Last October, members of Elementary Writers, led by Victoria Watson, performed pieces of poetry and fiction at a Halloween celebration at the Cumberland Arms. It all went down so well, their works have now been combined, and released in an anthology, Blood from the Quill, available now.
Being a member of the group myself, and so knowing most of the writers involved, I’ve picked their brains to tell you a little bit more about the project…
We’ll start with Victoria herself, and her piece A Dubious Honour, based on her real life experience of arranging Blood from the Quill. As she tells me “I thought it would be a challenge to set a piece of Gothic fiction in modern times where everyone has a laptop and a mobile phone. I thought it would be fun to play around with technology. I think it worked as someone said to me a couple of weeks later ‘I didn’t know you were an orphan’, I’m not but the character whose point of view I was reading from was so I reckon that was job done!”
Emma Whitehall (found online here) performed Dust Motes and Faded Green Velvet, the titular story of her collection of fiction and poetry, and inspired by her lifetime love of old, once-grand houses. Her tale explores the concept of a supernatural being haunting an entire family, and being tied to both the family and to the house itself. In Emma’s words “It was fascinating to be a room of prose writers, all writing in the genre that I love. It was amazing to hear what gothic fiction sounds like from brand new voices!”
For John Pearson, the pub itself provided the inspiration, talking about the Dead Man’s Corner in the downstairs bar – a “horror story crying out to be told…” as he tells me. Set in the “misty, murky valley“, it’s a great tale, and what’s more fitting to tell in the bar itself? Gail Lawler took her inspiration for The Midnight Terror from a dog walk. As somebody who is personally terrified of walking through woods in the dark (always convinced I’ll find a body, if not end up becoming one myself…), I can well-imagine her dog Os pricking up his ears at something which may or may not be there! And it wasn’t just local writers who came across for the event last October, and have contributed to the anthology. Karen Naylor travelled all the way from West Yorkshire to make her performance debut, reading her piece, inspired by The Woman in Black, and based on the idea of a mirror looking back at you, with the power to control…
Jon Wigglesworth explored material he was already familiar with, working in subtle influences of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft to a piece linked to a larger collective lore he draws on for haunting stories, and is currently looking to expand. James Tucker’s story was informed by nightmares which followed seeing a short film in childhood, and that perennial fear of being pursued by something. As James notes, “the good thing about the ‘only open the door a crack’ type of gothic is that you don’t need to be sure about everything in the story yourself; you can leave things for the reader to ‘fill in what scares you here.'”
One thing everyone has agreed on is how great the Cumberland Arms’ upstairs room was made up that evening; I’m sure you’ll agree, looking at the photos Victoria has kindly supplied. And I agree wholeheartedly with Jon’s comment about there being a great team spirit – having taken part in the Burns Night event, it’s a lovely group to be part of.
I hope you enjoy their anthology.