The escapism that fiction provides is incredibly important to many of us. When it comes to novels, it’s easy to get lost in the perspectives of the protagonist; adopting their same sensibilities and quirks, mirroring their demeanour, and empathising with their connections to other characters is commonplace amongst enthralled readers. Of course, the genre of the story can greatly influence these feelings and thoughts. Horror, for example, can be incredibly engrossing. The literal spine-chills that creep over us whilst reading something truly unsettling may, on the surface, sound like an unpleasant experience but are actually much sought after by many.
Stewart Bint and his wife moved to Leicestershire 40 years ago and eventually settled in Elmesthorpe where they have remained ever since. Before moving to Leicestershire, Stewart trained as a journalist on a small, weekly newspaper in Derbyshire and moved up to a news agency in Matlock at the age of 20. “We had our own studio which had a split-line between BBC Radio Derby and BBC Radio Sheffield. So from the age of 20 I was reporting for both of these stations as well as a few bits and pieces for Radio 1 newsbeat and Radio 4’s The World at One and the Today Programme.”
Stewart’s varied experiences didn’t stop there. Over the years he worked around the country at a number of different places such as Radio Manchester and Radio Nottingham, and in commercial radio such as the old Centre Radio in Leicester. Now, at the age of 65, Stewart has recently retired and has decided to focus on his passion for writing. This love of creative writing was not a recent discovery, however. “I was first bitten by the writing bug when I was 7,” said Stewart. “That’s came from watching the original series of, what has been my favourite television series ever since: Doctor Who. Even at that very young age I was totally enraptured by the storylines which can take place anytime in the past and future and absolutely anywhere in the Universe and beyond! I started creating my own worlds and my own characters in the very early days, writing my stories in little blue notebooks, until my parents bought me a portable typewriter for my 9th birthday!”
The world of fantasy and make-believe became a haven for Stewart following the death of his father when he was aged 11. Stewart said, “Being in charge of the storylines and the fates of characters and events gave me a sense of control, in that I could ensure that everyone could survive in the end.
“During my 20s it was always my ambition to become a published novelist by the time I was 30. Unfortunately I was 26 years too late for that! I didn’t actually achieve this until I was 56, in 2012. I always wrote fiction as a hobby but it wasn’t until I was on holiday, bobbing up and down on the caribbean sea with a friend that he suggested I ought to try and get published.”
In 2012, Stewart had three novels published; Malfunction, Ashday’s Child, and The Jigsaw and the Fan. These novels feature time travel, which is explained by Stewarts love of the quirky, space-faring Timelord but it was his own ‘brushes with the paranormal’ that inspired the theme of some of his other novels. He tells me of an impromptu seance whilst on holiday in Cornwall at the age of 12. However this was not an overtly bone-chilling time that would give way to a true horror novel.
“The incident that inspired In Shadows Waiting was altogether more frightening,” said Stewart. “In the early 1980s I was the newsreader on BBC Radio Manchester’s breakfast show, and had to leave my digs at around 4.30 a.m. One cold November morning I was just opening the front door of the rather large, gloomy, and decidedly spooky house that I shared with around 8 people, when I sensed something near me. Turning around and looking back up the stairs I saw a misty figure on the first floor gallery landing. There were just dim red holes where its eyes should be. My landlord told me that evening that the house was haunted…including my bedroom. Apparently the previous occupant of my room had woken to see a figure floating above her bed near the ceiling. Although I didn’t actually see anything else in the house, and never felt uncomfortable in my own room, that gallery landing always felt odd. That figure is how I describe the spectral entity towards the end of In Shadows Waiting.”
Whether you’re a believer in the other-wordly or not, it’s hard to resist indulging in a good ghost story. The enticing nature of horror stories, movies, and video games is, on the surface, seemingly self-deprecating. “My viewpoint is that being scared to the point of screaming and getting the ‘heebie-jeebies’ from horror fiction is actually good for us,” explains Stewart. “With my readers craving that chill on their spine and the rise of their neck hairs, I see my role in that as sort of akin to a social worker! Why do we like to be scared? The research that I did into this shows that when we’re afraid, our bodies release certain chemicals that can contribute to feeling good under the right circumstances. I suppose those circumstances are when the danger or horror is simply within safe boundaries. Being able to identify with the fictional character that we’re reading about in the comfort of our own living room or our own bed should actually still get the heart beating and the blood coursing through our veins.”
Now that Stewart is retired, his focus on his writing has been reinvigorated. With a number of ideas and plans for future novels, it will only be a matter of time before we see another fantastic read from this talented and imaginative soul of Leicestershire.