Author William Gorman graciously took time to answer questions about the inspiration behind his horror novel, Blackwater Val. In this interview, Gorman also describes writing Blackwater Val, his inspiration, what elements make for good horror and genre blending.
Blackwater Val tells the terrifying tale of a widower, traveling with his dead wife’s ashes and with his six-year-old psychic daughter in tow, returns to his haunted birthplace—a small Illinois town built atop a network of long-forgotten plague pits—and enters the nightmare world of a terrifying, centuries-old malevolence that has taken up residence there. Or has the evil been here all along . . . rooted in his own past? The town seems darker, wrapped in unspeakable shadow now and death. Secrets buried away will come unearthed like graveyard bones, and innocence will be lost. But not everyone is what they appear to be. Battle lines are being drawn, fates entwined. A momentous storm is coming, after which nothing can ever be the same again. And inevitably this ghost-ridden valley will lie steeped in blood as hellish forces orchestrate to claim the lives and souls of all.
Blackwater Val is available April 29th from Crystal Lake Publishing, Amazon, and major online booksellers.
William Gorman makes things up and writes them down—and occasionally lifts clever sayings like that one from Neil Gaiman or prominent others in the field. A ghost-lore historian and lifelong denizen of the upper Midwest, he became enamored at an early age with all things that go bump in the dead of night. His stories have appeared in Thin Ice, Severed Tales, Nightside, The Sterling Web, Nightmares, and The Rockford Review. And also in Ghost Whispers: Tales from Haunted Midway, a collection he put together comprising of spooky legends and lore from his hometown in Illinois, where the local library now conducts bus excursions and walking tours based on the original stories in his book.
Francis Xavier: What is the first line from Blackwater Val?
William Gorman: The maniac, Marenbach thinks within the unyielding darkness, partly in contempt, partly in fear.
FX: Blackwater Val takes place in a fictional Illinois town; what inspired the town and how did the Illinois landscape inspire the story? Are there any famous Illinois urban legends?
WG: The town was inspired by every quiet, sleepy little burg I ever passed through when I was growing up. Each of them, I realized once I was older, had its own kind of creepiness—and its own secrets, I’m sure. Yes, there are several urban legends and bizarre stories from the Illinois I grew up in. I wrote about some of them in my folklore collection Ghost Whispers: Tales from Haunted Midway. One of those local legends, concerning an old reclusive witch who isn’t quite a witch exactly, I incorporated into the second half of the novel.
FX: Three words to describe your writing?
WG: Hopefully . . . very . . . entertaining (see what I did there?).
FX: Which part of Blackwater Val challenged you most?
WG: The ending—pulling everything together and tying it all up in a way which satisfies and answers questions, and hits the reader like a kick in the guts. It was difficult, but fun.
FX: Which character from Blackwater Val do you most identify with?
WG: Well, my favorite character in the book is Tommy. I’m not sure how much I identify with him, though. Tommy is a sort of amalgamation of several different friends I had in younger times. What I love most about him is that he just comes right out and says whatever he’s thinking; I wish I was able to do that . . . or maybe not.
FX: What did you learn about yourself as a writer while working on Blackwater Val?
WG: I learned that I wasn’t ready to tell this story in my 20s or 30s, when I first tried writing it. I don’t think I was mature enough. I hadn’t lived through enough yet to really know what it was all about. Only later on, after I’d found my own voice as a writer, was I able to tell the story I wanted to tell.
FX: What elements make for good horror fiction?
WG: For me, it’s the dark imagery. Something that stays around, haunts you after you’re done reading. Plus suspense, and a little mystery thrown in. Most of all it has to have characters you care about. Without that, the reader can’t be drawn in. Also, you mentioned the Illinois landscape before—there needs to be a strong sense of ‘place’ in the story, like King does with Maine or Michael McDowell did with his deep Southern Gothic locales and sinister, swirling black rivers.
FX: What are your thoughts on genre blending in works of fiction?
WG: One of my favorite books of all time was Weaveworld by Clive Barker, the perfect blend of horror and fantasy, in my opinion. When it’s done right, it can be awesome. Gaiman’s another one who does it well. But nothing can ever touch Weaveworld. To me, it’s the pinnacle of awesome genre blending.
FX: Where can we find you and your work online?
WG: You can find me at my website for right now. The site has various links to my Amazon page and to Crystal Lake Publishing, my blog and other interviews, and I’ll be upgrading and adding to it as times goes on.