New Horror: Mother Krampus

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a meme to the Crone Girls Press Facebook group. It was a picture of a female Krampus, with a little note about how this mythical figure went around rounding up bad men instead of naughty children. It was a fun meme and relatively on brand for the group, so I posted it and went about my day.

But then…

I made the fortuitous mistake of wondering if such a mythical creature wouldn’t be a fantastic theme for a Midnight Bites collection. I’m not sure what happened after that, as it involved a lot of caffeine and some late-night pulling out of my hair, but today we launch our second Midnight Bites volume, Mother Krampus. With stories from C. Patrick Neagle, Jude Reid, and DeAnna Knippling, this three-novella volume presents three different takes on the theme of “female Krampus.” But enough intro… let me get out of the way and let the authors themselves talk about how this project came to be.

Promotional graphic that reads "A little girl's Christmas wish, a family's secret horror, and on a cold, midwinter night, a young woman's true power"

Q (Crone Girls Press): This project was a short-notice submissions call, with barely two weeks from posting the idea in the authors’ group, to a finished project available on Amazon. Tell me a little about how you worked through your story in such a truncated timeline.

C. Patrick Neagle (The House You Build): At that two-week mark, I had absolutely zero ideas. About a week in, I sat down and wrote a couple of pages. That version was set in Prague during the Krampusnacht celebrations there. My protag was going to stumble onto a secret ceremony and then ‘accidentally’ become Madame Krampus. Though I enjoyed writing the festival scenes, the rest of the story didn’t want to go anywhere from there, so I set it aside. I’d almost given over the hope of writing anything for the project, but the day before deadline, a Monday, I started writing what would become “The House We Build”. I wrote for several hours that day, then for a few more on Tuesday, finished the first draft at 1:30 am, read through it once, sent it, and went to bed at two. Normally each time I settle in to work on a piece, I read through everything I’ve written up to that point (or just the previous day’s writing if it’s novel length) and edit on the fly, but my procrastination didn’t leave me enough time to do that for this one. As a result, one character’s name changed a couple of times throughout. Thankfully, I have a forgiving editor.

Jude Reid (Schnableperchten): It was great fun! The tight deadline meant that there was no time for my usual overthinking, detailed plotting and working through endless variations on a theme. I threw myself at the story headlong, without any real idea of how it was going to end until I was most of the way through. I wrote whenever I could – in my lunch-breaks at work, weird hours of the night, getting up early until I had the first draft down, then pruned it mercilessly to get it finished. 

DeAnna Knippling (You Know What They Say About a Woman in Red Stockings): This story is set at Lavinia’s Tragic & Magic in Denver, a fictional brewpub-slash-performance area that happens to be owned by a guy who may or not be a vampire–the same setting as my first story for Crone Girls Press, “The Thing These Relationships Have in Common Is You,” in Stories We Tell After Midnight, Vol. 2. 

I don’t write a lot of short stories in series, especially not with different main characters, so this was a new experience for me.

My extremely well-designed process looked like this:

  • First, I wrote two thousand words in third person about the main character, Callie Cook, as she interacted with another character, Miss Eulalie Mortenson. 
  • Then, I rewrote those two thousand words, changing them from third person to first, because they sounded all wrong compared to the first story set in this world. 
  • Then I realized I wasn’t listening to enough goth music, and I happened on Lebanon Hanover and put them on repeat.
  • Then I deleted all the words and rewrote them again, because the character’s voice wasn’t very strong–not strong enough to write the descriptions I wanted her to make for me. She was just too overwhelmed and depressed and unable to cope. 
  • Finally, with less than a week to spare, I drafted the rest of the story, which actually went pretty smoothly.
  • After I finished the first draft, I woke up from a nightmare about having forgotten something, and added it before sending it in 🙂

Q: Where did your idea for a female-Krampus story come from? What spurred your thoughts when coming up with your story? 

C. Patrick Neagle: Our editor, Rachel Brune, was inspired to initiate this project by a series of old postcards she’d seen online that depicted the female Krampus, so my first resource was to look at those. They turned out to be more lighthearted than what I was wanting to write. However, along the way, I stumbled across the Frau Perchta legends and LOVED the imagery of those. Thus, “The House We Build” was born.

Quote graphic that reads "Bill spun around startled. Up close, it was very, very clear: they weren't wearing masks." from The House You Build by C. Patrick Neagle.

