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We're delving into paranormal horror this month with Past the Garden Wall by C.H. Townsend.
It has been 71 years and 63 days since the last time the seasons changed. The world is cast into an endless Autumn. A monstrous and mysterious scarecrow named 'Banshee' haunts the isolated pioneer town of LockHaven, but never is able to cross the river or wall that protects the town. The ambitious mayor, Cordi, decides to do something about this. Ever since Flaming Night 20 years ago, when Banshee was able to breech the defenses and raze half the town to the ground, Cordi has been on edge and seeking revenge. He plans is to go out into the Black Frontier, the region outside the town the residents have known all their lives, and kill the nightmarish Autumnal monster that has terrorized them for decades.
Thanks to an amazing writing group and I can say this is a writer worth supporting, and I've got Past the Garden Wall on my own list to read first chance I get. Meet C.H. Townsend and read an excerpt of the book below!
Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
"I've been writing for six or so years, and so me being 18 it was around 6th to 7th grade when I first started. As with every writer, it was laughably bad, and my first "books" really opened my eyes to the complexities of writing and literature. I think I got started just because I had so many worlds and stories and characters to tell, ever since I had stuffed animals and Lego toys. It just seemed like the next step, I guess. To write is easy in the sense that you don't need any super expensive equipment or money or managing skills or a group of people to do it. You just sit down at the keyboard to write. So, I did that."
Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?
"I love fantasy. I was a huge Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Rick Riordan fan. I still read fantasy, as I'm on the 4th book of Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive. It was one of the first genres I wrote, and I suppose I've been at it ever since."
What are your goals for your writing?
"My goal is the goal of every writer. To become published and live off of that lifestyle and type of work. I know it'll be hard, and I know that in my future I'll be working all sorts of jobs, but I'm more than determined to accomplish my dream. But, for smaller goals, I want to finish editing this December and January and then submit it to publishers this late Winter and Spring."
What inspired the book?
"This book has lots of inspiration. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, New England, and Autumn is my favorite season. I refuse to say Fall, because Autumn just sounds so much better. The foliage is gorgeous, and then there's always Halloween and the spells of fear and wonder that it evokes. As a child I also watched this show on Cartoon Network called Over the Garden Wall, which is the obvious inspiration for the name and some of the names of places and things in the story. I was captivated by these two big things in my life and wanted to give them an even darker and wondrous twist of my own. The title and names of some places and things will be changed by the end of this year."
Who is your favorite character in the book and why? Tell me a little about them.
"My favorite character is Autumn. It's not a character in the traditional sense, but I tried hard to make the setting a character. It corresponds and fluxuates with Banshee, so I'll group them as one in the same, because in truth of the story and the lore I created it's true. I poured hours of thoughts here and there between other priorities and activities in life to figuring out how to make Banshee and the Autumn truly terrifying. He destroys the senses of people before he kills them, and I think that's what makes him scary. First you can't see, then you can't hear. He fills your ears, and then his glowing eyes fill your own eyes as the last thing you'll see. He's the enemy of human spirit, and he was s much fun to write."
What was the most challenging part about writing the story?
"The most challenging part was making it historically and logically accurate to the setting, hands down. First picking a general location, and then choosing a time period accurate to the weapons and technologies, and then aging it 7 decades.... It definitely required thought I still don't think I have. The complexities of language and technology and nature and culture were hard to gauge, but I think I did a pretty good job for such a hard topic."
Do you have anything else you'd like to say to the readers?
"You've never seen an enemy like Banshee, or a world like it. I hope you can fall in love with my characters and with my world, just as I did. It was loads of fun to write, and reads well with popcorn. If you do choose to check it out, feel free to leave comments!"
A little pushing awoke me. I was completely blind; there was absolutely no light. Where did the moon go? Where did the stars go? My memory went back to a phrase George always repeated from his old, failing mind: Mankind, the bringer of fire and light, will prevail.
It didn’t seem that way now in the dark.
I didn’t even know who woke me, but he went fumbling around until he found his bedroll. I rubbed my eyes, trying my best to focus them, but everything was so black. I made careful not to step on anyone as I heard the familiar sound of steel hitting flint. I bumped into him and he moved with a start.
“Shit! Who is that?”
“Maim my cow, Sid! Ya gave me jumps. Cant find any damn tinder in this dark. I have a dang rope tied around my waist so I don get lost.”
“Damn. Who is this, anywho? An what rotation is this?”
“John. It’s the third.”
“What that rope even tied ta?”
“Oh, that tree on the edge of the clearin.”
“Ya betcha I am.”
“Fuck! Cordi, ya scared me!”
“Quit yer jumpin, John. Sid, ya had the right idea bout fire.”
“I can see that, now.”
“Ya sure ya can?”
“Funny. John, give me that flint n steel, why don ya?”
I took out some paper, char cloth, and goowood of my own— charred cloth and very sappy sections of pine wood— and went to work. Soon enough the only light in the immense dark was born. A small ball of red to begin, and with a little nursing and breathing it grew exponentially. It started consuming the cloth and ate some of the dry paper and soon enough the sappy tinder. I fumbled around with my hands to find the kindling and logs, and placed it inside. The fire started licking up the sticks, growing larger and larger, until it brightened up our surroundings. Cordi’s bright yellow vest almost seemed to glow in the light.
Maybe George was right about the fire and light parts. All we had now was to prevail.
“What ya thinkin bout namin yer rifle when ya get one, Sid?” John asked, merry and bright in the warm light. He held joyous anticipation, like a child being told to sit still before opening his present.
“Ta be honest,” I said, leaning back on the leafy floor, “I never gave much thought bout that. And yers?”
“I was thinkin somethin fearsome sounding. Can't think of any good names, though,” the little fire danced in his hopeful eyes, “Shame we don have any whale oil. Heard from my grandpa that shit lit up real quick. A liquid, too!” John chuckled.
A monotone ringing filled my ears.
The rope around his waist went taut and he flew backward into the darkness.
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