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The Word Horde Interview: Carrie Laben talks A Hawk in the Woods with Amber-Rose Reed

Recently, author Carrie Laben sat down with Amber-Rose Reed to talk about Carrie’s debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods. This is their conversation.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

Amber-Rose Reed: A Hawk in the Woods is your debut novel, but you’ve published a good deal of short fiction. Did you know when you began the book that it would be a novel, or did it grow out of a shorter piece?

Carrie Laben: I knew Hawk would be a book-length project right from the start, because I knew that Abby and Martha would never be coherent characters unless the reader got a full picture of their family background as well as their present-day dilemma. Also, their powers (Martha’s in particular) need a fair amount of explanation. Otherwise, they’re just two very odd women doing very odd, sometimes unpleasant things.

Amber-Rose Reed: What was your initial inspiration for this book? Was there an idea, an image, or character that struck you and drew you into the story?

Carrie Laben: The initial initial inspiration is rather spoilery — I can, however, say that I drew from several real-life news stories that made a deep impression on me when I was younger, and I wanted to investigate the emotional desperation that might make someone commit the crime that sent Martha to prison. Once I started writing, Abby made sure I never gave up. I wanted to really understand what made someone like her — not exactly a villain, but certainly no hero, and someone whose most positive and most negative traits are closely linked — tick. And I wanted to be able to explain it to other people.

Amber-Rose Reed: There are a lot of disparate threads that weave together in the novel — illness; family history, drama, and trauma; as well as prison breaks and road trips, and of course the supernatural. How did you draw those story elements together into a whole? Were there certain aspects clearer from the beginning?

Carrie Laben: There were many times during the writing of this novel that I compared it to putting an octopus into a laundry basket — no sooner would I get one tentacle in than two more would pop out!  But the family history is the body of that octopus, with everything else growing out of it, so I kept coming back to that and making sure that even the most dramatic scenes flowed naturally out of what I already knew about these characters.

Amber-Rose Reed: Abby’s voice is distinctly modern, and some of her experience is very every-day relatable (who amongst us hasn’t been mansplained to on Twitter?). However, not all of what she goes through in this novel can be live-tweeted. How did you go about balancing the tone and feel of her every-day modern life, the family history they return to, and the horror aspects of the novel?

Carrie Laben: To me, taking the Lovecraftian and folk-horror elements and putting them in the most modern possible context was part of the fun. After all, if one were to accept that folk horror, or shoggoths, or what have you are part of your characters’ universe, they have to coexist with the rest of the universe in some way. Even Twitter. Once I accepted that, the balance came naturally.

Amber-Rose Reed: You’ve mentioned the folk song “The Cruel Mother” as an influence in the creation of A Hawk in the Woods. There are scenes throughout the book that strongly resonate with that haunting, folk feel and of course, the song itself features. Can you speak to the folk horror aspects of A Hawk in the Woods, and how that framing differs from the cosmic horror elements?

Carrie Laben: Growing up in a rural area with a multi-generational farming family, there are things about folk horror that really do resonate in that setting — especially the sense that there are traditions, patterns, and boundaries for a reason, and when you violate them bad things happen. But at the same time, some of those traditions, patterns, and boundaries are themselves bad things, so it can be a lose-lose proposition. Cosmic horror, of course, holds a slightly different viewpoint — it really doesn’t matter if you follow the rules or not. Your personal virtue means nothing. Abby, as befits her role in her family, is what I think of as post-Lovecraftian as well as post-folk-horror — she really doesn’t care if the universe gives a damn about her behavior or not, and she certainly doesn’t care if breaking with tradition brings down bad things on her head, because she’s confident she can master them. She’s taking both those horror traditions as part of her heritage and turning them into something new, which incidentally is also what I see horror literature as a field doing right now.

Amber-Rose Reed: And speaking of music, do you listen to music as you write? What (else) would be on your A Hawk in the Woods playlist?

