GeriHave you been down to the Weird Wild Woods? You’re sure for a big surprise. For down in the woods the wild things lurk, from hungry trolls to battling fae. Join the bears for the teddy bears picnic and enjoy more than a slice of pie. Beware the chime of the bluebells and those who dance to their ring. Basque in the shade of the Dragon Tree but beware it’s flaming leaves.

Fox Spirit Books has just released the collection Weird Wild. The author, Geraldine Clark Hellery, has been so kind to answer some questions about the book and her writing.

What is Weird Wild about?
Weird Wild is a collection of interconnected short stories and poems all set in the Weird Wild Woods, an ever expanding forest, which took its inspiration from places such as Dartmoor, Scottish Highlands and places further afield such as the Amazon rainforest. I know, a rainforest? It was a spooky place, what can I say? There’s a mix of genres, from horror to supernatural and fantasy as well as different styles, so I hope there’s something for everybody.

What inspired you to write the book?
The first story I wrote, “The Lake”, was written for a competition and I continued to work on it long after submission. The brief was to write a story, describe a man but never really mention him. For some reason my first image was of a man who stood by a lake. It evolved from there. It’s probably the one story in Weird Wild which is, while not being explicitly gory, in my mind a pure horror story, really psychologically challenging. The feedback I’ve had from readers – well, those brave enough to speak to me after reading it – is that it’s one of their favourite, but most disturbing stories.

Then I was contacted by Adele Wearing about submitting a short story for her newly formed publishing company, Fox Spirit Books. My story, originally published in the anthology Tales of the Nun and Dragon, is probably what started Weird Wild. The story, renamed “The Lookout” for Weird Wild, focusses on a group of university friends hiking in the forest. They soon discover the woods hold more than toasted marshmallows and mosquito bites.

I decided that I wanted to take my writing seriously and therefore needed to challenge myself. As part of this, I determined to take myself out of my comfort zone and write stories in different styles and even poetry. Once I started, it was hard to stop. I was left with a collection of short stories I liked, but wasn’t sure what to do with. Luckily, once again, Adele came to the rescue and agreed to publish the collection. It took a while to get the stories into a cohesive set but I’m really happy with the final result.

Could you tell us a little about the cover of it?
I’m incredibly lucky to be married to a graphic designer, and all round amazing man, who had read the collection and was keen to share his vision of Weird Wild. I love the cover, it’s so different, a bit like hubby and I, and really encompasses the concept of the book as well as featuring some of the key sites in the Weird Wild Woods.

What is your relationship to the speculative genres?
I always write what interests me. Whatever genre you write in, it’s always the idea, that itch that you need to scratch that starts you off, then I just listen to the characters and follow them on their adventure. My ideas come from everywhere: the fabulous briefs supplied by Fox Spirit or other publishers, something I see on the street or TV and yes, even the odd dream.

I think that speculative fiction has risen in popularity over the last few years and this is in part because of the resurgence of the short story. Due to a number of reasons, I think people’s attention spans and/or time for reading has decreased, something I know I’m guilty of. Short stories can be read in bursts, with no need to remember continuity or character arcs. Also, I think people are more likely to take a risk on a set of short stories, especially those in anthologies because if there’s one story you don’t like, the chances are there’s ten others that you will enjoy. Compared to buying a whole book by an author which you might not end up liking, an anthology is a safer, more economical purchase.

Could you tell a little about your writing and other books?
While actually getting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, happens in fits and starts, I’m always writing in my head. I remember reading that writers are either planners, pantsers or percolators. Well I’m definitely a percolator. There will be that spark of an idea which I’ll often write down: it might just be a word, title or a character. An idea sits in my head for a while, until the shouts of the characters get so loud I have to sit down and get their story out. I love National Novel Writing Month so that’s normally my opportunity to get a lot of writing done. Luckily hubby is very understanding so I often get out of a lot of chores for a month while I go on different adventures.

My love of the short story continues and I have pieces coming out with Fox Spirit Books in the anthologies Girl at the End of the World: Volume 1 and Fox Pockets: Under the Waves. Both pieces explore the characters sense of isolation in uncertain circumstances and how they work to save themselves.

Alongside my short stories, I’ve written a YA science fiction novel called Light in Darkness which follows Akane, one of the last Orions, as she battles the alien shadows who are trying to infect mankind. It’s a bit like invasion of the bodysnatchers but with a little romance, more adventure, magical necklaces and more than a little girl power. I’m in the process of serialising my other YA novel Elesphere on my blog. Elesphere follows Suki, a goddess who’s fallen to Earth as she travels the globe searching for pieces of the Elesphere which will return her to the heavens and help her reclaim her throne. She’s helped by a group of friends, including one of my favourite characters, an over-amorous sprite called Bimble.

I’m also working on a supernatural series called The Vampire’s Bodyguard. I wanted to take the supernatural’s highest predator, a vampire, and see what would happen if they were wounded, or needed assistance from what would normally be their prey, a human. I’ve already finished TVB: Basic Training and have a very rough outline of TVB: The Changeling with plans for at least two more books after that. I’m not sure if they will ever see the light of day, but I’m really enjoying playing around with ideas and preconceptions of the supernatural.

Tell a little about yourself
Oh blimey, what to tell? It’s funny, because I’m normally a very private person, but since trying to launch myself as a writer, I’ve been sharing more on my blog. I love to travel and was lucky enough to spend time living in foreign countries, including the Galapagos Islands, Japan and Spain, which have all contributed to my writing and given me plenty of inspiration.

I also have a passion for movies, normally B Horrors, which I’m sure have been a key influence on my writing. I’ve even started reviewing them on my blog, to help me be a little more critical of my own work. However, I started with fantasy movies. I remember as a child watching Legend and falling in love with unicorns and fairies. It’s a love that endures today!

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Weird wild
Thank you, Geri, and good luck on all the current and future projects.

If you want to find out more about Geri and her writing, check out her blog here and chat with her on Twitter, where she is @gclarkhellery

Geri’s book Weird Wild can be ordered from Amazon here.

If you like the cover, you might be interested in checking out the website of Geri’s husband, Matthew, here.

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