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Inspiration Can Come in Many Forms: The Nurse by Claire Allan

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The Nurse

By Claire Allan

Digging deep to uncover inspiration for The Nurse.

Inspiration can come in many forms and for me the inspiration for The Nurse came through a post that was shared, and went viral, on Twitter.

The post was from a forum chat and in which the poster talked of the power he felt from his ability to intimidate women just by walking close to her.

‘…the feeling when you follow a girl and she notices you, and she tries to loose (sic) you or picks up the pace. That is kind of a good feeling. You become important to her. You are no longer some random insignificant face in the crowd.

I know it is kind of low-level behaviour. But I do enjoy doing that. I go to another city, look for a girl who is walking by herself and start following her. After a while they notice you. After dark, after sunset it may suffice to just walk in the same general direction as a girl who is walking in front of you. They become paranoid.

I recommend you lonely incels try it some time. Just to make her afraid. If you know your limits and dont actually harass let alone rape that girl, it should be harmless psychological fun.

That intimidation and fear is something I certainly identified with, and I don’t think there are many if any women who haven’t been nervous walking alone. We have fear and paranoia instilled in us from the very first time we are able to leave the house alone, if not before.

We must be on our guard because men can be predators and we can all too easily become victims.

That fear becomes part of our identity as women and that was something I wanted to explore. But more so I wanted to explore the mind of a person who would intentionally use that fear to create a game of sorts for themselves. What kind of man sees those actions as ‘harmless fun’?

An idea formed in my head not only to tell my story from the perspective of a woman who has been followed (in this case Nell, The Nurse referenced in the title), but also from the perspective of the man who finds it empowering not only to intimidated women but then to boast about it online.

It was in researching the latter of these characters that I found myself in some of the darkest recesses of the internet, because I had to read, absorb and try to understand the kind of men who think this way. (It should be said, no woman needs to dig particularly deep to discover misogyny on the internet. Spend a day on Twitter as a woman with an opinion – the misogynists will flock to you).

I’d heard of Incels (men who identify as Involuntarily Celibate) and I’d done some light background reading, but nothing could’ve prepared me for what I actually saw.

Although Reddit has long since closed Incel boards, archives of them still exists and it isn’t hard to find screen shots of some of the more disturbing posts.

For those who aren’t familiar with Incel ideology, let me say that when you first start to read it all seems very bizarre. A lot of the language used screams of ‘frustrated teenager’ – attractive men are Chads, beautiful women are Staceys. These men berate their own unattractiveness, and despise both Chads and Staceys. But at the same time they hold a belief that modern living, and I suppose feminism in particular, has deprived the ordinary man of his birthright. That being to have a wife, who is subservient and is happy to abide by traditional values.

So far this doesn’t sound terribly threatening, but when you dig a bit more this ideology promotes the notion that men are entitled to have sex. When a woman rejects them, she becomes a target. Incels have been responsible for mass shootings and there is a cult of disillusioned and primarily young men who are growing in power.

Could I understand what drives these men? Could I imagine what it is like for men to find their way in the modern world when traditional roles have been turned on their head? In an age when finding work is tough? When the Internet paints pictures of perfect lives and perfect people and anyone who isn’t can feel upset? Could I understand how finding yourself in a community of like-minded individuals who validate your thoughts can feel empowering?

Of course I could – and I think that’s what scared me most about writing The Nurse. My male character (identified only as ‘Him’) isn’t necessarily a bad person. He’s lonely and vulnerable. He wants to feel seen and to feel as if he matters. It was all too easy for me as a writer to understand how quickly his actions could spiral into a very dark and dangerous place.

And the dangerous pages of Incel forums, where women are spoken of simply in terms of their sex organs, where state mandated rape is discussed as a serious option, and where men gather to discuss a future that makes Gilead look like a walk in the park, dehumanise women, and desensitise the men who frequent them.

The Nurse was probably my toughest novel to write, but I think it’s probably my most important. The day I submitted it to my editor was the day Sarah Everard’s body was found – a woman who was abducted while walking home.

Since her death, a further 125 women have been murdered in the UK and Ireland itself has seen the murder of too many women who were targeted simply for living their lives. That should scare us all.

(c) Claire Allan

About The Nurse:

Someone is watching her. She just doesn’t know it yet.

Nell Sweeney has led an ordinary life. Every day she walks to and from the hospital where she works as a nurse, believing that no harm can befall her.

Until one day she is taken.

Because someone out there has a secret. Someone out there has been watching Nell – and they’ve been watching others like her too.

Nell is the unlucky one – she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if she isn’t found soon, someone will make sure that she isn’t the last woman to disappear…

A chilling, gripping read, perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Gillian McAllister.

‘Well! I HORSED through The Nurse, pure HORSED! Tense, pacey, unpudownable.’ – MARIAN KEYES

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Claire Allan is a writer from Northern Ireland. A former journalist, she now works as a full time author of psychological thrillers. Claire is also working on a number of TV projects, including the forthcoming BBC drama ‘Blue Lights’ – for which she is a story consultant.

She lives in Derry with her husband, two children, two cats and the best dog in the world.

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