Carrie Laben: I did have a playlist as a matter of fact! I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but in addition to three different versions of “The Cruel Mother” it includes “More” by The Sisters of Mercy and “Birds of Hell Awaiting” by Marilyn Manson in a nod to Abby and Martha’s high school Goth phase, “Fly” by Nicki Minaj and Rhianna which is definitely on Abby’s workout mix,  “Barracuda” by John Cale and “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses, and quite a bit of Nick Cave. I generally find Nick Cave/Warren Ellis film scores very productive for writing.

Amber-Rose Reed: In addition to fiction, you also write a great deal of non-fiction on nature and birding. Many of your descriptions seem to draw from that experience. How do your research and non-writing hobbies inform and/or influence your writing? And what brought you to bird-watching?

Carrie Laben: Birding is all about close observation of fleeting details, and I think that’s the number one way that it contributes to my writing. It also inspires me to pay quite a lot of attention to landscape. Something subtly wrong with a landscape, whether it’s a dead tree that keeps growing or a season that changes a bit too fast, can be a quiet but powerful way to signal a much larger problem heading for the characters.

Amber-Rose Reed: Thanks so much!

Carrie Laben: Thanks to you as well.

CARRIE LABEN grew up in western New York. She earned her BS at Cornell and later her MFA at the University of Montana. She now lives in Queens, where she spends a lot of time staring at birds.

Her work has appeared in such venues as Birding, Clarkesworld, The Dark, Indiana Review, Okey-Panky, and Outlook Springs. In 2017 she won the Shirley Jackson Award in Short Fiction for her story “Postcards from Natalie” and Duke University’s Documentary Essay Prize for the essay “The Wrong Place”. In 2015 she was selected for the Anne LaBastille Memorial Writer’s Residency, in 2018 she was a MacDowell Fellow, and in 2019 she was a resident at Brush Creek.

A Hawk in the Woods is her first novel. She is currently at work on a book of essays about urban environmentalism.

 

AMBER-ROSE REED is an avid reader and writer native to the Bay Area. She is an assistant manager at Copperfield’s Books, which nurtures her love for book culture, and studied Comparative Literature and History at San Francisco State University. Her short fiction has appeared in Eternal Frankenstein and Tales from a Talking Board.

 

 

Cover Reveal: Memento Mori: The Fathomless Shadows, by Brian Hauser

Here’s your first peek at Matthew Revert’s cover art for Brian Hauser’s debut novel Memento Mori: The Fathomless Shadows. Coming May 28, 2019. Preorder your copy today!

Memento Mori: The Fathomless Shadows by Brian Hauser

Underground filmmaker Tina Mori became a legend in the late 1970s with a stolen camera, a series of visionary Super 8 shorts (The Eye, The Stairs, The Imperial Dynasty of America) and a single feature film, heralded as her masterpiece, Dragon’s Teeth. Then she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Was it foul play, or did Tina Mori go somewhere else? And if so, where? Could it have been the otherworldly Carcosa so often referenced in her films?

Through many layers, including letters, a ‘zine made by a teenage horror film fan, and a memoir written by Mori’s college roommate and muse, film historian and debut novelist Brian Hauser delves deep into Tina Mori’s life and legacy, exploring the strange depths and fathomless shadows situated between truth, fiction, fantasy, and the uncanny.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly has to say about Memento Mori: The Fathomless Shadows: “Hauser delivers an engrossing, baffling horror debut that veers hard into the weird, its disturbing aspects enhanced by its faux-nonfictional structure. Hauser’s in-depth study of underground horror film visionary Tina Mori—[…] is so realistic that readers may start looking for the fictional Mori’s Wikipedia entry. […] Fans of the uncanny (and especially of Robert W. Chambers’s The King in Yellow, to which this work alludes) will find much to love and laud.”

Preorder your copy today!