Jude Reid: I saw a picture of the Schnabelperchta and just knew I had to write about her. The eyeless face, the white beak, the shears and the kind of dowdy outfit all together gave me a very clear idea of the sort of monster she would be – alien and familiar all at once. 

DeAnna Knippling: I got into a writerly discussion about our responsibilities as writers with someone, and had a weird exchange with a client. Both the client and the other writer I was discussing things with are fine and have not been abducted (at least, as of this writing). 

Q: The three stories in this volume bring a certain horror from folklore into the modern era. Can you talk a bit about the choices you made around the setting and characters when writing the piece?

C. Patrick Neagle: I wanted to set the story right now, right at the tail end of 2020, because I wanted the protagonist of the story to be chafing at her life in quarantine, and especially her brother’s interactions with her in it, so that her boredom and confinement would escalate the situation. Knowing that this collection was going to come out so quickly meant that I knew that feeling Missy has would resonate with a lot of readers. Of course, the 2020-ness of the whole thing is in the background, so hopefully the story won’t age poorly.

Jude Reid:  A close friend of mine grew up in Bavaria and was kind enough to share her knowledge of the local customs and folklore, and they made a fantastic backdrop for a dark folk-horror narrative. I knew I wanted to write about women and the relationships between them, and as I wrote I realised that the themes of female obligation, family ties and secrets were reflected perfectly in the form of a monster who is obsessed with cleanliness and punishes slovenly behaviour. The narrator is a little girl, because I wanted to write about the time when we as children discover that our mothers, our aunts and our grandmothers had lives before us with their own events and secrets that still cast a shadow over the present day. 

Quote graphic: Aunt Theresa blinked, looked down at her bodice... A bloodstain blossomed across her dress, bright as holly berries... From Schnabelperchta by Jude Reid.

DeAnna Knippling: It’s taken me years to figure out what kind of stories to write set in Denver (I’m from South Dakota), until I realized that there are tons of places to hide here, right in plain sight. Not only are there the endless suburbs to bury yourself anonymously in, but suburbanites (like me) are kind of expected to look away from anything unusual or uncomfortable. 
I started out writing stories about people hustling their magic to try to get ahead a little without getting caught, but then I started playing with different “hidden” setting locations instead of just people, and that has been a blast.
Lavinia’s is my favorite, though 🙂

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your story? 

C. Patrick Neagle: I wanted to evoke a sense of the now as well as a sense of the timeless–thus the inclusion of the Krampus Poem that I concocted especially for this story. I wanted it to have the rhythm of a modern fairy tale. Beyond that, I hope the story gives readers a chill, or a chuckle, or both. 

Jude Reid: The same as every horror story. Get out of danger while there’s time and don’t look back… but the characters in my stories never seem to manage. 

DeAnna Knippling: We all carry a little bit of the divine. Usually it’s not that big a deal, and feels mostly like something annoying that we have to hide from others. But sometimes we’re called on to take responsibility for that divinity. If we don’t…well. The gods don’t like being ignored.

Q: What is coming up next on your writing and publishing timeline? 

C. Patrick Neagle: I’ve been busy preparing for the second season of our actual-play audio drama, The Gothic Podcast, where we play narrative-heavy tabletop roleplaying games to tell a long-form improvisational story. There isn’t a lot of writing that goes along with that (unless you count my 42 index cards’ worth of notes). Beyond the podcast, though, I’ve been procrastinating on finding homes for a couple of novels I’ve written. I’d like 2021 to be the year I settle in and do that.

Jude Reid: I’ve got a short horror story called Seal Hunter coming up in the new issue of The Gray Sisters (www.thegraysisters.com) and one called Fruiting Bodies in Campfire Macabre from Cemetery Gates Media, which is quite possibly my favourite flash fiction that I’ve ever written. For updates, you can find me on twitter @squintywitch.

DeAnna Knippling: I am currently working on The House of Masks, a space opera that’s a combination of Repo: The Genetic Opera, The Phantom of the Opera, and A Tale of Two Cities. After that, a book about a (fictional) house that Nicola Tesla designed. Lots of good stuff 🙂 My next book out is the first volume of Writing Craft, a book on the craft of writing. It comes out January 4, 2021, and you can preorder it here.

Stay up to date with all the Crone Girls Press latest shenanigans–er, releases. Yes. Our latest releases. Join us on Facebook, and/or sign up for our newsletter. If you’d like a chance to get a first look at our new releases in 2021, and enjoy writing reviews for other readers, sign up for our ARC Crew. Have an excellent New Year!

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