Jared Sandman’s Blogbuster Tour 2011 runs from July 1st through August 31st. His novels include Leviathan, The Wild Hunt and Dreamland, all of which are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. His latest book, The Shadow Wolves, has just been released. Follow him on Twitter (@JaredSandman) and be entered to win one of several $25 Amazon gift cards. See rules at Jared Sandman for eligibility.
My second book, The Wild Hunt, is a holiday horror novel, which for the average person may sound like an oxymoron. After all, isn’t Christmas a period for sharing and caring? But if one peeks under the tinsel and trappings that modern society has placed on the holiday, one finds darker roots. Strip away Jesus, Santa and the rest to reveal its pagan origins. Long ago the yuletide was a time of darkness and ghosts, when the deceased returned to visit loved ones from beyond the grave.
Obviously this is fertile territory for terror and gave me the opportunity to combine my love of the cursed-town-with-a-dark-secret story with my interest in mythology, specifically Nordic and Germanic. When I first came across the notion of a spectral hunting party, I saw its potential to be used for horror.
The Wild Hunt itself is led by the Lord of the Hunt, a fearsome figure who commands the Furious Host, a murderous posse of the dead and the damned. These ghoulish horsemen are only allowed entrance to our world during the twelve nights of the yule, from Christmas Day through the fifth of January. While the Lord of the Hunt has been utilized before in a few high fantasy books, no author had yet used the Wild Hunt or the Furious Host as malevolent antagonists in a horror novel.
I weaved personal Christmas traditions into the narrative as well. When I was growing up, each Christmas Eve my family gathered for dipapegreta. At midnight we partook a pauper’s feast of stale bread and a modest hunk of meat. This was to remind us of those less fortunate around the world who needed the help and charity of strangers like us. As I researched the book, I couldn’t find anything about this particular custom. While not certain of the spelling, I’ve started to suspect it’s not a European practice at all.
At its heart The Wild Hunt is about secrets, both those we wish to keep from others and those we try to hide from ourselves. And though we can evade them for a time, no one’s able to outrun his or her sins and secrets forever. History has a way of catching up with people, and nowhere is that truth more evident than in the Minnesota town of Wodanfield.
Christmas horror novels have been written before, from over-the-top (Robert Devereaux’s Santa Steps Out) to tongue-in-cheek (Jo Gibson’s Slay Bells). One of my all-time favorite stories, A Christmas Carol, epitomizes the holiday. Dickens’s classic has become the yardstick by which all other Christmas books are measured. While his is a heartwarming ghost story of redemption, mine showcases homicidal revenants for whom there’s no chance of salvation.