Yay! Science in Fiction week finally kicks off with Dan Thompson talking about phobias, something he knows lots about since he released his book about them: The Caseworker’s Memoirs. Take it away, Dan!
Phobias are wonderful things … OK, maybe not wonderful for the people who suffer from them, but let’s face it, who doesn’t want to know more about koumpounophobia when it is mentioned to them? It’s the fear of buttons, by the way, which is absolutely extraordinary. But whether or not if the fear is weird and out there, or something as common as Arachnophobia, phobias remain an untouched area of psychology when it comes to literature.
Psychology in fiction has seen some really good exposure in recent years, thanks to some unique viewpoints on behalf of the authors. Emma Donoghue’s Room is one such example. A novel told from the eyes of a young boy who lives his life inside of one room. What’s unique about this story however, is how the same story has different connotations depending on who looks at it. The room is all that the boy knows, and life is simple. His mother, who is also trapped inside of the room, on the other hand suffers from her ordeal at being held captive inside, whilst trying her utmost best to give her son some sort of life.
And although phobias are rare inside fiction today, it was my interest in how personal phobias are to the people who suffer from them, and yet seen in completely different light by somebody else, that fascinated me and spurred me on with writing my new release, The Caseworker’s Memoirs. Told through the eyes of Malcolm, a retired counsellor and recently widowed. He is a broken man, letting the world pass him by, until his daughter intervenes and gives him a leather-bound notebook. As Malcolm starts to write down his memories, he is troubled by the fears and phobias of the patients who he used to treat. This gave me a fantastic structure to include so many enthralling and intriguing fears.
By delving deep into the psychology of these irrational fears, I was able to portray how different people respond to their fears. Candace Levine is a wonderful character, who has no choice but to fight her fear head on, for her life depends upon it. Neil Marshall is a successful author who cannot leave the house, and yet this situation allowed me to follow the dark path into depression and medication addiction. Understanding the current cultural and sociological issues that face us today is also a science, and one that gave me ample opportunity to explore through phobias too.
Getting the right balance between suspense and intrigue was a battle I often fought with myself when I was writing The Caseworker’s Memoirs, and hopefully I’ve succeeded. As fears and phobias are psychological issues, it was important for me to write stories that the reader can understand themselves, and perhaps make them question their own fears and beliefs. For even the greatest of us are a little afraid of something – Alexander the Great was allegedly reported to suffer from Ailurophobia – the fear of cats. What’s your phobia?
Dan Thompson lives in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire with his young daughter and his shabby dog, Skye. He is the author of the charity poetry book Life is All but a Vast Array of Colours and phobia novella The Caseworker’s Memoirs. His first full length novel, A YA fantasy entitled The Black Petal, is currently in the hands of his editor and will be available soon.
A lover of YA and fantasy fiction, you can often find him writing on his blog, writing book reviews and connecting online with other writer-type people. Dan grew up reading Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series, secretly coming up with his own inventive adventures, and R.L Stine’s The Goosebump series, before turning to the works of Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer and Marcus Sedgwick and slipping away into alternate realities. He also loves a good Historical Thriller too.