The first time I heard about Eel River, Shannon wrote me a lovely, creepy story for my anthology CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE URBAND KIND called "The Hippie Monster of Eel River." I was intrigued. Now, Shannon talks about using her own life as inspiration for a horror story even though her life wasn't horrific.
My Life Is Not A Horror Story...So Why Is My Novel?
When I was five, my parents bought seventy-two acres of raw land in the middle of nowhere, intending to establish a self-sufficient, back-to-the-land commune. They sold all our worldly goods and moved us out of the big, corrupt city. We had no electricity or indoor plumbing in our one-room A-frame cabin with a loft. Our land was twenty-five miles from the nearest “big” town; a little crossroads with a store and a gas station was ten miles away. (Though we never shopped there, because they didn’t like hippies.)
It was just us the first year—my parents, me, and my one-year-old brother. He slept in a crib which took up half the army surplus tent we lived in while my dad built the cabin. Mom cooked over a campfire till we moved indoors, whereupon she upgraded to a wood cook stove. Marvelous things came from that stove! I can still remember perfect lemon meringue pies, though of course, mostly we ate more basic Seventies Vegetarian Hippie Fare—lots of tofu, cheese, and broccoli.
I played alone a lot, outside whenever I could, reading when the weather kept me indoors. My favorite thing to do was construct little villages where tiny ceramic animals would drive around in Matchbox cars and visit each other. The world in my head was very social, even as my life was quite isolated and quiet. (It’s no mystery to me at all why I became a writer!) I was a shy, maybe even spooky child, awkward around people, lonely but also content to be solitary.
Yet it was an idyllic time. The land was beautiful, and I had absolute freedom to roam it. We had a gorgeous stretch of beach on the river—the Eel River—and, once I learned how to swim, you could hardly get me out of the water. I loved our goats, and our dogs; I even liked the other people who came to live on the land, even though it never really turned into the functional commune my parents had dreamed about.
So, how did all this turn into the horror novel Eel River?
It’s a funny process, how a story becomes Story. Most writers have had the experience of trying to tell some amazing story about their lives—only to have it not work at all, narratively. All sorts of interesting things happened on the land. But when I tell you about it as it happened, it’s just a series of details, without any coherent meaning.
I knew that I needed a Story to tie together the details of my story. So I thought about what it meant to me, to grow up in such an odd environment. I had to learn a lot of resourcefulness and self-sufficiency early on; I saw adults differently than most of the other kids at school did. I had to learn how to straddle the divergent worlds of elementary school with redneck farmers’ kids and my home with pot-smoking hippies. I was sort of an outsider everywhere, observing the different tribes.
In writing the novel, I wanted a self-sufficient, spooky little girl as the protagonist. Naturally, she needed something huge to challenge her. Something that threatened not only her, but her home and everyone she cared about.
I created a monster.
And once I had those elements, set in a place I was utterly familiar with, the Story just flowed. But not back to where it started...rather, forward to something new. And that ‘something new’ was a horror novel: Eel River.
I hope you enjoy the “trip.”
I’m biased about this one. Not only is Janine pretty spiff. Jean Rabe is the editor of this already funded anthology… and a space opera story from me is part of the stretch goals. I love the idea of Athena’s Daughters. I really do. This is what Janine had to say about the Kickstarter and the need for good role models.
Let me tell you about my newest project that I’m super excited about! It's called Athena's Daughters and it's a science fiction and fantasy anthology completely done by women - all the artists, authors, the editor, everyone involved is a woman, and all the stories all have a female lead.
Science Fiction and Fantasy are wonderful mediums to teach our youth (and our adults), to expand our horizons, and encourage thought and imagination. But I still see a lack of women as leads out there*, and I think it's very important for children (and adults!) to have strong female role models in their lives.
That's what inspired Athena's Daughters.
As for my own story in the anthology, "Millie", it's about a modern day Marine pilot (helicopter pilot based on an old friend of mine from my flight school days) who has a chance encounter with a very familiar time traveling Aviatrix (have you ever wanted to know what really happened at Howland Island?).
Oh, and the introduction to the anthology was written by retired astronaut (and more awesome, SHE'S A PILOT!) Pam Melroy!
So to say I’m just a little bit excited about this anthology would be a massive understatement.
The kickstarter for Athena's Daughters has just launched, and you can get the eBook (and a bunch of extras for free!) for only $5.
Even if you're not interested in the project yourself, but think you might have friends or family who might, I'd really appreciate it if you could make a mention of it on your social media or through your email connections. The link to the Kickstarter (order) page is http://tinyurl.com/athenasD.
So in short, awesome women doing awesome things – check it out!
WATTPAD link for a free preview of my story “Millie”: http://www.wattpad.com/32027002-athena%27s-daughters-millie
*Yes, I know we have The Hunger Games, Divergent, my own War of the Seasons trilogy, along with many more female led stories out there that all totally rock, but it's still a dearth compared to male leads.
BIO: Janine K. Spendlove is a KC-130 pilot in the United States Marine Corps. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy World she is primarily known for her best-selling trilogy, War of the Seasons. She has several short stories published in various anthologies alongside such authors as Aaron Allston, Jean Rabe, Michael A. Stackpole, Bryan Young, and Timothy Zahn. She is also the co-founder of GeekGirlsRun, a community for geek girls (and guys) who just want to run, share, have fun, and encourage each other. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Janine loves pugs, enjoys knitting, making costumes, playing Beatles tunes on her guitar, and spending time with her family. She resides with her husband and daughter in Washington, DC. She is currently at work on her next novel. Find out more at JanineSpendlove.com.
It’s my birthday and I want you to make a fuss over me. I really do. I want you to buy yourself (or a friend) one of my books. If you’ve already got some of my books, I really want you to write a review on Amazon about the book—good or bad (preferably good). This is what I want for my birthday. Buy a book, make a fuss, give me a hug, tell me you love me.
Caller Unknown (Karen Wilson #1) – Amazon | Apocalypse Ink Productions
Children of Anu (Karen Wilson #2) – Amazon | Apocalypse Ink Productions
In a Gilded Light – Amazon | Dark Quest Books
The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting – Amazon | Dark Quest Books
Industry Talk – Amazon | Apocalypse Ink Productions
The Little Finance Book That Could – Amazon
Guest Blog: I talk about why Human for a Day is my favorite anthology edited so far.
Interview: Pat Flewwelling (who has the coolest last name) interviewed me for Nine Day Wonder with an editor's focus.
Interview: Dave Gross interviewed me for his Creative Colleagues blog series. We talked about keeping a schedule and balancing editing versus writing and RPGs.
Review: A starred review in Publishers Weekly - Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters - I have a story in this set in the wild west called "The Price of Family." It's a dark story.
Recommendation: Broodhollow. A lovely, creepy webcomic by Kris Straub set in the 1930s. You should start at the beginning. It's got a subtle wrongness to it on top of the outright horror.
My ebooks from Apocalypse Ink Productions are on sale for $0.99. If you get the physical copies, all domestic shipping is free. It's a pretty good deal.
If you prefer Amazon:
Caller Unknown, Karen Wilson Chronicles, Book 1
Children of Anu, Karen Wilson Chronicles, Book 2
Industry Talk: : An Insider's Look at Writing RPGs and Editing Anthologies, non-fiction