Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Dream antho launches in London

Honestly, I don't get out much; I sometimes tell people I'm "a bit of hermit" and that's probably true. My old agent used to suggest that I could drop in at the agency when I was "next in London" - and I never was in London! It's not that I don't like London - I was born there, after all - but it's over 400 miles away so you can't really "nip" there from Perthshire. Anyway, this month I did actually make one of my rare visits to the capital, for a multi-author signing event at the Forbidden Planet Megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue. The book in question was Dark Academia anthology In These Hallowed Halls, published on 12th September by Titan Books; my particular story was called "The Professor of Ontography". I was signing alongside Kate Weinberg, Tori Bovalino and editors Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane: illustrious company, so I dressed up a bit with my favourite Gothic blouse and an antique brooch which seemed to fit the mood. 

Fans of classic ghost story writer M.R.James will recognise the title "Professor of Ontography" from "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad". The story opens with, "'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Full term is over, Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in the hospitable hall of St. James's College." Although the Professor is the protagonist of the story, his subject is not key to the tale nor is it ever explained. If you Google it, you will find varying definitions, and I am doubtful that it is sufficiently established for there to be a Professor of it!! Anyway, that was the starting point for my story - the existence of one such a person, and the unfortunate curiosity this obscure discipline arouses in a pair of students. 

Aside from the Ontography angle, the story also references another classic tale: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Gothic horror "Lot 249", which is a great favourite of mine. Although Dark Academia in the modern sense of an internet subculture and attendant aesthetic was not around when Conan Doyle penned that story, "Lot 249" prefigures Dark Academia very strongly (as well as being very scary). Anyway, the institution featured in "Lot 249" is, like the college in my story, called "Old College". There is no Old College, Oxford, but I have always supposed that it was based on New College (which was founded in 1379 and is not therefore all that new anymore...). The one in my story is named after its founder, whose surname was Oldys, but it is popularly known as "Old's". 

I'm pleased to say that "The Professor of Ontography" has had some great Netgalley reviews:

"I want to give a shout out to The Professor of Ontography by Helen Grant which was one of the more page-turning-ly horrifying stories I have ever read… Legitimately scary in sort of a fun way" (Jessica L.)

"This story will live in my mind for years to come. It is one of the best short stories I have ever read in my life. It has such a strong atmosphere, so unique and eerie" (Ketelen L.)

"Easily the creepiest story out of the bunch!  This started off as a love story and devolved steadily into horror" (Kayleigh W.)

Reviewer Samantha T also commented "The ending of this story was actually nauseating" which amused me very much! "Nauseating" wouldn't be great feedback for a romance story but for horror it's sort of an accolade...

Other tales in the volume include Tori Bovalino's "Phobos", about a sinister secret society, and Kate Weinberg's "1000 Ships" in which a student takes revenge on a Lothario professor, as well as stories by Olivie Blake, M.L.Rio and a host of others. As well as some fabulous stories, this book also has the most gorgeous cover. I'd get one, if I were you...  


Book launch in Perth!

Tomorrow is book launch day! Jump Cut will be hitting the shelves at last. I'll be at Waterstone's in Perth (St.John's Shopping Centre, King Edward St, Perth PH1 5UX) at 7pm tomorrow evening (28th September 2023) if you are nearby and would like to hear all about the book film maker Jack Jewers described as "phenomenally creepy"! 

If you're wondering whether this is your cup of tea, here's the cover info:

"The Simulacrum is the most famous lost movie in film history – would you tell someone your darkest secrets, just to lay hands on a copy? 104-year-old Mary Arden is the last surviving cast member of a notorious lost film. Holed up in Garthside, an Art Deco mansion reputed to be haunted, she has always refused interviews. Now Mary has agreed to talk to film enthusiast Theda Garrick. In return she demands all the salacious details of Theda’s tragic past. Only the hint of a truly stupendous discovery stops Theda walking out. But Mary’s prying questions are not the only thing Theda has to fear. The spirit of The Simulacrum walks Garthside by night, and it will turn an old tragedy into a new nightmare..."

The first review has also come in, and this is what the reviewer, The Coy Caterpillar, has to say:

"Jump Cut is Helen Grant’s next novel and lord is it a throat punch. I absolutely adored her last novel, Too Near the Dead and this one emitted similar feelings. The impending sense of dread, brilliant character development, a sense of place. I love the gothic nature of her tales; you really appreciate the blend of history and the present time coming together to create a hugely compulsive read.

Even if you’ve never read a Helen Grant book before, I 100% know that you’re going to love Jump Cut."

I hope she's right! Anyway, the launch event is open to all and entry is free, so if you're close by, please do come!