.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I like to help other writers develop their projects. I guided Dawn Harris through the development and writing of her debut novel Diviner, which was published in February and which will be featured in Davina McCall’s TV series This Time Next Year. I also urged a celebrated Irish professor of psychology Dr Sabina Brennan to write her first book about brain health, and that has just been signed up by a major publishing company. I am now working with a Greek author Evangelia Papanikou on a young adult book of Greek mythology. All three of these authors are extremely clever and engaging young women.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
The Process, which was given to me in 1970 by the author and artist Brion Gysin, when we were having dinner one evening with William Burroughs. It is stunningly well written – so well-written that I have only got to page 17 because I relish it so much. It would probably take me the rest of my life to finish it!
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I have never been asked about my strong affinity for Poland. After I married my late wife Wiescka, who as you can probably guess by her name was Polish, my mother came out and told me that my great-great-grandfather was a Polish wine merchant near Warsaw. My great-grandfather was supposed to join the Russian Imperial Army but escaped recruitment by swimming the Vistula and coming to England, where he became a well-known theatrical agent. I think that must account for my attraction for Polish women, and the feeling I have when I visit Poland (which is two or three times a year) that I am at home. My wife died seven years ago, after 37 years of marriage. If I were told that I could have her back in exchange for never having written a word in my life, I would accept that offer instantly.
About the book
The girl had been staring into her mirror all morning before she picked up the small bottle of sulphuric acid and poured it over her forehead.
Samira was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. What could have brought her to this? DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting Police suspect it’s suicide. But then a meek husband kills his wife, and the headteacher of the local school throws her pupils out of a window. It’s no longer a random outbreak of horrific crimes. It’s a deadly virus. And it’s spreading. Somehow, ordinary Londoners are being infected with an insatiable lust to murder. All of the killers were wearing second-hand clothes. Could these garments be possessed by some supernatural force?
The death count is multiplying. Now Jerry and Jamila must defeat the ghost virus, before they are all infected…
About the author
Graham Masterton’s credits as a writer include the bestselling horror novel The Manitou, and the top-ten bestselling Katie Maguire crime series. Scarlet Widow, published in 2016, was his first book to feature 18th-century apothecary Beatrice Scarlet.