Landing Today: A Hawk in the Woods, by Carrie Laben

Carrie Laben’s debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods, is now available. Here’s just some of the praise it has received so far:

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

“At once sly and grim, soberingly real and darkly fantastical, the story of the Waite sisters will haunt readers like an eerie old folk song.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In this uncanny world, the darkest moments don’t come from the supernatural horror but from the realization that the Waites’ underlying dysfunction is a near and dear part of our own.” —Foreword Reviews (starred review)

A Hawk in the Woods is wonderfully dark and spellbinding, mixing the road novel, family drama, time travel, cosmic horror, and maybe even a little Heathers. Carrie Laben is an original, compelling new voice. Consider me a fan for life.” —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts

“Ride or die sisterhood, conjured from the bones of H. P. Lovecraft.” —Molly Tanzer, author of Vermilion and Creatures of Will & Temper

A Hawk in the Woods is a stunning, chilling masterpiece by one of the best new voices in literary horror. Searingly intelligent, gorgeously wrought, this gripping tale of two gifted, haunted sisters begins as a classic get-away story and soon unfolds into a terrifying excavation of the American dream of unbridled power. Carrie Laben writes with a ferocious grace; a master of the gothic pastoral, of the slow burn, of surprise. Carrie Laben is a monster–they don’t even make writers like this anymore. You will be reading her name for decades to come.” —Cara Hoffman, author of Running and So Much Pretty

A Hawk in the Woods is an excellent book that I couldn’t put down. The interesting characters and twisty plot created a mystery that will keep you constantly guessing at what will happen next. Laben’s strong prose and expert handling of dual storylines is mesmerizing. This book will sink its hook into your flesh and won’t let go until you finish the last word.” —Matt Brandenburg, High Fever Books

A Hawk in the Woods can stand on its own as an excellent debut. I can’t wait to read more from Carrie Laben in the future. If you enjoy family rooted witchcraft, you are going to want to pick this one up.” —Book Den

Cover Reveal: A Hawk in the Woods, by Carrie Laben

PREORDER NOW! Coming March 26, 2019. From Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Carrie Laben comes debut Novel A Hawk in the Woods, a harrowing tale of twin witches on the lam.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

When newscaster Abby Waite is diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness, she decides to do the logical thing… break her twin sister Martha out of prison and hit the road. Their destination is the Waite family cabin in Minnesota where Abby plans a family reunion of sorts. But when you come from a family where your grandfather frequently took control of your body during your youth, where your mother tried to inhabit your mind and suck your youthful energies out of you, and where so many dark secrets–and bodies, even–are buried, such a family meeting promises to be nothing short of complicated…

A Hawk in the Woods is wonderfully dark and spellbinding, mixing the road novel, family drama, time travel, cosmic horror, and maybe even a little Heathers. Carrie Laben is an original, compelling new voice. Consider me a fan for life.” –Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts

“Carrie Laben is a monster–they don’t even make writers like this anymore. You will be reading her name for decades to come.” –Cara Hoffman, Author of Running and So Much Pretty

Cover by Matthew Revert

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

PREORDER TODAY

Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-1-939905-46-8

Format: eBook
ISBN-13: 978-1-939905-47-5

David Peak’s CORPSEPAINT one of the best books of 2018

David Peak’s apocalyptic black metal novel Corpsepaint has been picked as one of the best books of 2018. Here’s Gemma Files (Experimental Flim) for LitReactor:

“Reading this book is like listening to Funeral Doom Metal while staring up at the Sub-Arctic sky during an eclipse of the moon and freezing to death, eyes riveted to the very last second on an endless cosmic void so bleak the stars barely seem to flicker. Everything’s simultaneously numinous and nihilistic, a ghost at best, a god at worst. It’s dazzlingly depressing. I loved it.”
Gemma Files, LitReactor Staff Picks: The Best Books of 2018

Corpsepaint by David Peak

Likewise, Tony Jones of HorrorTalk picks David Peak’s Corpsepaint as one of his Top 10 Horror Novels of 2018:

“The astonishingly bleak Corpsepaint ranks amongst the finest releases of 2018 and is a totally riveting and lyrical read which had me hypnotised from beginning to end. I love intelligent, highly original horror novels, which are enveloped within layers of menace and nihilism, and this had it all.”
Tony’s Top 10 Horror Novels of 2018, HorrorTalk

Experience Corpsepaint for yourself, or give it as a gift to the metalhead in your life. You can find Corpsepaint wherever better books are sold, or order direct from Word Horde.

