Let me just start off by saying this story was incredible as were the characters. With short novellas like this I usually say you should try to read the whole thing in one sitting to get the full feeling of the story. But in this case, I wished I’d read it a bit slower. This one needs to be savored. There are very few characters, but they are written to perfection and even in such a short amount of time reading, I was invested in them.
The story revolves around Andi and her fascination with the vultures eating the decaying remains of animals in the area around her home. Andi has a dark past which is slowly revealed through the story. Andi learned from her therapist that she may have a growing obsession with her girlfriend Luna which begins Andi’s downward spiral. Her past continues to eat away at her and the story spirals down toward a dark and disturbing climax.
While the story was fantastically and grotesquely perfect, it is not just the plot that has me gushing over this. The language in this novella is both beautiful and disturbing. Tantlinger shows off her mastery of language with incredibly poetic lines throughout the novella. I was in awe of the contrast between the perfection of the words used and the twisted subject matter they described.
And I need to take a moment to point out the fact that I’ve read a lot of horror in my day. All kinds of horror and a lot of which are designed to gross the reader out. If I’m being honest, nothing I’ve read has ever grossed me out to the point where I had to stop reading. But Tantlinger brought me as close to putting down a book as I’ve ever been, strictly due to the gross-out factor. The scene (you’ll know it when you read it) is so well written that you can see the things Andi sees, and smell the things she smells, and taste the things she tastes. Believe me when I tell you this is written for fans of horror and horror fans will love every second and every word in this novella. The dialogue is realistic, if sparse at times, but the story doesn’t need it to succeed. And it certainly succeeds.
I could continue to write about this novella, for me it is the perfect mix of exquisite language and disturbing horror. Tantlinger has already picked up a Stoker Award and it wouldn’t surprise me if she picked up another one next year for this stellar effort. This book has everything you could ask for when it comes to horror. Above all, it makes the reader uncomfortable and engaged from beginning to end. I can’t urge you to read this enough. One of the best things I’ve read this year. Strong 5/5 from me on this.
The Devil’s Dreamland shows off your incredible poetry skills, but in your fiction novella, the writing feels poetic even when discussing horrifying events. How did you learn to write like this?
Poetry has always been my first call to writing, so it really taught me a lot about how to write strong prose. Poetry teaches you how to be concise, effective, evoke emotions in a small amount of time, and use strong sensory descriptions – all aspects that are easily (and should be) applied to prose. So, when I started writing horror poetry specifically, I was able to take all I had learned about poetry in general, and apply those same descriptive ideas to creating dread and describing horrific emotions and scenes.
Which came first to you, poetry or short fiction?
Poetry! I was introduced to Edgar Allan Poe in 7th grade, and once I realized how dark and atmospheric poetry could be, I knew that’s what I wanted to start doing right away.
There is an incredibly gross-out scene in this book that feels so real because of the description; it’s certainly fitting for a horror novella. How do you create these horrific scenes? Where does the inspiration come from?
Ha, well, that could be a couple scenes in this novella! But for me, I really feel the need to earn the “gross” parts or the gore and so on. Personally, I’m usually not into gore for the sake of gore; I need the writer to lure me in and build up to those moments of payoff, so that’s what I tried to do in this novella, To Be Devoured. I wanted the horrific scenes to slowly burn and build up in the reader as that feeling of, ‘oh god what is happening next?’ starts to come. As for the inspiration, I am always trying to read horror and watch horror so I know what other people are creating out there. I never want to be boring or cliché, so I think it’s vital to know what other people are creating and understand how they make something effective or not.
Are you a horror movie fan? If so, what are your favorites?
Definitely! I have so many favorites, but the five off the top of my head right now are The VVitch, The Neon Demon, Donnie Darko, The Thing, and The Silence of the Lambs.
How was StokerCon this year?
It rocked. The panels were just fantastic; there was some great dialogue about diversity and inclusivity, and mental health, along with stellar writing advice. I got to unite with old friends and meet many friends I’ve only spoken to online, which was one of my favorite parts of the con. The HWA family really does consist of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. It makes me proud to be a member of the horror community. And of course, the Stoker banquet was surreal when I got to take home the poetry Stoker for The Devil’s Dreamland!
We love supporting indie horror, especially women in indie horror, are there any authors out there you’d love to give a shout out to?
Yes! There are so many incredible indie horror authors out there right now. Definitively check out the Ladies of Horror Fiction Directory for a more comprehensive list, but for now I’ll give some shout outs to Donna Lynch, Saba Razvi, Christa Carmen, and K.P. Kulski – all amazing ladies to keep your eye on!