October Blog: In a Glass Darkly

With Halloween on the horizon I’ve recently been reading In a Glass Darkly, a collection of short stories by Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu was a Victorian Irish writer who mostly wrote gothic horror and mystery. One of his best known works, Carmilla, comes from this collection of supernatural stories. Carmilla is an early work about vampires and pre-dates fellow Irish man Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The titular Carmilla preys upon the stories narrator, a young woman called Laura. It has been adapted to many forms over the years but not to the degree of Dracula, which it was said to inspire, as well as laying out some of the groundwork for the vampire genre in general.


In a Glass Darkly is presented in the form of case histories of Dr. Martin Hesselius, a now deceased occult detective. While very much Victorian in its style, with floral and somewhat convoluted writing, In a Glass Darkly  delves deep into the psyche and explores humankind’s mental fragility which was generally unheard of at the time. A lesser known story, The Familiar, is currently my favourite from the collection. This is probably because I have an affinity to the concept of familiars within the realms of the supernatural and it’s something I’ll be using in Lacewing when I adapt it to a novel. For those unfamiliar with a familiar it is an entity that often appears in the form of an animal and usually aides magic. A classic example is the witch’s black cat.  In the case of Le Fanu’s tale, the familiar takes the form of a pet owl. What’s not to like?


Illustration by Michael Fitzgerald of Carmilla and Laura – from the original publication of the novella.


If you’d like to read any of the stories from In a Glass Darkly they can be found via the links below. It’s long out of copyright so don’t feel guilty for not buying a copy, however if you like a hardcopy, like I do, then you can get it fairly cheaply.  I picked a nice little edition for €4.99

Green Tea 

The Familiar

The Room In The Dragon Volant

Mr. Justice Harbottle


le fanu

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


I’m running a scriptwriting workshop next month for a writing group at Oldcastle Library, Co. Westmeath so I’ve been busy preparing for that. It will be a broad overview of the scriptwriting process, with a focus on screenwriting rather than stage. My own writing focus has been mostly on fiction for the last two years, as I felt I was juggling too much in the past, so it’s been great to revisit scriptwriting and the ins and outs of the process. It also serves to remind me that I’ve countless scripts I’d love to work on and two decent completed ones, Lacewing and Grand, that are waiting to be turned into novels. A writer’s work is truly never done.


All Hallows’ Eve heralds November and that means NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month). Best of luck to anyone participating in this herculean task over the coming month. I won’t be doing it this year but it really is a great initiative and a call to action of sorts. 50K words is an amazing achievement within a month and a fantastic start to a first draft. Trust me, it might seem tough going but it’s doable. Remember, it doesn’t really matter what you write- just get those words on the page for the month that’s in it. You’ll have plenty of time to edit and redraft later. And then edit again. And then redraft again…

It’s oft been said and in many ways, but it’s always true: you can edit anything except a blank page.

Happy Halloween and if you read any of In a Glass Darkly or anything else seasonally spooky me know. Reading recommendations welcome in the comments.




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