Our Sale Continues, Scratch & Dent Items, Original Short Fiction

Call it what you will–Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the End of the Year Sale–you’ve only got a few days left to save 25% off any new Word Horde books (with the exception of Scratch & Dent items) you order between now and December 1, 2018. Just use coupon code happybirthday at checkout, and save!

Check our our full catalog of Weird and fantastic fiction!

Eternal Frankenstein edited by Ross E Lockhart

But speaking of Scratch & Dent items, we sometimes get returns. And while the returns are in great shape, we can’t, in good conscience, sell them as new items. So we pass the savings along to you. It’s a great way to stock up, either for yourself or for those on your Xmas list.

Shop our Scratch & Dent sale!

Since Awards Season is upon us, and we’ve had a few queries, here are our suggestions, should you be looking for works to nominate:

Corpsepaint, David Peak (Novel, First Novel)
The Human Alchemy, Michael Griffin (Collection)
Fright Into Flight, ed Amber Fallon (Reprint Anthology)
Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, Orrin Grey (Collection)

The original short story in Fright Into Flight is Izzy Lee’s “I Did It for the Art” (~5100 words).

The original novelette in The Human Alchemy is “The Only Way Out is Down” (~9000 words).

Original short stories in Orrin Grey’s Guignol are “Shadders” (~3750 words), “The Blue Light” (~4300 words), Dark and Deep (~3650 words), and “When A Beast Looks Up at the Stars” (~4700 words).

The Black Friday Sale has arrived.

Black Friday is here. The holiday rush begins. And this Tuesday, a milestone birthday for Ross. Seems a great excuse to offer you a Word Horde coupon. We can’t give you fifty percent off, but we can meet you halfway and offer you 25% off any new Word Horde books* you order between now and December 1, 2018. Just use coupon code happybirthday at checkout, and save!

https://www.wordhorde.com

And this year we’re continuing Feed Cthulhu!, our tradition of giving away ebooks when you make a donation to your local food bank. All you have to do is make a donation, then share the following on your social media:

I fed Cthulhu [your donation] to [organization] #FeedCthulhu @lossrockhart

Don’t forget to include the hashtag (#FeedCthulhu) and Ross’s Twitter handle (@lossrockhart) or tag him on Facebook so that he can see–and share–your post. Or send a link of your post via email to publicity[at]wordhorde.com and we’ll share it for you. #FeedCthulhu, feed people, and help make a difference in your community.

* Not including Scratch & Dent titles

Now Available: Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, by Orrin Grey

Just in time for Halloween, here’s Orrin Grey’s latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, perfect for getting yourself into a spooky mood. Publishers Weekly calls Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales “a veritable smorgasbord of horrific thrills and chills,” and says the collection is “a must-read for hardcore fans of horror.” Signal Horizon says, “Guignol is fourteen stories of ‘fun horror.’ Think Tales From the Crypt, Twilight Zone, Hammer Horror, sci-fi monster flicks from the 50s. Orrin Grey takes the joy of macabre discovery, the energy and excitement of late nights and silver screens, and uses it as the seed to his fiction. In his stories, there is horror, but there is also the wide-eyed wonder of our inner child.”

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales by Orrin Grey

“Enter this freakishly inventive cabinet of curiosities if you will, every story providing a redly drippy skull-window straight into the id-vortex of a modern horror master–gape in awe, laugh out loud, feel your mental mouth start to water.” –Gemma Files, from the introduction

Orrin Grey has a knack for cruel stories.

Contes Cruel, to be exact.

Sardonic Tales like the fourteen collected here, ready to wrench the reader’s emotions, tantalize, and terrify. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Roger Corman, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, the Theatre de Grand Guignol, Universal’s monster movies, Hammer horror, kaiju flicks, and more, all while creating something unique, intoxicating, and, yes, cruel.

