Author Interview: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
‘Whoever is born here is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles never leaves.’
Black Spring looks, on the face of it to be a picture perfect town. It’s a beautiful spot, house prices have rocketed and only a few people succeed in purchasing a place there. Things are not always as they seem however and this story gives a very real meaning to the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ because once you succeed in purchasing a property in Black Springs – you will never leave again!
Today I’m really pleased to be hosting an interview with Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Thomas is a writer who has already received lots of attention and seemingly a very pleasing number of awards for his books. His latest book, Hex, is creating a great stir among the blogging community and after completing this a few days ago it’s easy to see why. This book manages to be creepy in a completely new way. A combination of new and old meeting in a super tense and scary way! My review will follow on Monday.
Firstly, welcome Thomas and thanks for answering my questions:
I feel that the books I read as a child had a big impact on my future reading and helped to shape the kind of books I now enjoy. Which books would you say helped to influence you the most (I read that you love Roald Dahl and Stephen King for example – if you absolutely had to choose one book from each author which would that be and why?)
Well obviously, Roals Dahl’s The Witches. My babysitter first told me that one as a bedtime story. Then she read the book to me. And then she took me to see the movie. I was seven at the time. The moment when Anjelica Huston, the Grand High Witch, takes off her mask… man, I was so traumatized! I didn’t trust any women for the next six months (including the babysitter). Imagine what my winter was like, with women wearing gloves all the time. I saw witches everywhere. But of course, the scariest bit in the story was the little girl who was cursed and appeared in the painting, and gradually grew older and older in paint and then started to fade. That’s about as scary as it gets. Ever since, I wanted to write a novel about a witch’s curse.
The other book that had such a deep impact on me that it forever influenced me, is Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It was King’s first novel that I read, and if you’re not familiar with it: it’s by far his darkest. I was twelve at the time. Up till then, I had read some creepy stuff, but you know, they were children’s books (okay, except Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and they always had a happy ending (even Dracula did). And now I was suddenly confronted with this ultimately dark nightmare that kept on spiralling down into the abyss and left no hope for reconciliation. That screwed up my expectations! And boy, did I love it.
Witches and curses – seem to be something that have fascinated us for hundreds of years, not to mention other things that go bump in the night. We seem drawn to things that scare us. What drew you to witches and curses in particular?
It’s a kind of primordial fear of powers that are invisible and untouchable in times of insecurity, but that are very much there to haunt and hurt you. That’s how people in the old days used to accuse others of witchcraft: whenever something inexplicable happened, there had to be someone you could blame. The same fear plays a huge part in HEX: although it’s set in modern day, whenever something bad happens in Black Spring, the townsfolk turn not against the witch, but each other. They’re looking for a scapegoat… as what’s really at the core of the situation, is something we’d rather not talk about. Our own weaknesses, fears and insecurities. Rather than a book about supernatural powers, HEX is about the depravity of mankind when we are put in nasty, unwanted situations.
I have a couple of scary ghost like stories that happened in my past that I’ve eventually talked myself out of as whims or dreams – do you have any creepy stories of your own that you can share with us?
I’m always a bit reluctant to talk about real-life ghost stories, as they are always secondhand accounts. I wasn’t there, so I have no way to verify the experience, so that naturally turns them into stories. Maybe they saw a shadow, or a twist of their imagination, or something that wasn’t there at all, or something that was very much dead. I’d love to see a ghost one day. But no, since the day I died, I stopped believing in ghosts.
(I had to reread that answer a couple of times!! – I was like ‘what‘ – and then I was ‘okay that just freaked me out!‘)
In terms of your writing you have a number of short stories already under your belt not to mention a Hugo for your novelette The Day the World Turned Upside Down. Do you have a preference in terms or your writing: do you prefer short or longer stories?
I enjoy both: they’re different art forms. Writing short fiction makes you reconsider everything you do, and definitely makes you a better writer. I’m lucky that I am succesful in both. But the fact that short fiction is, well, shorter, doesn’t make it necessarily easier. Or faster. I wrote HEX in five months. The Day the World Turned Upside Down is a tenth of its length, and it took me six months. At least it got me a Hugo Award. That was a bit of a surprise: I always considered it to be a story of magical-realism, not science fiction. But you won’t hear me complain: that rocket looks pretty nice and shiny on my writing desk!
Can you share with us what you’re up to next??
First, I’m finishing a book called Hidden Faces. It’s again a pretty scary book, about another passion of mine: mountains. And climbing mountains. And it’s about obsession and possession. Then, in June and July, I’m going on a tour through the US for HEX. And later this year and in ’17, the book appears in many other countries like China and Brazil and Turkey and France, and I would love to visit each of them.
Quick Fire Questions:
- What are you currently reading? Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. Effective and scary!
- What is your ‘comfort’ read – a book that you’ve reread a few times and still love? Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Altough I have a dozen more. I call them teach reads – they teach me something new every time I read them.
- Which book most took you by surprise (either in a good or a bad way): Again Life of Pi. I did so not see that ending coming, and it was the most beautiful thing ever, which actually changed my view on life.
4. Stranded on a desert island – which book would you rescue? Probably the entire Robert Jordan saga. I never read it but it looks big enough to build a shelter from against the sun.
- Which fictional character would you choose to be for a day! Probably Arthur Roth, the inflatable boy in Pop Art by Joe Hill. I mean if you try something different, why not weighing a few ounces for a day?
Thomas, thank you so much for taking part. I love your answers and can’t wait to read more of your work.
Everyone, below is a bit more information about the other blogs taking part in this tour for Hex I hope you can go and check them all out:
If you’re feeling particularly feisty (or brave) here’s a little trailer to scare the bejesus out out of you: (Caution: watch this during daylight and in company – not at dark, sat alone with the curtains open behind you – just saying!)
Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for organising this event.