Monday, January 8, 2018

Rayne Hall - The World Behind the Story

Hell's Bells is an anthology that features great original tales of the wicked and macabre. Author and contributor, Rayne Hall, was kind enough to give us a sneak peek into the world of her story The Bellydancers of Seddlebourne Pier.

The title is certainly unique and got me reading right away. How did you come up with the idea?

Ideas are like jigsaw pieces in my head. Thousands of them dance around in my mind all the time. Sometimes, several of them click together and form the beginnings of a picture. That’s when the story creating begins.

This happened here too. The first jigsaw piece was the medieval German legend of the rat catcher of Hameln. (Some of you may know the fairy tale derived from the legend, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn.) This premise of the story always struck me as timeless. A big client hires an expert who performs a great job, and then the client finds excuses not to pay - this happens nowadays too, not just in the Middle Ages. I often wondered how the events would unfold today.

The anthology’s theme provided the second jigsaw piece. I always try to write about something I know, because this gives the story authenticity. When the editor asked me to write a story for Hell's Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Cursed Instruments, I wondered what instrument to write about. Well, I used to be a wizard with finger cymbals, probably one of the best players in the country.  What if the ‘pied piper’ didn’t play pipes, but finger cymbals?

This led to jigsaw piece number three: bellydancing. Corporate clients don’t hire finger cymbal players, but they hire bellydancers who play. Years ago, I performed as a bellydancer at church fetes and weddings, in restaurants and Women’s Institutes. Sometimes the clients made excuses for not paying. (“I don’t have cash because tonight’s customers have all paid by credit card, and I have to wait for the bank to send me a new cheque book…”)  What if a client didn’t pay the bellydancer, and the dancer took her revenge?

Jigsaw piece number four was the location. I like to use specific, unusual, atmospheric settings. I fancied writing a story with a British setting, somewhere close to the sea. Where on the seaside might a bellydancer perform? Many years ago I’d been hired to entertain on a pier. Pleasure piers are a British institution. Initially intended as landing places for passenger boats, in the Victorian and Edwardian periods they grew into leisure centres, and they still play this role today.

At the time I lived in St. Leonards on the East Sussex coast, just a ten minute walk away from Hastings Pier. I took my notebook and pen, and while I sipped cappuccino on the pier, I looked around, listened and absorbed the atmosphere. 

Might a bellydancer be hired to entertain on the deck of a pier, perhaps as part of a pier festival? A troupe of bellydancers was more likely than a solo performer. What kind of dancers were they? I imaged the show. What kind of dance would they perform? How would the audience react? Would the sound of the cymbals carry in the open windy space?

Are any of these events real, or is most of the story made up?

Bits really happened. I’ve led a troupe of amateur bellydancers, and know what it’s like to be sneered at for being mature women instead of nubile girls. I know how to mesmerise and entrance an audience. I’ve performed out of doors (and know, for example, that in a windy location such as a pier the dancers would perform with finger cymbals rather than with veils). And I’ve dealt with clients who made a big profit from our show and then tried to cheat us out of our agreed fee.

But the story itself unfolded only in my imagination. (Unless you count the possibly true event in the city of Hameln over 700 years ago.)

When I first read your story I was asking myself: Does Seddlesbourne Pier actually exist, or is it a fictional place?

I invented the town of Seddlesbourne and the pier, but I imagined Seddlesbourne to be like a typical small British seaside town, and I drew inspiration from Hastings Pier near where I lived at the time. After a destructive fire, Hastings Pier was rebuilt in a minimalist style. Instead of Edwardian pavilions and cast-iron railings, it has a vast expanse of nothing at all, just a windswept deck. Unsurprisingly, not many tourists travel to visit this attraction, and the locals don’t exactly hang out there a lot.

I walked around the pier, notebook in hand. The first thing I noticed was the many signs prohibiting things: No Fishing. No Cycling. No Smoking. No Food And Drink Unless Purchased On The Pier. This didn’t exactly create a welcoming atmosphere.

I took note of the grey planks and the screwheads gleaming silver in the light. I touched the cold railings and listened to the rustling of waves underfoot.

Although the Seddlesbourne Pier of my story doesn’t look exactly like Hastings Pier, local people laughed when they read my story, because they recognized the inspiration.


Rayne Hall writes fantasy, horror and non-fiction, and is the author of over sixty books. Her horror stories are more atmospheric than violent, and more creepy than gory.
Born and raised in Germany, Rayne has lived in China, Mongolia, Nepal, Britain and Bulgaria. For many years, she resided in St Leonards on the coast of East Sussex where she penned many creepy stories, including the tales in this anthology.
Rayne has worked as an investigative journalist, development aid worker, museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, bellydancer, magazine editor, publishing manager and more, and now writes full time.
Visit Rayne’s website where you’ll find free creepy horror stories. Follow her on Twitter for writing tips and photos of her cute book-reading black cat.


  1. Great to read how a story was created. I'm reading Hells Bells now, but didn't get to this story yet. I will get to it soon.

  2. I hope I haven't given away too much in the interview. :-)

  3. Thanks for featuring my story. :-)

    1. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions :)


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