Writing life: Learning from living arrangements

Research output: Other contribution


In this piece, I explore how an illegal party gave me the inspiration to write a haunted house novel and make friends with my neighbours. The narrator of my debut novel, DISTURBANCE, lives in a flat haunted (psychologically and paranormally) by her abusive ex-boyfriend, and befriends her teenaged next-door neighbour to dabble in the occult.

During the winter lockdown in January 2021, I lived in the centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne, in an otherwise quiet block of flats. I hadn’t had much contact with my neighbours, but got to know them through the sounds of their front doors opening and closing, their televisions murmuring through my walls, and the shoes they left on their front door mats. To pass the time during the lockdown, I tentatively began writing a novel about a lonely woman who listened to her neighbours moving around the building, wanting but failing to make friends.

The flat above mine was a party rental, and a group of teenagers hired the flat for an illegal rave, and threw a raucous party. I ignored them, carrying on with my evening, and putting in earplugs to go to sleep. I woke in the middle of the night to find that there were people on my balcony, the shadowy figures moving next to my bed. In the morning, I met my neighbours for the first time, as they explained that they had called the police, and when officers had arrived, the party goers had climbed down the drainpipe and onto my balcony to escape.

For days I was alarmed by any creak, bang, or sound of movement in the building. I felt like I was living in a haunted house, only worse – it was much more claustrophobic in a three-roomed flat; there was nowhere to escape. It is very easy to become annoyed with one’s neighbours – the messes, the noises – but, suddenly, a community opened up to me: I exchanged phone numbers with my neighbours; we texted about complaining about the upstairs flat; we waved to each other on our balconies, and stopped to talk.

In this piece, then, I explore how this experience of writing a novel about loneliness made me want to reconnect with the people around me – a trajectory the narrator of DISTURBANCE follows herself.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
PublisherWriting Magazine
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2023


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