We recently reported about Hex Studios’ new venture into publishing with their new book The Book of Beastly Creatures volume 1.
Bloody Flicks caught up with co-writer and Editorial Director for Hex Arcana, Sarah Daly to discuss this new chapter of Hex Media.
Was it always your plan to expand Hex Media into publishing?
Well, we’d always dreamed of putting out a book one day. After making a few films, there’s something quite appealing about working in a medium where you have so much more control, and where your imagination isn’t limited by your production budget!
The Book of Beastly Creatures came about quite organically, and we enjoyed the process so much that we decided we’d take a more formal step into the publishing world, by setting up Hex Arcana Publishing.
How long have you and the other writers been working on the stories for Book of Beastly Creatures?
About a year altogether, from conception to the final edits. We had hoped to get it wrapped up a little faster, but film projects and life kept getting in the way. I think though, that taking the time to really perfect the stories and hone every element of the book has paid off. I’m very proud of it, and so far, people seem to really be enjoying it, which is all that matters in the end!
What can you tell us about the stories you have written yourself?
I wrote four stories for the book and they’re all pretty disturbing actually! The Siren of Silver Falls is about the vengeful spirit of a mother whose children were murdered by colonists, and who now stalks the children of the town and absorbs them into her flesh!
Baldurrock is a dystopian tale featuring The Owlman, the villain of our movies Lord of Tears and The Black Gloves. It’s set in the same spooky mansion where those films took place, but in a dystopian future (that’s actually a lot like the one we’re living through!).
The Man in the Sand is a somewhat Lovecraftian story about a faceless man who harbours a deadly curse, and The Spider Mother of Hoia Baciu is the heartwarming story of a hideous spider woman who preys on trespassers in a notorious Romanian forest!
So, something for everyone really! And of course, there are 14 more stories in the book, including a novella-length account of the curse of the Infernal Princess from the film The Devil’s Machine.
How do Lawrie Brewster’s and Thomas Staunton’s stories differ from yours?
Good question! I think mine are all quite folk-horror-ish in terms of tone and inspiration. Thomas Staunton has a few like this too, especially his story The Bog which is inspired by the Irish legend of the fear gorta. But Thomas and Lawrie both have some really fun, pulpy stories in there too – like Thomas’s The Mould about, as you would imagine, a diabolical mould creature bent on destroying mankind, and Lawrie’s The Black Hare which describes the legend of a 7-foot-tall wooden hare that snatches children in a Scottish village.
What do you think the Book of Beastly Creatures brings to horror fiction?
I think it revives some of the fun of the horror of the 70s and 80s. It’s a real lucky dip of wild, original, and nightmarish stories, and the vivid, retro artwork by James Olley really brings them to life. There’s nothing understated about it, and I love that. Although the stories are at times very dark, it should evoke a certain nostalgic, childlike sense of fun and magic too.
It was also very important to me to make sure that these short stories were complete stories with solid endings, as that’s something I can find quite frustrating about some modern short stories. I’m not a fan of vague, open-ended, or experiential stories. I want to be told a good old-fashioned story, and I hope we’ve managed that!
What as the research process like for your stories?
For me, I almost always start with folklore or legend, so I looked up stories, images, and reports of strange creatures from around the world, and took bits and pieces of a lot of them to produce new nightmares! I find this part of the process a lot of fun, but it’s very easy to go down a rabbit hole and end up sending way too much time researching rather than writing.
But with any story idea, a big part of it is just letting your mind wander, giving your brain time to put the pieces together, and fill out the world you’re creating. It’s not a very scientific process!
For Lawrie’s novella The Immortal Princess, however, I know that he did a ton of meticulous research, as that story blends an enormous amount of real history with the legend of the automaton. It reads like a genuine report on the doll’s creation and curse, which makes it so captivating and disturbing in equal measure!
Was it a difficult task bringing the stories together as an anthology?
Well, we planned it from the beginning as something that would feel cohesive, but with enough variety to not feel repetitive. So, right from the start, we worked together to ensure that we were covering a good range of styles and a suitably eclectic bestiary of creatures!
The biggest decision we had to make was the illustration style – as we wanted to be sure it worked as well for the more serious stories as it did for the more light-hearted ones. I think we’ve got the balance right but we’ll see what the people think!
What are the future plans for Hex Arcana?
We have big plans! The Book of Beastly Creatures is a kind of test case really, so we’re trying to learn as much as we can about every stage of the publishing process, so that we can bring that knowledge to the next project, and create a sustainable independent model that lets us put out as many titles as possible, while retaining the quality and ‘special-ness’ of the volumes.
We’ll almost certainly be doing a second instalment of The Book of Beastly Creatures, where we’ll seek to bring in some new voices. We’ve also got a couple of exciting novels from new writers that we plan to put out as retro paperbacks. If this first book goes well, we’ll be aiming to publish 3-4 titles per year to start with, and hopefully more as we grow!
Hex Media has always thrived on being an original voice in indie horror, is this the aim with Hex Arcana too?
Absolutely. We, as always, want to champion bold, original storytelling, and new voices. We have a love for classic horror, so we want to always retain something of what made that special, but at the same time find ways to bring that kind of storytelling into the future. We never want to emulate the past, but to retain the best parts of it, while trying to blaze a new trail too! We’re not trendy people, is what I’m saying haha!
Do you plan to explore different sub-genres of horror?
Definitely! In fact, we’re open to all kinds of genre, including science fiction and fantasy. As a film company, we’ve focussed on horror for the past few years, but actually, our passions go beyond horror to every genre that allows a breadth of expression and imagination. We adore Henry James and Stephen King, but we also love Ray Bradbury and Robert E. Howard! Basically, as long as it’s in some way fantastical, we’ll consider it!
Reserve your copy of The Book of Beastly Creatures volume 1 on Kickstarter.