1) Why did you choose to write horror?
I wouldn’t say that I chose to wrote horror but rather that horror chose me to be its disciple of evil mwahahahahaha. Seriously though, I started out writing Ensnared as a fantasy adventure story and NOPE my characters were like this has to be a horror. Tried writing another book and NOPE my characters were like, this has to be a horror. It took me about three books to accept it but now I fully accept that while I do write other genres (rarely) I am predominantly a horror writer and it’s what I’m good at.
2) What is your fav thing about the genre?
What is there not to like about being a horror author. We have very few limitations because we can go from the creepy supernatural to the insane human psych and absolutely everything in between and while we’re at it we can do it, not only in a main horror genre, but in other genres like science fiction, fantasy or romance. Anything can be turned into an excellent horror with the right amount of skill, and psychosis.
3) Tell us about your latest book
The latest book that I have released is a good old fashioned adult haunted house horror that takes the reader into the depths of an underground mansion and the spooky stories of the family of murderers that built and lived in it. It has been my most popular book to date and is still selling quite well. It follows a team of paranormal investigators who are bent on proving ghosts DO NOT exist, when suddenly they are running for their lives from the things they are trying to disprove.
4) If you had one piece of advice about writing horror, what would it be?
It isn’t an easy genre to break into so you have to work at it steadily. Horror fans tend to have favourites (especially Stephen King) and you’re competing against a lot of talent. Invest in your craft, work hard at it and you’ll break out in the genre. Don’t give up after the first few books don’t do as well as you hoped.
5) Who are your fav women in horror?
This is a tough one because I have so many but definitely the top of my list would be Anne Rice. She writes some amazing horror books, among other genres, and I have even had the honour of chatting to her on Facebook where she gave me some pretty cool writing advice. She is just a great person all around, as an author and a human being, and I admire her a lot because she doesn’t back down from what she firmly believes in.
Chapter Seven from Ensnared
Amari didn’t sleep at all that night; she also didn’t touch Kiara’s book again. She spent most of the night curled up in the corner of her bed staring at her mirror, petrified that at any time Raven would appear again to finish her off.
At some point she dozed off and woke with a start, convinced someone was in her room with her. She tried convincing herself she had gone mad, that this was all a hallucination from hitting her head. At some point she even persuaded herself that she was in fact dead and existing in a purgatory place and that was why this was happening to her.
Fact was, she knew she wasn’t mad, or dead, and that thought scared her more than anything.
She hadn’t been to church since she was much younger, and wasn’t strictly religious, but she prayed throughout the night. She was sure some of the prayers she said were actually hymns from Sunday school, but she didn’t care, she just begged God to listen to her and keep her safe from whatever was in this house making contact with her.
Amari even considered going to church the next day, to speak to a priest about blessing her. For the first time in a long time she also considered moving out, getting a temp job and finding some cheap accommodation. Anything to avoid the horrors that Kiara had told her about and that she had seen here in her room.
When she came downstairs for breakfast the next morning, her mother watched her worriedly. The minute she sat down, Sashqua put a bowl of warm porridge in front of her and felt her head.
“Did you get any rest, sweetheart?”
Amari pulled away. “Mom, I’m not a little girl anymore.”
Sashqua tutted and went back to her seat. “You will always be my little girl. You look exhausted, love, what’s wrong?”
Amari shook her head, not trusting herself to speak for fear she would tell her parents everything and they would believe she had lost her mind, and possibly send her to an insane asylum. Maybe that was where she belonged.
She picked at her breakfast and both her parents watched her.
Jono cleared his throat and said, “Well, there’s no point in studying if you don’t feel well. Why don’t you take the day off and relax.”
“I could use a little more sleep,” Amari gratefully commented, setting her spoon down in her bowl. “I might go now … in fact, I’m exhausted.”
Jono nodded. “You’re excused.”
Sashqua bit her lip. “Do you want me to fix you something else? I can bring it to your room.” She stood up. “I can make you some soup and bring you a bottle of water.”
Amari held her hand up. “It’s okay, mom, I’ll come down later to eat. I’m not sick, just tired.” She went upstairs and shut the door, but sleep was the furthest thing from her mind.
Looking around her room warily, she pulled her throw blanket off of her bed and tossed it over her mirror. She didn’t want to look up again and see Raven staring at her. She then looked for the book and set it on her table.
First thing was, she needed to shower and get dressed. Amari felt as if she had been living in her current clothes for weeks opposed to just over twenty-four hours. She went downstairs and turned on the hot water. She locked the door and stripped away her clothes, her muscles groaning with the effort. The room started to steam up as she stepped into the shower and closed the door, letting the hot water cascade down her back and loosen her muscles.
She was coming to terms with the fact that this was really happening to her and she had to find a way to help Kiara get out of that book. The poor girl. Trapped by her evil stepmother. Amari felt a small sense of excitement building up next to the fear she was swallowing. She had to help Kiara. No girl deserved to be trapped like that because of some witch.
