January 20, 2011

The Making of 'Beneath Dark Waters'

'Beneath Dark Waters', my very own collection of horror stories, is soon to be published in a revamped state and I thought I'd take the occasion to tell something about its inception.

Title - Although the title 'Beneath Dark Waters' could rever to many things that have to do with horror, like slimy creatures from some Lovecraft-ian universe lurking under the surface, that's just all very opportune. What it actually revers to is a Dutch proverb which translates as something like 'Calm Waters Run Deep'. It means to say that things which seem calm on the surface might actually have hidden meanings and depths.

I took the title Beneath Calm Waters for a short story collection I once wrote on the Dutch country side. This collection was, unfortunately, a still-born. It was general fiction and the stories were actually very terse, trying for the reader and in places just plain boring. It got rejected by many publishers and was a source of frustration for me for a long time.

When I started writing the horror collection, many of the old characters floated back to the surface, of you will, and are now featured in the ten stories of this collection. Since it was a horror collection, I only found it fitting to change the Calm to Dark. Especially since it incorporates so nicely said Lovecraft-ian monsters.

Setting - All of the ten stories are set in the countryside of North-Western Holland. This is one of the areas of Holland which were reclaimed from the sea in the 16th and 17th century. Before that it was just a conglomeration of islands connected by dikes and marshes and swamps which were practically constantly flooded. It's reclamation from the sea heralded a great time of prosperity for the local people which had now very new and fertile land to farm. It is also the countryside I grew up in. All my young life I lamented the lack of proper ghost and horror culture in my area. Now I've made my own.

It's a vast and ghostly countryside, both beautiful in summer and horribly trying in winter. Because if it's infamous flatness the wind pretty much whips everything that sticks out above the ground, sometimes accompanied with driving rains, hail, sleet and snow. It's certainly an acquired taste. Many of the city folk that come to settle down, leave again within 5 years.

Characters - Beneath Dark Waters is a very character-driven collection, which is to say that it offers the reader an insight in the psyche of the local people. I've tried my best to recreate some of the most telling characters of this area of Holland. Since nature is very cruel, water is an ever-present threat, the people are very stern and serious, preoccupied with work and family and the day-to-day activities. This brings with it a very down-to-earth and pragmatic view of life and the world in general.

Some characters I tried to downplay, like the farmer Moses in 'On a night filled with evil' and the priest in 'Rumours', while others are larger-than-life and overdone, like the farmer in 'Lost to the Raging Storm' and Sebastian in 'What Hides in the High Grass'. Others are just right on the money, like Max in 'New Life'.

Style - I tried to downplay the sensational in Beneath Dark Waters. Although I loved to bring up a horde of flying vampires in 'Rumours', I tried not to go overboard with it. I felt I needed to do justice to the place and the people that inspired me to write the collection and not slaughter them left, right and center. Many of the stories could be termed as sombre and dark, but certainly not without a sense of humour. Since I will always have a love-hate relationship with the countryside I grew up in, I guess 'sarcastic' is the best description. 

I just hope the overall effect will be that of a disturbing black-and-white photograph.

I hope this gives a small idea of what I tried to achieve with the collection (and wetted your appetite for it).

Keep an eye out for more updates as it comes out!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey this sounds like something I would most definitely buy. I have yet to dig in your archives to find out the status. Is it printed yet? Keep me posted. Great post.

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