I’ve had a few nights of dodgy sleep lately and really don’t know that I can write anything more complicated than my own name, and even then I’m sure I’ll spell it wrong. Idurt Nivals? Think about it.

It reminds me of the night last year when Gerry was in hospital and I had a dose of the freaks because I woke up at 4.30am and heard this mysterious thudding. It was pouring rain outside and this thud could have been anything: a glug of trapped water in the drainpipe, our resident possum being not terribly sure-footed in the roof cavity, a madman trying to dislodge the bedroom window and crawl inside.

And of course this last thought was the one that captured my imagination. The imagination that’s been ruined by years of reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman and Peter Straub. Roaming around in my head are so many gods and monsters I’m surprised they don’t trip over one another.

Then I noticed the cat sitting near my shoulder, perfectly still, staring at the ceiling and I wondered if the madman had climbed up under the roof tiles and was about to come down through the manhole in the bathroom. Or, I imagined, he’d found the tiny little window in the laundry that I’d left open and was at that moment squeezing himself unnaturally through it (there are quite a few episodes of The X-files rattling around up there, too). And I said to myself, stop! This is irrational 4.30 in the morning thinking. Turn on the light, pick up a book and calm down. Half an hour and you’ll get back to sleep.

But of course what was sitting on my bookshelf, either being read or about to be read? Dr Sleep by Stephen King (follow up to The Shining), NOS.4R2 by Joe Hill (supernatural serial killers), and The Twelve by Justin Cronin (intergenerational vampire-type critters). Oh for God’s sake, I thought, mentally slapping my hand to my forehead.

I used to be able to read all manner of monster books when I was younger, never once suffering nightmares or waking up freaked. But no longer. These days, it seems, all those monsters get into my brain from whatever book I’m reading only creep out again when I’m asleep. I long for the days when the only thing that bothered me was the old cemetery that sat over the hill from our house – I imagined vampire-like figures shambling through the night to my bedroom window and crawling in. That didn’t come from any book, that was straight from my own eight-year-old head.

Anyway, that night last year, I remember I flung back the covers, having decided to give up on sleep and let the monsters win, and reminded myself to buy a Maeve Binchy book next time I was at the bookshop. After all there are no zombies or serial killers in the Circle of Friends. No madmen crawling through laundry windows at 4.30 in the morning.

But if there was, it suddenly occurred to me, wouldn’t that make a good fan fiction twist? All that sneaking off they do to the cottage in the woods is ripe for a shambling figure or two…

So it seems, I can’t help myself, it’s practically in my DNA now. At this point in my life, I figure I may as well make peace with the monsters. I believe they’re here to stay.

Hellishly good monster books:

  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (a clever zombie book like you’ve never read before).
  • Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott (a post apocalyptic YA novel set in a world after some kind of detonation, in which those caught outside were fused with whatever was nearby at the time).
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (more creatures than monsters in this one, but the animal familiars attached to their human hosts are there purely because that person has committed murder. Set in urban South Africa this one is dark and clever.)