To celebrate the recent release of Beneath A Bethel, April-Jane Rowan took part in an interview to tell everyone a bit more about what she thinks of the Horror genre, some of her favourite Horror recommendations and also why she probably seemed a little bit strange as a child…
So, when did you first start writing? What was your first ever project about?
I cant remember exactly how old I was but I would guess I started writing around ten. I wrote a lot of poems and short stories but my first real project was called Power, Money and Instincts. It was about a homeless girl that is hired to kill a wealthy man and the investigator that is trying to track her and her employers down. It was all about morals and what you’re willing to do for a better life. I was very dedicated to this story and it even went through a round of edits and I drew out the cover by hand!
Have you always been interested in dark subject matter?
Well, I wrote my first story when I was around 12 so that gives you an idea! It was a very bleak and was an unusual subject matter for my age, or so my mum said at the time! I also drew a lot of Horror pictures around that age, my favourite ones being a series of dead women surrounded by flowers. I used to stick them up on my wall and I can remember my mum asking me if I didn’t want to draw some nicer pictures ha-ha.
Do you like to read a lot of Horror books?
Yes I do! The more surreal, the better! Some of my favourites are The Haunting of Hill house by Shirley Jackson, Bunny by Mona Awad, Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll, The Necrophiliac by Gabrielle Wittkop, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley. I highly recommend all of these if you are looking for Body Horror, lush writing and uncomfortable subject matters.
How has being a reader influenced your writing style and/or story content?
My favourite Horror books gave me confidence to push boundaries in my own writing. I used to struggle with how dark to make my stories. How much body horror was too much? Can I write about taboo themes? I would rein myself in because I thought no one would want to read my work if it was too strange or too disgusting. Through finding my favourite niche in the Horror genre to read, I’ve discovered that books like mine exist out there and people want to read them!
Tell us more about your debut release. What inspired you to create the world it’s set in?
Beneath a Bethel was written when I was in the middle of editing another book and needed a break. I often start little projects while editing as it’s such a tax on my brain that I need something to remind me why I like writing! The idea of bone china and how it is made from animal bones kept tugging at my thoughts. I wanted to create a town where porcelain teeth were the basis of their culture, where they were the conduit for magical wishes. Once I had those ideas in place, the town of Elbridge blossomed, from the frozen mountain region to the grandeur and pomp of its citizens.
Would you ever want to live in one of your fictional worlds?
Hmm, maybe not? Ha-ha-ha! Most of my worlds are pretty gruesome with harsh cultures so I imagine I wouldn’t have such a fun time living in one! I’d have to be a lot tougher than I am now to survive!
In Beneath A Bethel, the setting is very cold and remote. What are you favourite kinds of environments to set stories in?
Forests and water are always my go to environments, so much so that’s its sort of become an in-joke with my family. I think my love for them stems from wishing for so many years that I lived in those locations, I just find being in forests or by water so relaxing. Now I live by a forest and a lake so maybe those settings will stop appearing in my work, I doubt it though!
How has being LGBTQ+ influenced your stories? Is it important to you to include queer characters in your books?
Being queer myself, it is very important to me to have different LGBTQ+ representations in my books. Our world is so colourful, not only in regards to sexuality but also ethnicity and body types. I want my stories to reflect that, for each set of characters to feel completely different from the last, to showcase all different aspects of life.
Which of the characters in Beneath A Bethel do you identify most with?
Surprisingly, probably Gillis. He comes from the same poor background as Angora and is simply trying to survive in a town that has no sympathies or allowances for the class you were born into. While I would never do what he does, I can understand fighting for yourself and family constantly and how that could drive a person to make such terrible decisions.
Do you have any other projects that you plan to release after Beneath A Bethel?
I do! I’m currently planning out the sequel to Beneath a Bethel and editing a novel called Lovelorn. It’s about the fair folk and two mortals that get caught in their dark forest realm. Both are due to be published by Gurt Dog next year so keep an eye out for those!