Rayne has a couple of stories in the Among the Headstones anthology. I’m going to do a review of Behind Him.
This interview was provided for me, written by Rayne (I’m sure I’ve said enough about the problem with RSI, tendonosis, arfuritis, etc. with my thumbs, wrists and stuff) and I’m very pleased to show you her work in both the anthology (and other stories) and the reviewed story.
Interview with Headstones Author: Rayne Hall
What are cemeteries like in Bulgaria where you live?
Most graves have headstones of white marble gleaming in the Bulgarian sun. Some have a small cross in the upper left corner, denoting a practising Christian. During Bulgaria’s communist era, religion was not forbidden but discouraged, so the signs of faith were applied discreetly. More recent graves often have photographic portraits imprinted into the marble surface, showing what the deceased looked like in life.
Vases filled with plastic flowers – mostly pink and red – create a surprisingly cheerful and garish effect. Here and there, an Indian-style lantern holding a tea light adds an exotic touch.
Many cemeteries spread at the edge of a town, often surrounded by stunning scenery. This makes them pleasant places for a visit.
You used to live in England. What are the cemeteries there like?
The rural English cemeteries are often very old, surrounding churches from the Norman and early mediaeval period. Headstones tend to be 200 or more years old, grey, tilting, encrusted with lichen.
Often, there’s a huge ancient yew tree growing in the cemetery. This tradition may date back to the days of the Druids who planted yews in sacred sites. In the Middle Ages, the planting of yew trees was encouraged because their wood made good longbows, and the leaves were believed to absorb the vapours from the putrefaction of corpses.
Has a real-life cemetery or grave ever inspired you to write a story?
More than once. I like to walk among the headstones, read their inscriptions, imagine how those people lived and died.
Walking in a cemetery in my neighbourhood in Bulgaria and trying to decipher the Cyrillic inscriptions inspired my story ‘Behind You’. A young man wanders around a cemetery, reads the inscription and realises they spell out a scary message for him. This story is included in the collection The Bride’s Curse: Bulgarian Gothic Ghost and Horror Stories, and in the anthology Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard.
When I lived in England, I had an idea for a ghost story about a victim of the plague who haunts a cemetery. To get the atmosphere right, I spent a night alone in one of the remote rural graveyards, next to an old Norman church. I listened to my footsteps crunching on the gravel paths and the wind rustling the leaves. I watched clouds ghost across the moon, and moonlight streaking the ancient headstones in silver-grey light. I ran my fingers across the rough, lichen-encrusted surfaces of the headstones, and even dug my fingers into the cool soil of a grave, to feel what it’s like.
The experience changed how I told that story. The resulting tale is far more vivid (and much creepier) than what I had plotted at the desk. This story has been published several times, including in the collection: Thirty Scary Tales and in the anthology Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard.
What scared you when you were a child?
As a kid, I was terrified of slugs and spiders. Nowadays, these animals don’t frighten me.
But there was also a certain certain male adult family member who gave me the creeps. I didn’t know why I felt that way, but whenever he asked me to accompany him on one of his late evening walks in the fields and wastelands, I felt a cold, creepy, clammy disgust crawling across my skin.
Now as an adult, I understand the situation only too well. I have since heard what this man did to other girls my age, and realise he was a paedophile trying to groom me. That weird sensation of clammy disgust crawling across my skin was my instinct, warning me to keep away from this man.
I’m grateful to my instinct for keeping me safe. These days, if my instinct gives me this creepy feeling about someone – whether I can discern a rational reason for the dislike or not – I trust my instinct and keep that person out of my life.
What do you like about the Horror Genre?
Scaring readers is fun. Horror – especially Gothic Horror – is an intensely emotional genre. I enjoy evoking emotions in my readers: apprehension, suspense, dread, fear, terror… punctuated by positive feelings like hope, relief, gratitude, joy.
As a reader, what kind of short stories you enjoy most?
I love stories which take me to places where I’ve never been, and give me an insider experience. This means locations – countries, regions, buildings – and also occupations and hobbies, anything the author knows well, and invites me to enter.
Who is your favourite Gothic author? Why?
I adore the Victorian ghost story writer Amelia Edwards. Her tales are suspenseful, creepy, spooky, believable. They often involve locations which she herself has visited – a Jewish graveyard in Venice, an inn on the edge of the German Black Forest – and she describes them so well, with atmosphere and understanding, that I feel I’m there. She is a master at building suspense. The pacing in her story is not rushed. By modern standards, the pace would be considered slow, but it is never boring, because she builds the suspense so skilfully.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first piece I remember writing was a story about a letter’s adventures from writing to delivery. This came about when I was about five and bored by the stories we had to read in school.
I told the teacher that the stories in the school book were stupid and I could write better ones. She challenged me to write a story, and gave me the topic. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six-year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn’t know I’d had the help of my thirteen-year-old sister.
From then on, when the other kids had to read the dull pieces for their homework, the teacher often assigned me to write stories, and I soon learnt to do it without my sister’s help.
I wish I could read that story, and see how my five-year-old self about telling the tale. I remember one section vividly: the letter got dropped into the letterbox, and I described the scary fall into a dark, unfamiliar space. Perhaps this was not only my first-ever story, but my first foray into Dark Fantasy and Horror fiction.
How would you describe your writing voice?
Gothic, suspenseful, atmospheric, vivid, lush and creepy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, RAYNE HALL
Rayne Hall writes fantasy, horror and non-fiction, and is the author of over 100 books. Her horror stories are more atmospheric than violent, and more creepy than gory, and often leans towards the Gothic, e.g The Bride’s Curse: Bulgarian Gothic Ghost and Horror Stories.
She is also the acclaimed editor of Gothic, Fantasy and Horror anthologies (e.g. Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard, and Fiends: Ten Tales of Demons), and author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series for advanced-level writers (including Writing Gothic Fiction, Writing Dark Stories, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Magic, Horror Writing Prompts, Writing About Villains.)
Born and raised in Germany, Rayne Hall has lived in China, Mongolia, Nepal and Britain. Now she resides in a village Bulgaria. The country’s ancient Roman ruins and the deserted houses from Bulgaria’s communist period provide inspiration for creepy ghost and horror stories.
Her lucky black cat Sulu, adopted from the cat rescue shelter, often accompanies her when she explores spooky derelict buildings. He delights in walking across shattered roof tiles, balancing on charred rafters and sniffing at long-abandoned hearths.
Rayne has worked as an investigative journalist, development aid worker, museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, belly dancer, magazine editor, publishing manager and more, and now writes full time.
ABOUT THE BOOK AMONG THE HEADSTONES: CREEPY TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD
This anthology, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest – and creepiest – graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors and fresh voices.
Here you’ll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.
You’ll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.
Now let’s open the gate – can you hear it creak on its hinges? – and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.
But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement… They may be right behind you.
Purchase Link: mybook.to/Headstones
The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.) The paperback is already published.
What do the words on the gravestones really say?
A photo-opp, a perfect setting for authentic and weird, a slant to get better views. And the app that translates what’s written on the stones. Can’t be right, can it?
It’s a trick, a mistake. Someone trying to give him a fright, perhaps, as he and his friend once did to a young girl. Hmmm, I’m starting to get an underlying sense of unease, and I’m worried about what’s going to happen …
Or is this just what he deserves?
You wait and see for yourself, feel, despair and fight the conflicting emotions. I hoped he got what he deserved – you tell me: did he?
A gravely creepy and visceral story. I loved it, and I’m sure if you like scary stories that convey a sense of utterly real that you will, too.
NB: If you like to visit these places, just make sure you leave before the sun goes down, despite those serene sunsets over the mountains.