The excitement inside continued to grow. This was an adventure, a real life adventure. This wasn’t just some book she was reading or a movie she was watching, she got to do something truly daring. She was going to help Kiara out of that book, and help her adjust to a new life in the modern world. It all formed in Amari’s mind while she let the hot water rinse off the last of her fear.
Once she was done in the shower, she stepped out and wrapped a towel around her body. The giant smile that had formed on her face quickly disappeared as she looked towards the mirror.
It was steamed up and someone had written DO NOT DO IT across with their finger.
Amari shivered before whispering, “Kiara?”
She kept a close eye on the mirror, hoping it was her new friend trying to give her a message. Nothing else happened so she wiped the mirror and stared into it. Her reflection stared back. Giving herself a mental shake, Amari opened the cabinet to take out her tooth brush. As she closed it she came face to face with Raven, staring at her wide-eyed and angry.
Amari dropped her toothbrush and took a step back, slipping on water on the tiled floor. She hit the floor hard and felt her muscles seize up as a result; her lower back took the brunt of the fall. She looked up to the mirror quickly and when she didn’t see anything, she slowly got up. She saw only her own reflection and bent down to get her toothbrush.
When she stood up the mirror was steamed up, with the same writing, DO NOT DO IT.
Amari brushed her teeth quickly and left the bathroom, not bothering to wipe the mirror. Paused at the stairs going up to her room, she glanced back at the bathroom. She could just see the mirror and it was no longer steamed up.
Raven’s latest scare tactic did not deter her; in fact it strengthened her resolve to help Kiara. She quickly made her way upstairs and got dressed.
Sitting at her desk, she placed Kiara’s closed book in front of her and placed her hands on it, closing her eyes.
Kiara, are you here?
Amari opened the book.
Amari shut the book again and placed her hands on it, clearing her mind and keeping it focused on Kiara and what she planned to do.
I think that Raven is after me. Do you know if she is still here? I don’t understand how she is appearing in the mirrors and stuff.
Amari let the book drop open.
She died in the forest after she buried something there. I sensed her presence here, especially as I grew stronger. I think that her spirit hated me so much that it hung onto the property, wanting to make sure I never go free. Oh, Amari, I am so sorry she is trying to hurt you. You should put my book back and never think of me again, perhaps then she will leave you alone.
Amari frowned as she read this; this was the exact opposite of what she wanted to do. She wanted to help Kiara and she wasn’t going to let some dead woman stop her now. She knew it would be hard, but maybe she could get Kiara out the book and maybe they could defeat Raven together.
Kiara, is there a way to send Raven’s soul to rest? Or to get you out of the book?
This will be very dangerous. A malevolent spirit like Raven’s could hurt you badly. I don’t want you to get hurt. You’re the first person I’ve ever been able to communicate with properly and I don’t want you to get hurt because of me, because Raven wants me gone.
Amari was getting frustrated and thought as much. Enough, Kiara! I am doing this! Either you help me or I will try figure it out on my own.
Only if you’re sure! Raven had a spell book she would consult. The spell to bind me into this book was in there. If you could find the spell that can be used to free me then I believe I can finally be free. Your ability to communicate with me means you have some magic in you, which also means you will be able to perform the spell. It will be dangerous, and Raven will do whatever to stop you.
Amari read the lines repeatedly. Her? Do a spell? That was insane, but then, this was all insane. She nodded and shut the book, pondering what to ask next. Where would a dead witch store her spell book? As far as she knew, the farm had been deserted for a long time before her parents bought it off an auction. Perhaps it was still here.
Kiara, do you know where the spell book is? Where it could be hidden?
I think so. In fact, that might have been the very thing she was burying. I sense a terrible and dark magic in my beloved woods, and I believe this is her book I am sensing. It is in the spot where I was, when the spell was cast and I was taken from your world.
Amari closed the book one last time.
Okay, so that’s the plan. I will find the spell book, find the spell and free you from this book no matter what.
Please, just be careful! I don’t want you to get hurt.
Amari didn’t plan on getting hurt. She tied the book shut and put it in the top drawer of her desk. Taking a deep breath, she gazed out to the forest. For some odd reason it appeared scarier now than ever. She thought she saw shadows moving there, but frowned at herself. She needed to separate fact from fiction. She couldn’t let her imagination run away with her now, because there were shadows and they could hurt her.
She watched the woods, trying to figure out from Kiara’s story where she could have been when she was turned into a tree. Amari remembered the clearing - that was about the best place to start.
Her father left the house to his chores on the land. She took a deep breath and stood up; it was now or never.
Making her way downstairs to the living room, she paused to look at her mother, who was busy knitting.
“Mom,” she said.
Sashqua looked up. “You feeling better, love?”
Amari smiled. “I just wanted to go for a walk in the woods. I think some fresh air would do me some good.”
Her mother frowned. “Do you really think that is wise? What if you fall again?”
“I’ll be careful, and I won’t go beyond the wall, so it’s not like I can get lost.”
Sashqua sighed. “Okay, but not too long.”
