Some things are frightening not because they seem impossible or out of this world, but because they seem so believable, too true not to actually have happened. Frankly, I’m rather obsessed with that kind of horror. Books like those, give me a chance to face my fears while I hide behind the knowledge, the mantra — It’s not real. It’s just a story.
Yeah, like that keeps me from turning on all the lights before I go to bed. Heh. Which frankly, I am not the only one who wusses out on such things. Even the lady behind the creepy story we’re talking about today has a personal history with fear so crippling she has taken years to control it. Which is why I definitely needed Heather L. Reid to talk to me about Pretty Dark Sacrifice, the second book in her Pretty Dark Nothing series. All the freaking dreams overlap reality and when you’re seeing scary demonic looking creatures following you and your loved ones around… welllllll… that’s not a reality I’m interested in living, except that I know all about night terrors and so does Heather. If that were not enough of a connection for us, we both know what it’s like to move a lot. Before we get to the about author section, which I pretty much have spoiled for you … hah… let’s find out how personal of a place Heather’s stories derive.
Did you have insomnia or your own sleeping issues? What influenced Quinn’s sleeplessness? I know fairies can steal you away in your dreams and there’s many myths about crossing worlds in your dreams — what mythology came into play with the development of the Pretty Dark Nothing world?
Sleep and I have always had a tenuous relationship, especially when I was younger. I don’t remember when they started—the dreams of faceless entities, of black figures standing by my bed whispering in the deep shadows of my childhood room. Sometimes, I would wake from their dark grasp and find my six-year-old self standing at the end of my parent’s bed, in the kitchen, or walking down the hallway. Other times, I would suffer from sleep paralysis, trapped between dream and reality, a scream trapped in my throat. Night terrors, the doctors called it, but there didn’t seem to be any answers as to why. I would grow out of it, eventually. Though the paralysis and sleepwalking did stop, the nightmares didn’t. Some nights, fear gripped me so tight I thought my lungs were being crushed under the weight of it. Books kept me company, kept me awake, kept me from falling into the arms of the monsters waiting for me on the other side of sleep as I huddled under the covers with a flashlight, stuffed animals standing guard around my bed.
The nightmares finally eased some years ago, but their shadows never truly left me. I guess it’s not surprising that those experiences, so vividly etched upon my imagination and tightly twined around my soul, would find their way into my own writing. In the Pretty Dark series, I wanted to write about a girl facing her own darkness. What would happen if her nightmares manifested in her reality and she was the only one who could see them? How would fear, the self-awareness that what she was seeing might be real, but shouldn’t be, affect her everyday life, her relationships, her ability to trust herself, to trust others, and to make decisions.
I chose demons for Pretty Dark Nothing as metaphors for the darkness that lives inside all of us, the personification of that still small voice inside that perpetuates negative thought and twists the truth. They feed on the darkness living inside humans and exploit and magnify the insecurities and self-doubt they find and use it to gain power and create chaos. While I’ve never seen a live demon, I hope my night terrors have been put to good use, to create a story rich in creepy atmosphere and emotional brokenness. In book 2, Pretty Dark Sacrifice, Quinn now understands what this darkness is and she’s struggling with how to fight them. There are a lot more paranormal and fantasy elements in the second book, inspired by Jewish folklore, the story of Eden, and threads of the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, all twisted together to make my own version of angels, demons, and the underworld.
How do you up the creep factor in your books and how do you sleep at night? Seriously, how do you actually sleep after writing some of those demonic nightmares?
I’ve always had a vivid imagination so it doesn’t take much for me to imagine a creepy situation. I’ve also watched a lot of horror movies and read a lot of scary books in my time, so I have a lot of dark inspiration rattling around in my brain. As far as sleep goes, nightmares and I are old foes and I’ve learned plenty of ways to combat them. I’m a lucid dreamer, meaning that I have the ability to become aware during my dreams and can, most of the time, control them in some way. That’s not to say my own writing doesn’t sometime scare me. I remember one night in particular. I left the coffee shop where I had finished writing a scene in Pretty Dark Nothing where demons attack Quinn while she’s trying to get away in a car to pick up a friend from work. It was late and the parking lot was empty. As I sat alone in my car, the wind moaned through the trees and rattled the windows. I couldn’t help looking in the rearview mirror afraid I would see a black shadow with red eyes staring back at me. I admit that at times it’s been terrifying to conjure up old nightmares and pick at the scars of fear left on my psyche, to bleed some of my own darkness onto the page, but watching Quinn fight demons helped me remember to always be wary of my own.
How do you think your wanderlust makes you a better writer?
Writers are naturally curious. We observe and ask questions about the nature of humanity in order to capture the essence of emotion, of complex characters, of atmosphere and wonder with nothing but words to paint the depth of the picture in our minds. Each new experience, each new person met, or place visited expands our understanding of the world around me. To me, wanderlust is an important part of my process and my growth as a person as well as a writer. Of course, wanderlust doesn’t always mean buying a plane ticket, though that’s my favorite way to explore. A good book can transport and teach me too. How else can I explore space or travel back in time to 200AD?
Your characters tend to be tight bunch, friendship-wise. Do you have a group of friends that would go to Hell and back for you and have they inspired events, character traits in your books?
Friendship has always been important to me. I’m an introvert, so I’ve always tended to have a smaller group of close friends who I feel deeply connected to. Some are with you for a season or two and some sick with you for life, but I hold each of them in my heart. My best and oldest friend and I met when we were three and are still friends to this day. More like sisters than friends, really. I’m godparent to her daughter and she held my hand through my mother’s funeral. I certainly don’t think I could have gotten through school, much less life without her. We’ve had some serious fights over the years, but in the end, when the chips are down, we would go to Hell and back for each other. And she’s not the only one.
My character Teresa (Reese) is named after my best friend from college. And yes, that’s her nickname too. We now live a thousand miles apart, but if one of us needed anything, we would drop everything to be there. I will say that though Reese is named after my friend Teresa, they are not the same. Reese in the book is a combination of several of my close friends; she is her own person and the perfect balance to Quinn. I’ve also had a lot of guy friends throughout my life. As a lover of video games, Star Wars, and Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes the girls didn’t always know how to relate to me. Besides, being ‘just one of the boys’ when I was a teenager gave me a unique insight into the mind of boys. Marcus and Aaron both have traits from some of my best guy friends. Today, most of my close friends are other writers. We understand each other in a way that non-writers don’t. We hold each other up, encourage one another, celebrate and push each other to be better. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Awww… see it’s hard to be scared after such a sweet chat about friends like those! Seriously though, you’re still pretty freaked out, yeah? These books are all kinds of creepy… creepy and romantic. It’s a good mix. Promise.
ABOUT PRETTY DARK SACRIFICE:
Title: Pretty Dark Sacrifice (Pretty Dark Nothing #2)
Publication date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Heather L. Reid
It’s been five weeks, two days, and eight hours since the demons forced Quinn to throw herself into the raging river, since Aaron sacrificed himself to save her, since his body disappeared without a trace.
Everyone wants Quinn to move on, but she can’t, not after a spirit appears to her at Aaron’s memorial, convincing her he’s still alive.
When a mysterious box materializes on the very spot Aaron disappeared, Quinn finds she’s at the center of an ancient prophesy of betrayal, revenge, and sacrifice that takes her to the depths of the underworld to face Lilith—Adam’s first wife.
If Quinn can stop Lilith from unleashing the demon horde Eve, trapped inside the box during the Battle of Eden millennia ago, she will save the human realm and free Aaron from an eternity in torment.
All it will cost is her blood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Heather L. Reid is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and writing new tales of fantasy and horror.
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