'I SUPPOSE I was a bit of an odd child really. Ever since I was small, I’d always loved ghost stories and scaring myself. I used to like to stay up late watching black and white Vincent Price films because I loved the sound of his voice. As a teenager, I was a shy, budding Goth, who liked to spend her evenings writing short stories and reading James Herbert books. It’s as though I was always destined to be a horror writer.

"My debut horror novel, Emergence, was launched last year and climbed up to number one in the Amazon charts for British Horror. My author ranking climbed to number 11 in Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Author chart in the US too, where I sat next to Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) for a day. Then, as Emergence was enjoying great success and while I was writing the first draft of A Storytelling of Ravens, I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

"I got my first symptoms in November 2015 when, out of the blue, the left side of my scalp went completely numb, a numbness that spread down to my ear and neck. It took more than ten weeks for the feeling to come back. I hoped that would be the end of it, but just two weeks later, I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my entire torso. My hands and feet were wracked with excruciating pins and needles. I also developed the MS hug, whereby the muscles behind my ribs contracted, so it felt as though I was wearing a tightly-laced corset.

"This relapse put me out of action for months, because I couldn’t walk far or drive or do simple things like cooking. Even getting dressed was a difficult task. Thankfully, after three months, I did regain the feeling in my torso, hands and feet, but the relapse has left me with permanent nerve damage, mostly in my hands and legs.

"Undoubtedly it’s been a tough year, but MS hasn’t halted my writing ambitions in the slightest. In fact, if anything, it’s spurred me on even more.

People often ask me where I get my inspiration from for all the stories I have lined up. I guess there’s no one answer, but I am massively inspired by everyday objects and scenarios. A Storytelling of Ravens all began with a clutch bag and a night out with friends in the winter of 2015, incidentally when I had my first MS symptoms. The clutch bag with ravens on it gave me the idea for the title and I was very much drawn to a painting on the wall above the table in the Italian restaurant we were in – not only because coincidentally (or not) it also featured ravens, but because it was rather odd. And I love odd.

Following that particular night in Martino’s – having drunk lots of Rioja and pondered quite deeply why someone had painted a little girl in a boat surrounded by ravens, which coincided too freakily with my bag – I knew I had to write a story that had ravens in it, but aside from the title and picture prompt I wasn’t sure what would happen or who would be in it – apart from the red-headed girl in the painting.

Three months on, while I was still finalising the manuscript for Emergence, the story of A Storytelling of Ravens came to me in its entirety one night in a trippy, sleepless fug of prednisone-wired mayhem after a round of IV steroids that were meant to help ease my MS hug and other symptoms. After which point the novel sort of wrote itself. (Well, actually it didn’t: I very specifically remember typing it with painful hands).

"But the story did knit itself together and the characters revealed themselves with explosive clarity: four key players seemingly trapped in an unpleasant environment, each claiming they had no idea why. From that point on A Storytelling of Ravens was set to be a dark tale of obsession, largely playing on negativities such as hurt and paranoia, while exploring the uncomfortable confines of claustrophobia to its fullest extent.

"At that point I hadn’t yet been diagnosed and felt extremely isolated and scared. I worried that I might be trapped inside a body that might never feel again, and it was the most claustrophobic experience I’ve ever had. It took two MRIs and seven months before I was diagnosed, the longest seven months of my life. Overall I’d say writing A Storytelling of Ravens turned out to be a huge positive taken from something negative, and it kept me sane during long dark months.

"Emergence, on the other hand, was inspired by tales told to me by two retired nurses from my local writing group who used to work at Little Thorpe Maternity Hospital, near Easington. The hospital, which was built in the 1800s, wasn’t initially a maternity hospital, but was used for patients with infectious diseases and was known locally as Fever Hospital. It wasn’t until 1949 that it became a maternity hospital (incidentally, the place where I was born).

"The two retired nurses used to tell me stories about how eerie the place was, especially during nightshift, and how some of the nurses used to do the Ouija board during their break time. This got me thinking, what kind of spirit would be drawn to a maternity hospital? Emergence was born. It’s the story of a young widower who revisits his childhood home, on the North-East coast, with his six-year-old daughter and ends up having to dig up many painful memories in order to save his little girl from a terrible evil.

"Currently I’m working on my third horror novel, The House Next Door. It’s the story of a strong female protagonist who is being haunted by the malevolent spirit of her old neighbour, while at the same time she’s trying to come to terms with a recent MS diagnosis. So far it’s been a cathartic project for me, since up until now I’ve kept my diagnosis private. But I’ve finally reached some level of acceptance and am keen to raise awareness of this indiscriminate autoimmune disease and show that it won’t hold me back."

n Rachael H Dixon’s books are available on Amazon in paperback (£7.99), hardback (£12.99) and e-book (£2.99). W: rhdixon.com

n More information about multiple sclerosis and the support available to sufferers is available from the MS Society. W: mssociety.org.uk