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SCOTS writer Stephen Greenhorn has revealed the inspiration behind spooky TV thriller Marchlands was his own nightmares as a new father.

He wrote the hit supernatural ITV drama, about three families being haunted by the death of a little girl, while he was on paternity leave following the arrival of baby son Francis.

Waking up bleary-eyed in the wee small hours, however, proved the perfect working environment for Stephen, 47, who also created BBC Scotland soap River City and penned The Proclaimers musical Sunshine On Leith.

He said: "The first episode was written during the last few months of pregnancy, the other four in the first few months after my son was born. You can imagine the environment, a combination of raging hormones and sleep-deprivation.

"The world just doesn't seem the same.

It feels like you are slightly disconnected, just from the lack of sleep. You find yourself walking round the park and the only people who understand it are other, exhausted parents.

"Your day-to-day existence changes, your routine goes out the window and you are suddenly quite challenged about how you look at certain things.

"I thought there was a lot of good material in there about relationships, the changes that kids bring and how you have to renegotiate a romantic relationship into something more practical because you have childcare to think about.

"That sense of slightly altered reality lends itself to the supernatural. When you are up at 3am feeding your baby you do start seeing things out of the corner of your eye.

"Your rational mind will tell you it's not there - but your rational mind is on holiday for the first couple of months.

"I think ITV were a little concerned in case no writing would get done but everything lent itself to work."

Marchlands, which reaches its nailbiting climax this week, has been a hit with critics and audiences, drawing in six million viewers.

The top notch cast including Denis Lawson, Alex Kingston, Jodie Whittaker, Dean Andrews, Shelley Conn and Anne Reid. It tells the story of three different families living in the same house in the 1960s, 1980s and present day who are linked by the spirit of a young girl - the 1960s family's daughter who died in mysterious circumstances.

Stephen, who also has a two-year-old daughter Nora, was happy to exaggerate his own experiences as a new father for some of then characters, he admits imagining the death of a child was a painful experience.

He said: "It's not a huge leap of imagination to think what your own reaction would be and it's the same dealing with grief. It was difficult to write because you have to put yourself in a painful place."

Marchlands has been a huge success and while these stories will end this week, there is already talk of revisiting the format.

In the meantime, Stephen, who comes from West Lothian and whose other credits also include Doctor Who, is writing a new play for The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and keeping an eye on his soap creation, River City, whenever he can.

He said: "I do still watch it. I try to keep tabs on how it's doing and it seems to have a really loyal, hard-core audience which seems really stable.

Marchlands, STV, Thursday, 9pm.


Time zones: The cast of the three eras featured in TV chiller Marchlands Spooky secrets: Writer Stephen Greenhorn and young Millie Archer
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 27, 2011
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