‘Thomas,’ Keziah whispered, ‘don’t bury me deep.’
Thomas’s life has changed in a few short days, and so has his beloved Keziah. After an attack one night, by a creature that shouldn’t exist, Keziah tries to prepare them both for what is to come, but can Thomas do his part? Can he make the right choice and live or die by the consequences?
I can count on my two hands the number of short stories I’ve read in my life, and most of them were school curriculum selected. In general, they’re not my thing. I always wonder how an author can cram a whole, meaningful story that requires character development into so few words. But Gemma Farrow can – and she does it well.
‘Beneath the Willow’ is a poignant tale of love, grief, moral questioning and fear. With a few well chosen words, Ms Farrow has created an immediate emotional connection to characters that are four-dimensional. Her choice of original similes, metaphors and beautifully descriptive words pull you into the melancholy dilemma that faces Thomas as he decides what to believe, and what to do about his adored Keziah, who is changing into something else – something ‘other’.
I’m also not normally a fan of memories and flashbacks but they are so well done here, that they add an additional dimension of surreal grief to the tale. The story itself is unique too, without the sexual and glamorous plotlines most vampire novels have, or the usual expected ending. There is a thriller / horror element, a little romance too, but for me, this story is more about being human. It’s about having to make choices between your head and your heart and paying the consequences for those decisions.
If Ms Farrow can do this in only a few words, I wonder what she can do with a full-length novel. I’ll be keeping my eye out for more work from this talented author!
Let’s chat with Gemma Farrow, author of ‘Beneath the Willow’:
Q: Tell us a little about Gemma Farrow.
A: I’ve been writing since childhood, and had my first short story published by a small independent magazine when I was nineteen. Since then, thirteen years on, I’ve had over twenty short stories published, and an equal number rejected. I love nothing but to write. I live to create minor worlds that reflect the range of human frailties and strengths, the sorrows and joys. The people I know, think because I write paranormal and psychological horror, that it’s about violence and cheap scares. Horror for me is a genre that demands depth and emotional textures. As a writer, I need to hook my reader, and also like to blind-side them with unexpected reactions. If realism doesn’t exist in my writing, then the horror won’t have the greatest impact.
Q: When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
A: When I was eleven years old. My English teacher told us to write a short story about anything that interested us. I wrote a ghost story.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
In May 2014, I finished the first book in my horror trilogy. It took me a year to write. It’s gone through many edits, including a professional one, and now is ready for the final polish. I’m also partway through the first draft of book 2. And planning out book 3. The storyline is about disconnection, loss, madness, and finding the courage to face the unknown. It’s a story about monsters, both human and ‘other’.
Q: Do you have a life’s motto?
A: Yes. ‘No matter what, keep trying.’
Q: Why did you choose paranormal/psychological horror as your genre?
A: That’s down to Stephen King, James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and Ramsay Campbell. From childhood through to now, they have been my favourite authors. My older siblings introduced me to their books. Horror films too, played an informative part in my fascination with this genre.
Q: Thomas has to make a difficult decision between his head and his heart. Have you ever had to do the same?
A: Yes. Fortunately for me, my decision didn’t have such an extreme consequence unlike Thomas’ eventual choice.
Q: The dreams Thomas has are vivid and realistic. Have you ever had such nightmares?
A: I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, and I study those I remember. I have a dream notebook. I guess because of this practice, and mental focus, my dreams are vivid and often lucid. I do tend to have more nightmares than dreams. But this is something I appreciate, because the nightmares seed future stories. Some of the things I’ve dreamed are in my horror trilogy.
Q: Do you read all your reviews? What do you do with the good ones and the bad?
A: I read all my reviews, and especially focus on the bad ones. The good ones boost my confidence, but the bad ones—or critiques—if they come from an unbiased viewpoint help me improve my craft. They may highlight something I haven’t noticed, a bad writing habit or dropped words. Reading reviews help maintain an awareness of how readers interact with a story, because when writing, it is easy to forget you are writing for a readership, and not just for yourself.
Q: Tell us about one childhood/teenage memory that has impacted the person you have become.
A: My mum is a strong believer in the supernatural and attending séances or hosting them was something she liked to do. As a child, I used to sneak downstairs, and spy through the gap in the door, whenever a séance was taking place. This fuelled my fascination, and also spooked me quite a bit. Once I became old enough, I was able to sit in the room when a séance was happening. I was familiar with them, and they no longer scared me. I started to view the séances objectively. I learned a lot about the afterlife, but most of all about people’s need to hang onto loved ones that have crossed-over. I realised I was no longer watching séances, but studying people, and their psychology.
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