This post is also available in: French
Here is occult fiction author Iona Calwell: I often get asked why I like to write about what I write and how I stay inspired to keep doing so. There are many reasons why I embrace the occult and horror genres but one thing is always constant – the diversity and different ways you can write it. Writing as quickly as I do, I also get questions about how I get the inspiration for my stories. With a full-time job as a stay at home mom, wife, and full-time author, it can be hard to remain inspired.
However, I can honestly say I feel blessed because I rarely ever suffer from a lack of ideas.
Let’s begin, shall we?
What is occult fiction?
So many times, I get asked “What is Occult Fiction?” A problem I run into often is how many don’t understand what this genre entails. Some refuse to review it, hurling it into the same genre as horror or supernatural thriller.
The chilling truth is, you already know what occult fiction is, you might not recognize you do. Occult fiction at its most basic is fiction with aspects of the occult such as witches, demons, sorcery, magick, ghosts, werewolves…you get the idea.
If you have read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Wuthering Heights, Edgar Allan Poe or anything by H.P. Lovecraft, you have experienced occult (or gothic) fiction. Anne Rice is a more modern example, as is Guillermo Del Toro.
Why I love to write it
As I’ve said, it’s the diversity. You can do whatever you want and push the bounds of what already exists. Occult fiction offers a return to what makes us so obsessed with the occult. It’s dark, mysterious and offers insight into worlds we can’t even imagine.
One simply has to look into folklore and draw upon the beasts and spirits woven in tales shared for generations and a plethora of new ideas can spring forward. An author isn’t restrained to writing a series if they don’t want to and can build a strong story that can stand on its own.
Now, I never (and I mean never) write series. My reason behind this is because occult fiction has such potential to stand on its own. We remember Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, Tell-Tale Heart and Fall of the House of Usher years after they were written.
It is because of the powerful impact he made by using the most basic of authorial tools: tone, imagery, characterization and theme. Poe drew upon our own inner fears and built a world in only a few words. He never wrote a series and to this day, we talk about his stories, build movies around them and write our own interpretations.
Stephen King is much the same. Aside from his legendary Dark Tower series, King usually doesn’t write series books and yet his stories are some of the most frightening of our time.
Strong occult fiction doesn’t have to focus on multiple books. It can be as strong by using the most basic of tools and that is why I will always write standalones.
What makes this genre so amazing is that it can (but doesn’t always have to) incorporate aspects of horror, thriller, romance and of course suspense. It makes the genre diverse while providing chilling tales of love, loss, murder and much more.
My experience on how to stay inspired
I feel like a broken record at this point but here we go. My publisher has recently made me aware of a hilarious nickname they’ve started to call me. They call me their “gunslinger” because of how fast I’m able to write.
My debut title, Beneath London’s Fog was completed in a little under two months with Hell’s Warden nearing its completion. I get asked how I’m able to write so fast and stay inspired to do so.
How I do it may come as a surprise.
To start, I’m a very outspoken druid with a vast knowledge of Celtic folklore. The reason I mention this is because inspiration can be drawn from what’s already in front of you.
Throughout history, people have been infatuated with cryptids and spirits, superstition and the pursuit of magic. I draw upon this with almost every story.
Second, I use the horror author’s tool kit — the existing fears of the human race. Think about what terrifies you the most. Is it the darkness? Closed spaces? Being alone?
Whatever it is, I use this to create tales of terror. There is no end to these terrors so there is no end to the inspiration.
Third, I am very superstitious. As a druid, I feel I have to be. As a human being, I believe repeated tales and hauntings told throughout the years have merit. It may seem silly to some, humorous to others but it makes for a great inspirational well to draw from. Hey, it already exists, why not use it, right?
Last, I think about what scares me and why I love Halloween so much. We like to be scared by monsters at Halloween and become infatuated with the paranormal.
This is why I write primarily in first person POV. It’s because I want to stare into the world I’m creating like it’s in VR. Third person makes me feel distant from the world and separates me from my characters.
Occult Fiction: Behind London’s Fog
Iona Caldwell’s Beneath London’s Fog will release in October. Update: Her book cover was revealed in July and is available here!
5 more tips to stay inspired
When I started this journey into writing, I had to take some time to find where I wanted to go on the path. To do so, I looked at what I like to read and what I’m not seeing in today’s vast market of eBooks and authors “writing to market.”
I’ve seen authors who struggle to devote even an hour to write the stories they love for whatever reason. I hope to end today by offering you ways I overcame such trials.
1. Before-writing routine
I have a pre-writing ritual. And, no, there’s no chanting involved (druid joke). It’s very similar but I have found its helped alleviate the desire to procrastinate due to fatigue or “just not wanting to.” Having this kind of ritual (in whatever way you want, be it a hot bath, a cup of tea, whatever) can help put your mind at ease from the stresses of the day. It doesn’t have to be long. Just a few minutes. I usually light my incense burner, put on some inspirational music and sit in a meditation circle for about 20-minutes. Afterwards, I’m charged and ready to write.
2. Don’t think you have to write every single day
I know this is a subject up for debate for most but I don’t find forcing writing to be the answer. I don’t write every day and choose to take days for self-care to a large amount of reading. If you do write everyday, set a goal. It can be time-based, chapter or word-count but have one in mind.
3. Read, read, and then read some more
We’ve all heard Stephen King’s famous quote involving writers who don’t read being without tools. I believe this is very true. Reading not only helps us learn to be better writers but it also helps us take breaks and let our minds rest. It’s not wrong to draw inspiration, I do it all the time. Darcy Coates, Nick Cutter, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Jim Butcher, H.G Wells, H.P Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman are some of the strongest inspirations in my arsenal. I read them all the time and draw on their experience while developing my own writing style.
4. Take time for self-care
Yep. Take care of yourself. However you like to relax and do something not involving your writing. I like to garden, go for walks, listen to music, do chores and play video games with my husband. There is nothing wrong with this at all and can be necessary for what my publisher calls your “creative well.”
Realize you cannot please everyone. Bad reviews happen
This one took me some time (and I’m still working on it). As authors, we’re terrified of bad reviews. I know we are but we can’t be. As a book blogger, I give harsh feedback on the authors I read. Embrace it, take what you can from it and move on. A bad review doesn’t mean you’re a bad author, it means you found someone not in your target audience.
Concluding words from occult fiction author Iona Caldwell
I hope these tips help you. Most of them are from personal experience, others are some things I’ve learned or been told by fellow authors in the writing community and they’ve helped me greatly.
About Iona Caldwell
Iona Caldwell is the lover of all things arcane, folklore, nature and magic. She is the author of the British Occult Fiction, Beneath London’s Fog set to be published by FyreSyde Publishing October 2019.
Feel free to leave comments below about occult fiction, how you stay inspired, or anything else related! If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it.
This post is also available in: French