500 Words From...is a series of guest posts from authors, in which they talk about their newly-published books. Here, for Halloween, Andrew Lee explains the background behind his Asian Spine Chillers series. The four volumes bring together macabre stories from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, as well as letters to Andrew from terrified readers sharing their supernatural experiences. In addition, with the use of innovative augmented reality technology, readers can bring their print books to virtual life, by using their smartphones, or tablets, to watch a bonus hidden story, The Devil’s Blade, told in twelve episodes.
So, over to Andrew…
“Greetings from the Dark Side!
Asian Spine Chillers was in a great part prompted by my childhood reading. From a very early age I was attracted to the macabre. I forwent the childish tales most kids my age enjoyed. While my classmates were reading Enid Blyton, I read Poe and Edgar Wallace, along with many other authors of tales of horror and the supernatural. Throughout my childhood I sought out and found books, and later videos and films, of the sort that most parents would consign to the rubbish heap, or to a locked cupboard, if they ever found them. However, my parents were not like most. My mother had significant clairvoyant skills, and my father was an atheist who suffered severe depression, or what today would be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Second World War had scarred him deeply and the images, sounds and memories of that war never left him. He was a deeply unhappy man and, lost in his own darkness, he didn’t see or care what I chose to read or watch. Both parents are now long in their graves. My father bequeathed to me a degree of blackness, and from my mother I have inherited The Sight – it is not as powerful in me as it was in her, but at times it provides me with great insight.
And so I grew up with a love of the unusual, and the supernatural. Then, in my teenage years I met and lived with a genuine Romany gypsy princess who had incredible psychic powers. She further fuelled my interest in the supernatural. I began writing down the tales that came to mind from this point.
I have lived at various times in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore and Bangkok. In each place I spent time talking to local people, particularly country folk and those from out of the way corners where life is a little less plastic and regimented than in the cities. They told me tales passed down from generation to generation, and I became like a sponge, absorbing their stories. Sitting with a coffee, tea or beer and talking to these people, the stories, real or imagined, grew and kept on growing.
Sometimes not a person, but a place suggested a story. One of my favourite places for inspiration is Pulau Ubin, a tiny island off Singapore where life is still mostly rural. When I visit Singapore from my current home in New Zealand, I go to Pulau Ubin and spend the day walking, thinking, and soaking up the atmosphere, letting my imagination run free. Also in Singapore, the abandoned Second World War fort on Sentosa, another island off the mainland, likewise holds magic for me. I will go there, find a quiet corner and spend hours, notebook in hand catching the thoughts that come. Hong Kong has its magic corners for me too, as does every city and country I have visited.
As an author, it is wonderful when you find a place where magic lies in wait, ready for you to unleash it and capture it on the page. It is even better that now, with augmented reality technology, you can unleash it in sound and pictures as well. My publishers, Monsoon, have made available a free augmented reality app so readers can access The Devil’s Blade, I hope they will be captivated by what awaits…
The readers’ letters that are becoming such a feature of the Spine Chillers started purely as a writer’s device. However, since word about the series started to spread, Monsoon has been finding more and more letters arriving in their mail as people share their unearthly experiences. I am writing further volumes and I encourage anyone with a tale of the macabre and the supernatural to email it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org”