Welcome to the folkloric fever dream that is Crom Cruach. I’m so thrilled to chat with Val about how this novella-in-verse came to me. From the origins of the horrors within, the writing process, the soundtrack, what they’re working on next, this interview has it all. Crunchy, terrifying, and deeply human, this work is such a treat for horror and horror music fans alike.
Crafting Crom Cruach
What drew you to using this piece of folklore to tell this story?
Well, I’m from Cavan and that is this little bit of Cavan folklore nobody knows about, and it’s this huge pivotal point in the mythos of ireland! The final decisive blow against the druids, and all the obvious propogandising- that we sacrificed babies to crom etc, unbelievable stuff! I originally wanted to write an acid western following saint patrick’s journey and getting to know the people of the area and the “real” story behind it all but this sequel idea ended up developing as a more manageable story. The prequel will come eventually, it just needs more time.
How much did you know about the work when you started writing it? Did you know it was going to be a novella-in-verse or did that come later?
It was initially a screenplay, and I had assembled the storyline using tarot cards- the jodorowsky method- I wrote it to be something manageable enough to film completely independently for the most part, save for the church burning and car crash. Then I saw that the tenebrous open call happened and I was like, hmmm, so i sat down to write Crom as a novella and it just came out in verse, and I was like, huh. I think the reasoning behind it is that I wanted reading the book to feel like watching a giallo movie. You can’t have camerawork or a soundtrack in a book but you can sort of write it as if you were a pretentious film reviewer trying to capture that experience in words. I listened to a lot of weird experimental techno while writing and tried to write some of it in the cadence of those beats.
Throughout the writing process, what parts of the story changed? What stayed the same?
Goran was a more prominent character in the original story, but I ended up collapsing him and Jimmy together because it was odd having this ex-priest character who is sort of in the story but doesn’t get any major moments, while also having Oisin who’s this ex monk. It was too messy. Beyond that, I don’t know, things fell together faster than I expected, I thought that the story would go on for longer, over a few more days, but I realised that as things got weirder and more violent, there was a momentum that needed to be sustained. I definitely intended there to be more stalk and slash sequences with the figure in black, but there just wasn’t room for more of that.
What scenes or moments are you most excited for readers to experience?
I’m very excited for people to read the exorcism scene, and everything from the final conversation in the hospital to the big climax. Really I love every moment of this bar a couple of lines I think are a bit too obvious and I can’t wait to let it just wash over people and tell them a story about Ireland in a way they haven’t experienced before. I hope people come away from this book understanding a little more about what Ireland is really like and how we’re different from Europe or the USA, and of course the bloody UK. Brits out!
Into the Publishing Woods
Is Crom Cruach your first novella?
It is! Before this I wrote a novel which I self published and then took down, and a short story collection. Since Crom, I’ve written two more novellas and a novel!
How has your experience working with Matt and Alex at Tenebrous Press been?
It’s been great! They’re very co-operative and full of wild ideas in the best way- not as in they want to invade the text and change it, but i was so surprised when they were like let’s put a map in this thing, let’s do illustrations and interstitial mixed media lore sections! It was so cool to have that much care and investment put into something I wrote! They also really understood the unique way that this thing was written and were very careful about edits, for the most part I was on board for all their suggested edits but there were one or two moments where i was like changing this thing kind of disrupts the structural integrity of the piece as a whole, and they were like, we get it, that’s cool.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on a space fantasy novella called Redspace Obsidian, about a prison for interdimensional criminals floating out in an alternate dimension where no life can survive outside of its walls. I’m also supposed to be editing the first draft of a cosmic horror creature feature novel called Spookshow, but i’ve been delaying that because it’s such a huge story. I also have a novella called Decrepit Ritual that has been picked up for publication, and honestly those 3 books form an extremely loose trilogy, as they all are set in the same sort of multiverse and all feature in some way this cosmic horror that manifests in different ways and to different levels of intensity across the 3 stories, in a way I think is kind of unique. It’s got a cameo in one story, is the primary antagonist in the other, and maybe in the third one it finds a little romance?
I’m also co writing a novel with my pal Eoin Clarke which is like a cosmic horror superhero story and I love that to bits.
Can you tell us a bit more about the music tie-in to the novella?
As you can probably tell from my earlier answer, music is super important to Crom Cruach considering that it’s based on giallo/italian horror movies that were very soundtrack driven, so
I decided to team up with Canadian duo Blood & Dust to make a soundtrack for the novella. Give it a listen! I don’t have a hell of a lot to say about it tbh, the music speaks for itself.
Are there any books coming out or out now that you are excited to read?
The news for this came and went so people might not remember but Trevor Henderson has a kids horror book coming out! I’m super hyped for that. Gotta give a shoutout to Saoirse Ní Chiaragáin’s “Wax and Wane” which rules, and Laurel Hightower’s “Below”. As ever, I’m always excited about my good pal Mike Wasion and all the projects he has bubbling under the surface. I can’t wait for his debut novella to find a good home and infect everyone’s minds! Also there’s an aquatic horror book going around right now that I can never quite remember the name of, people are raving about it though, I must get my hands on it.
Valkyrie Loughcrewe lives in a bog, and is currently working on something gory and crawling with nightmare creatures. Whatever you do, don’t look them up on Twitter—in fact, don’t look anyone up on Twitter. Start raising homing pigeons!
Val also makes diabolical industrial electro music under the name Surgeryhead and gnarly death thrash metal as Argento!