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales has something for everyone… even the most jaded readers.

Ask for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales where better books are sold, or order direct from Word Horde.

Take Wing with our new anthology, Flight Into Fright, available today!

Word Horde presents Fright Into Flight, the debut anthology from Amber Fallon, in which women take wing. Ask for Fright Into Flight at your favorite independent bookseller, or order online. Signed copies are available direct from Word Horde.

Fright Into Flight edited by Amber Fallon

From the earliest depictions of winged goddesses to the delicate, paperwinged fairies of the Victorians, from valiant Valkyries to cliff-dwelling harpies, from record-setting pilots to fearless astronauts, women have long since claimed their place in the skies, among the clouds and beyond.

Word Horde presents Fright Into Flight, the debut anthology from Amber Fallon (The Terminal, The Warblers), in which women take wing. In these stories connected by the unifying thread of flight, authors including Damien Angelica Walters, Christine Morgan, and Nadia Bulkin have spread their wings and created terrifying visions of real life angels, mystical journeys, and the demons that lurk inside us all. Whether you like your horror quiet and chilling or more in-your-face and terrifying, there’s something here for every horror fan to enjoy.

You’re in for a bumpy ride… So fasten your seatbelt, take note of the emergency exits, hold on to your airsick bag, and remember that this book may be used as a flotation device in the event of a crash landing.

Order from: Amazon, B & N, Kobo, Weightless, Word Horde

Orrin Grey’s Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales cover reveal, An Anniversary Coupon, Scratch & Dent Sale, and Amber Fallon’s Fright Into Flight shipping soon!

Lots of news to unpack this morning, but let’s start with the biggest monster in the room: Orrin Grey’s Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. Dropping October 2, in plenty of time for Halloween, Orrin Grey’s new collection has been called “a veritable smorgasbord of horrific thrills and chills” and “a must-read for hardcore fans of horror” (Publishers Weekly). Let’s take a look…

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales by Orrin Grey

“Enter this freakishly inventive cabinet of curiosities if you will, every story providing a redly drippy skull-window straight into the id-vortex of a modern horror master–gape in awe, laugh out loud, feel your mental mouth start to water.” –Gemma Files, from the introduction

Orrin Grey has a knack for cruel stories.

Contes Cruel, to be exact.

Sardonic Tales like the fourteen collected here, ready to wrench the reader’s emotions, tantalize, and terrify. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Roger Corman, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, the Theatre de Grand Guignol, Universal’s monster movies, Hammer horror, kaiju flicks, and more, all while creating something unique, intoxicating, and, yes, cruel.

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales has something for everyone… even the most jaded readers.

Order your copy of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales today!

Cover art by everyone’s favorite art creep, Nick “The Hat” Gucker.

We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of our first book, Tales of Jack the Ripper, so here’s a special offer: the Jack Pack. Add Tales of Jack the Ripper & Alan M. Clark’s A Brutal Chill in August to your cart, get them both for $25 with coupon code jackpack. Ends 8/31/18!

We received a few returns last week, and Elinor says it’s better to sell them than to count them, so we’ve added a few things to our Scratch & Dent Sale page. Take a look and save a few bucks!

Finally, Amber Fallon’s anthology Fright Into Flight will be shipping very soon, but there’s still time to place your preorder. Publishers Weekly says, “Fallon has collected some true gems that will be perfect for fans of horror stories centered on female power and dangerous women.” And, with this lineup, you know you’re in for something awesome: Damien Angelica Walters, Izzy Lee, Letitia Trent, Christine Morgan, Desirina Boskovich, Nancy Baker, Kathryn Ptacek, Nancy Kilpatrick, Shannon Lawrence, Gemma Files, Leza Cantoral, Martel Sardina, Allyson Bird, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Pamela Jeffs, and Nadia Bulkin. Order your copy of Fright Into Flight today!