Spook House Lit
GRIM HARVEST has descended upon the land like a gloriously putrid prose plague. It represents some milestones that are worth mentioning.
It’s a follow up of course, to last year’s Red Harvest. The word “sequel” doesn’t seem right, since, though it’s set in the same place with the same people – it’s very much a stand – alone story. Nonetheless, it’s my first continuation from a previous work.
From the first draft of Red Harvest (then called The Death Of October), I knew Ember/Haunted Hollow would be a place I’d re-visit in my writing, and thanks to my deal with the maniacs at Lyrical Press, I have had the opportunity to settle there for a while — and make things really intense for the Lott and Barcroft families, Reverend McGlazer and his psychic assistant Stella, and of course, resident band The Chalk Outlines — not to mention you, The Reader.
Some of my favorite horror stories in page and film are The Halloween Tree, The Hellbound Heart, Pet Sematary, Trick R Treat, The Void, House Of Frankenstein, etc. If you’re sharp, you’ll not only have been used in a horrific murder or two, you’ll also have noticed that these spookers have a common trait and that is their “smorgasbord” format of multiple horrors, supernatural and otherwise, which affect one another and cause our put-upon protags no shortage of hard times.
The goal was to create a literary – and I use that word with tongue well in cheek – haunted attraction, complete with fresh scares around every corner. This being the written word, the scares are meant to be not so much sudden as creeping. Unsettling. Upsetting in the long term.
Yet I hope The Haunted Hollow Chronicles can evoke more than just the in-your-face fright of a spook house. I wanted teen pals Stuart and DeShaun to express the kind of friendship kids have at that age, when they sense things are changing for them soon, and they’re trying to resist the forces that pull them apart — knowing they will succumb in the end.
I hope you’ll feel what I felt in regards to the Lott family, and its strength in the face of incomprehensible perils. I ask you to struggle along with Reverend McGlazer as he walks the razor-wire tightrope of religious obligation and personal truth. Ember Hollow’s band The Chalk Outlines could use your support too, as they try to figure out just what the hell they’re supposed to do with their drive, talent and love, when the bodies start to hit the floor all over town.
Given all that’s going on in Grim Harvest, not to mention the trilogy as a whole, it’s difficult to distill it into a cohesive synopsis. One or two sentences will never suffice to cover all the interweaving story threads. Thus, like a spook house, much of it will emerge as surprises.
I’m pleased to see that The Haunted Hollow Chronicles’ offbeat (slightly) alternate universe setting was not a deal breaker for readers. Cell phones and internet access are unavoidable in contemporary horror. Every fright flick is obliged to address, the issue of reception or battery charge, much the same way as martial arts films produced and set in the modern U.S. must address the ubiquity of firearms.
All the best ideas for getting instant contact with the outside world have been used and re-used. 30 Days Of Night went so far as to have a lackey for the vamps round up all the town’s cellphones and burn them. I think one of the reasons people love eighties horror so much is that there was still a sense of isolation in being alone in a house, or just a few miles from the safety of civilization. Poor Laurie Strode and her young babysitting charges were daunted by the very prospect of just running across the street. And where would Sally Hardesty be if that trucker hadn’t happened by at such a fortuitous time?
These days, all involved would just take out their phones and quick-text the police while simultaneously posting the whole affair on their Instagram.
It’s not that I’m unwilling to address the electronic elephant in the room. It’s just that, for this series I didn’t want to.
As for the matter of returning to previous ground: it’s hard to say why I’ve never done so before. As a naive screenwriter, my priority was to produce original content. For a moment my omnibus script THE DAMNATION PARADE was in discussion to be reworked as CREEPSHOW 3. Given the universal disgust directed at the eventual completed CS3, I like to tell myself my script was too smart, or subtle, or something positive like that, for the producers.
The vampire universe of The Crimson Calling was, and is, intended as a series. Liv Irons and her pale pals will be back for more supernatural-powered asskickery in due time. Progeny still gets plenty of love and requests for continuation. My upcoming novel Under Wicked Sky, also slated as a film project, had some characters who stubbornly insisted on surviving the first go-round. If you guys like that one, maybe they’ll get their chance.
Meantime, sink your talons into the first two entries of The Haunted Hollow Chronicles and let me know what you think.