|Cover design by my friend Miss K.
After a long process lengthened by the fact that everyone involved in its production and publication also has day jobs, I’m happy to announce that my debut fiction novella, Under the Trees, Eaten, will be released at the beginning of next month, available from BlankSpace Publications. So for this post, I thought I’d provide a formal introduction to the book, how it came to exist, and what you can expect to see in it.
I’ve already spoken about the project quite a lot on this blog, particularly its Lovecraftian influences, twisted visions of Canadiana, and deeply feminist themes. So here are some facts about the history of its composition that you might be interested to know.
I composed this novella on the recommendation of the head of BlankSpace, The Inestimable Jeffrey, who, after a series of conversations we had in late 2012 about the possibility (or rather, impossibility in its current form) of publishing my novel about Newfoundland, A Small Man’s Town, wrote me an email one evening asking if I had any ideas for a science-fiction story. I read that email early in the morning, shortly before going to my day shift at the answering service where I used to work. By the end of my shift, in between answering phones 20-30 times per hours, I had written the initial pitch for Under the Trees, Eaten.
The composition of the story took place in what was probably the most hectic and stressful period of my life. I would work on it for at least an hour almost every night before bed, usually averaging about five hours of sleep each evening. The entire first draft of the closing chapter was composed in a two hour binge where I literally could not stop myself from writing until the story was finished. TIJeffrey and I passed the manuscript back and forth a few times over the last year, polishing the prose, changing a few details, coming up with a wonderful new knocker of an ending, and even pitching an idea for a sequel over the last few weeks.
I seriously want to write this sequel. I’ve come up with some corking good ideas for it. This is why, if you are reading this post (or any of my posts about Under the Trees, Eaten), you should buy my book. Because its success will indicate whether we’ll publish a follow-up.
I primarily wanted to develop a story that would be equally morally frightening as it would be scary in the traditional sense of creepy tones and otherworldly monsters. It’s literally the story of an ordinary woman discovering an extraordinary place, where the presence of aliens in a mysterious underground cavern has warped the surrounding wildlife and physical phenomena. What’s truly disturbing about her environmental encounters here isn’t just that she travels through a land where the trees glow with a crimson-purple fire that slowly proliferates among their branches, where insects and plants have impossibly-shaped bodies, and aliens live in caves that twist into the curled dimensions between atoms themselves. No, what’s really freaky is how quickly she gets used to it, and how some of these phenomena even help her find her way when she’s lost.
In some of my previous posts, I describe how H. P. Lovecraft was a serious influence on Under the Trees, Eaten, and in many ways, that’s true. But my story goes beyond the limitations of his style, as any new art should. For one, the aliens have a much more complicated relationship with humanity than simply being inspiring terror. My conception of the aliens in this story takes their moral difference from humanity more seriously even than Lovecraft himself did. For me, the aliens are certainly monstrous — they exist in dimensions that humans can’t even perceive, and moving through them permanently alters a person’s mind. They think about the world in a way that’s totally different from the human perspective, and my own story takes seriously the possibility that we’ll come out the worse from the comparison.