Amari nodded and went to put her jacket and scarf on. As she stepped out of the house it felt as if the wind instantly picked up and howled around her. Her hair whipped in her face and she pulled it into her jacket and wrapped her scarf around her neck so it couldn’t blow too freely. She strode towards the forest with purpose. She wasn’t going to let any cold weather, violent winds or her own fears stop her from helping Kiara. She paused briefly just on the edge of the forest. She could see through the trees and it seemed like the forest was eternal.
Taking a deep breath, Amari headed into the forest. The wind seemed to pick up more speed, whipping branches back and forth. Thankfully the branches were so high up they couldn’t hit her, but still she needed to pull her jacket closer.
She kept looking ahead, not daring to look to her sides or behind her in case she gave herself the creeps, or saw something she didn’t want to. A shadow crossed her path up ahead, and Amari paused. She hadn’t seen it clearly, but something had definitely dashed between the trees. Pressing on, she ignored the feeling that something, or someone, was watching her. She could see the clearing up ahead and relief washed over her. At least there she would be able to see a bit better.
The strangest thing happened as she crossed into the clearing. The wind suddenly ceased. It was as though she had stepped indoors, or into a shelter. She could see the trees swaying around her and she could hear the wind, but it just wasn’t present in the clearing.
Amari took another deep breath to steady her nerves. She wasn’t sure where to go from here. She faced the trees and then gradually swivelled, trying to figure out her next move and hoping for a sign.
She realised there was someone standing to her left. She turned back that way again, facing the pale woman in the black dress. For some odd reason, seeing Raven did not increase her fear, but rather made her angry.
“You don’t scare me!” she yelled at the spectre. “AND YOU CAN’T HURT ME!”
The ghost of the witch simply stared, her eyes fully black and her arms to her side.
Amari took a step towards her. “You hear me? You do not scare me, Raven!”
The name echoed through the trees and Amari stood her ground as the spectre slowly shook her head. Raven opened her mouth and said something, but no sound emerged. She lifted her arm, her hand flat with the palm facing Amari, as she continued to mouth. Amari realised she was trying to cast something, and wondered whether ghosts could cast spells successfully.
That was when Amari noticed the shadow running along the side of the trees.
Shifting to see what the shadow was, she realised that Raven was not facing her at all, but rather the shadow running amid the trees. The shadow was little; it looked like it was wearing a dress.
Kiara! It dawned on Amari that she was witnessing what happened that fateful day. Kiara had to be manipulating the forest to help show her this vision so she knew where to start looking.
Amari watched as the little shadow ran straight for her and before she could do anything they collided and everything went black.
When Amari opened her eyes she was the one running, the same way she had run the first time she came into the forest. She tried to stop, but it seemed that her body was moving of its own accord, as though she was there in mind but something had taken over her body.
Amari’s head turned itself and she looked behind her, seeing Raven standing on the path with her hand raised up. She looked ahead of her again. She was brought to a jerking stop when her dressed snagged on a branch. That was when Amari knew something else was happening, for she hadn’t been wearing a skirt when she left the house. She started to panic, until she saw petite hands trying to wrench the skirt away from the branches. She was experiencing Kiara’s memories - it was Kiara!
She was trying to help Amari figure out where the spell book was.
As Kiara, she looked back at Raven standing just outside the clearing, the wind whipping her dress and hair about, which just made her look more fearsome. Kiara kept trying to snatch the skirt away from the branch and she started to panic. The branches formed a circle around her, as though trapping her in place. She shrieked, sobbing to herself that she needed to get free. The branches closed in around her until she couldn’t make out anything except the branches.
Then the world went dark.
Amari blinked a few times as the wind tugged and pulled her hair free from her scarf. She was no longer in the clearing. She was on the path where Kiara’s life had come to an end, and she was trapped in the book. She stared at where the branches had been, the branches she had felt were trapping her, and there was no tree there. It was an empty space.
She gazed down the path and could just make out where the clearing was. Where Raven had been, casting the evil spell. Amari clenched her fists and started towards the clearing.
Kiara had shown her the way. She knew where to start looking for the book.
Born in South Africa, in the heart of Johannesburg, Sian Claven grew up with a vivid imagination. When she wasn't immersing herself in books, she was actively creating her own stories.
At 29 years old, left to her own devices after her sister immigrated, Sian, wrote her first horror book Ensnared and dared to publish it under the guidance of indie authors Toni Cox and Ashleigh Giannaccaro.
Now she has released more than ten books including a thriller and sci-fi fantasy.
In 2019, Sian took up the challenge of publishing 11 books in 11 months.
Sian came second place in the First Annual Indie Awards for Favourite African Author.
Sian's book, Sylvana, the final book in her Butcher series, made the Amazon top 100 best sellers list in several categories across three countries.
In her spare time, Sian is an avid Harry Potter fan, pop collector and Bingo addict. She resides in Johannesburg with her 2 best friends, their daughter, their 6 dogs and 3 cats.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”