Today Toni V. Sweeney shares the inspiration for her new release, A Bit of the Dark World. But first, enjoy the video!
Godalmighty, what a night!
Daniel Walker, MD, was a big man though not a particularly clumsy one, but there was nothing graceful about the way he reeled through the door of his office after stubbing the toe of his Croc on the threshold. Wavering to catch his balance and prevent crashing into his desk, he staggered around it and fell into the big executive’s chair, then jerked open the center drawer, searching frantically for the pack of cigarettes he kept there.
…Gotta have that smoke…lemme at it before I have a nifit! He was acting like an true addict and admitted it. Found it. As if discovering water in the desert, he extracted one, snapped open the lighter lying inside the drawer, and flicked it into life. The tobacco flared, the tip of the cigarette glowed, wrapped paper curling blackly. Raking one hand through his coarse black hair, he leaned back, hungrily gulping in smoke. Ahhh… He closed his eyes, exhaling it out in a long, slow trickle. He’d been trying to quit, was doing pretty well too, what with that Nicorette CQ patch and all, but now? Hell, after tonight…he’d ripped that little piece of drug-soaked adhesive off his shoulder. The way I feel right now, I’d smoke a whole damned carton if I had it.
He’d never seen anything like it. As if God Himself had battered down the Gates of Hell and set free total calamity. Cracked ribs, broken arms, fractured legs…ambulances and police cars swarming and wailing…was there anyone left in Temple and surrounds in one piece?
A bit of an exaggeration perhaps. It was August and there was a full moon. Everyone knew those two things separately were bad news and together they spelled disaster. The heat and the moonlight made all the loonies—and they didn’t call them luna-tics for nothing—even crazier, while the sane ones bore the brunt of their madness.
…and this begins the story of a young man fighting his heritage while ambiguously relishing in its power…a foolish young woman revels in the attention she receives from him and his rival…while a doctor genetically embued with the truth about the island off the Georgia coast and the mysterious entity sleeping in its waters, fights to prevent disaster… my new horror novel A Bit of the Dark World, based on the “Cthulu Mythos” created by HP Lovecraft.
Who? you ask. HP Lovecraft? Never heard of him.
O-kaaay. Here we go.
Almost everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe, right? Quoth the Raven…and etcetera… At one time or another, we’ve probably read one of his short stories, even if it was in tenth-grade English where “The Pit and the Pendulum” was required reading. How did HPL, as he’s affectionately known by his followers, get overlooked? He was a man who was influenced by Poe, AA Machen, and Algernon Blackwood. (Bet no one knows who they are, either!) In the early Twentieth Century, he became Poe’s equal in writing tales of mystery and imagination.
Lovecraft was a New Englander, a sickly child growing into an introspective man, not breathtakingly handsome, but fairly ordinary in appearance. He married, but eventually divorced, seeming to flourish in a more isolated and less social atmosphere. Other than his own writings, his second claim to fame is that he carried on a correspondence with several aspiring teenaged authors, most of whom, because of his mentoring, later became well-known themselves. (Do the names Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) ring bells?) Known as the “Lovecraft Circle,” they furthered the stories of Cthulu and the other amorphous, barely-describable Elder Gods by promoting Lovecraft’s stories and using the characters and places in their own writings
I was introduced to Lovecraft during my teenage years through a single story “The Dunwich Horror” in an anthology entitled Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, which I received as a gift for my twelfth birthday. This story was later made into a movie, but like the screen adaptations of most of Poe’s stories, Lovecraft’s tales don’t translate well, since they rely on a good bit of atmosphere and description of the characters’ mental states and internal conflicts rather than physical action.
Later in life, I had the privilege of living next door to a Lovecraft scholar. A fascinating man who was also a black belt instructor in karate and a professor of psychology at the local state college, he had a library consisting of hundreds of books on Lovecraft as well as translations of his stories, in German, French, even Japanese. He graciously allowed me to borrow some and read them. Initially, I didn’t know what an honor I was being given until his wife commented, “You really rate. He doesn’t let anyone touch those books.”
As expected, I, being who I am, immediately began to weave my own pseudo-Lovecraft tale, thinking along the lines of…why did the Great Old Ones center themselves only around New England in our part of the world, specifically Providence and Arkham? (Batman followers… recognize that name?) In other stories, they exist in Great Britain, the Middle and Far East, in abandoned cities, deep jungle valleys, or high, frozen mountain peaks. Why couldn’t some of them have traveled further South on our continent and found disciples among the southern population?
Answer: They could’ve… Why not?
…and thus I came up with the idea for A Bit of the Dark World…
There are the Great Old Ones, not of this world but bound to it by their enemies…their faithful servants, willing to risk not only their lives but those of their descendants to free their masters…the native peoples of the Coast, aware of these creatures and using their own magic to protect themselves…and those aforementioned descendants, caught up in the struggle for power and possession whether they wish it or not.
Since the story’s set in Georgia, or on an island off the coast, rather, I had an opportunity to weave into it stories from my own Southern childhood, as well as the histories of the Yamacraw, a portion of the Creek Native American tribe, and descriptions of St. Simons and Jekyll Islands which I’ve had the opportunity to visit.
There’s sex in it (after all this is my version and not Lovecraft’s) so I doubt if HPL would wholeheartedly approve, but perhaps he might give me an agreeable nod for the general tone of the novel as well as the way I’ve portrayed the horror his creations invoke.
A Bit of the Dark World—the title is a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw—was released by Class Act Books on October 15.
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Toni, thanks for the fascinating background on your inspiration for your book. I’ve heard of H. P. Lovecraft, but am ashamed to say I have never read his works. Let us know who your favorite horror authors are.
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