Diary of a novella – Chapter 1

Posted on September 21, 2012


Over the last couple of months I have found myself on a more-than interesting little journey. So far I have learned all sorts of things that I had not thought of or not given sufficient thought to. And so here go – the first of a string of posts that shall be documenting what it is like as an author being published on the small press scene.

So how was the story born?

One of the things I toy with for inspiration is browsing websites such as Ralan to see what potentially interesting anthology markets might be calling for submissions. I came across one that was seeking horror stories set in the Confederate States in northern America. This idea intrigued me and I scribbled various thoughts but they did not get beyond my writing journal at the time.

I subsequently took on some post-graduate studies in writing at the University of Canberra. One subject was a project to undertake an independent writing project. I decided this was a good opportunity to explore my fledgling ideas for a horror story set on a plantation within the Confederacy.

Developing the piece saw me exploring aspects of life within that place and that time, leading me to a rice plantation rather than the stereotypical cotton plantation. I had a supervisor at university who kept on eye on my project and she put me onto a quite valuable source, transcriptions of interviews conducted in the 1930s with surviving former slaves. This provided a wealth of information for developing a style of voice.

I was also intrigued to learn of what was at least a phase of slave owners bestowing names on slaves, that were sourced from things like classic literature. This in turn lead to character names like Cassie (Cassandra), Ulee (Ulysses) and Pompey.

Years before I had read in a historical novel about a startling punishment on a slave plantation which involved the use of a cat – the feline not the cat o’ nine tails. I subsequently came across other references to that and similar punishments. It seemed dark enough to warrant an adapted use of the same in my story. A reader of an early draft of the story, described that scene as completely absurd and unusable.

There is a scene with an attempted rape. The same reader above, was infuriated, declaring that I was merely attempting to titillate and therefore the story was ‘unpublishable’. I did not go into rape in any light manner. But this was intended as a horror story for adults. And there is a perverse side of me that enjoys proving others wrong.

The setting in a southern state also provided another aspect I thought full of prospects for engaging the senses – venturing into the swamps. In the end the swamps did not feature as much as I had first intended but it was still an interesting piece of landscape to explore, seeing as I have never seen one other than on the television.

This proved a fascinating experience for me to be writing about this particular environment. And as a ‘true’ speccie fiction head, the supernatural simply had to enter the piece.

At the end of the day, I finished the novella, received a High Distinction for the content (but marked down a little on some other aspects – grrrrr) and the adventure was pretty much over for the time being.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2.

In the meantime, here are a couple of links – an Amazon link for worldwide distribution (but more details on other options shall be detailed before long) and for my Australian friends, a link to obtain an autographed version (should you be interested in my scrawl across the otherwise virginal white paper).

Click me for an autographed version


Posted in: Publishing, Writing