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Shadows on the Water | Author Q&A | Best Stories & Writing Practices

Posted by Gillian Whitaker

Out now, Shadows on the Water is a fascinating anthology filled with new and classic stories of water-based horror, fantasy and folklore. In the first part of this Q&A, modern authors from the collection told us about the inspiration behind their tale in the book. Now, they return to offer details of their own favourites on this theme, as well as casting light on their writing processes!


What are your favourite stories from this genre?


Ramsey Campbell

William Hope Hodgson is crucial to maritime weirdness – The Boats of the Glen Carrig, The Ghost Pirates, ‘The Voice in the Night’, ‘The Derelict’. Visiak’s Medusa is enigmatically uncanny. Lovecraft’s most famous creation is temporarily submerged in ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. The sea gives up its dead for a night in Robert Aickman’s ‘Ringing the Changes’. Alma Katsu’s The Deep is a typically inventive spectral tale centring on the Titanic. John Langan’s The Fisherman goes to the ocean to reveal an extraordinary cosmic vision. Films – Jaws, one of the most unlikely PG ratings ever, Mark Robson’s The Ghost Ship and Christopher Smith’s nightmarish Triangle. Doesn’t James Cameron’s Titanic convey terror too? I’ll happily defend it as a great Hollywood melodrama, and how unreliable is the narration?


Mackenzie Hurlbert

Sticking with the theme of water-related horror, a few favorite short stories that come to mind are Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Fog Horn’ and ‘Strandling’ by Caitlín R. Kiernan. When it comes to music, I could build a whole playlist around this theme, but two songs I love would be ‘Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes’ by the Decemberists and ‘Lady of the Lake’ by Rainbow.


Jess Gofton

I love any stories featuring mythology, folklore or creatures from bodies of water that focus on their unhumanness; I’ve long been fascinated by the amabie from Japanese folklore and the Ceffyl Dŵr from Welsh folklore for that very reason. In 2023 I discovered a new favourite in Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy, a gruesome, beautifully written novella that gave me everything I’ve ever wanted from a mermaid horror story.


Marisca Pichette

My favourites include: ‘The Premature Burial’ by Edgar Allan Poe (short story), Maelstroms: 23 Tales of Dark Fantasy and the High Seas! (anthology by Shacklebound Books), Below the Edge of Darkness by Edith Widder (memoir about deep sea exploration), The Deep (anthology by Ghost Orchid Press), The Fisher Girl by Winslow Homer (painting), Nation by Terry Pratchett (novel), and Nazaré by J.J. Amaworo Wilson.


Abhijeet Sathe

Aimee Ogden’s ‘The Cold Calculations’ is my favorite short story in the genre of ‘multi-POV speculative fiction criticizing a system but ending with a deus ex machina’.


Frazer Lee

Some of my favourite aquatic horror stories are ‘The Raft’ by Stephen King, ‘Dagon’ by H.P. Lovecraft, and Koji Suzuki’s collection Dark Water. On film, I love The Drowned from the 1993 portmanteau film Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, Creepshow 2’s scary adaptation of ‘The Raft’, John Carpenter’s The Fog, and of course Jaws.


J.E. Hannaford

I like the rawness of the Legend of Kópakonan. In more modern interpretations, I love the Jackie Morris’s The Seal Children as a reinterpretation of the selkies in Pembrokeshire, and Joanne M. Harris’s Blue Salt Road, where the male selkies are the victims instead. From overall maritime stories, one of my favourites is an amazing dystopian/SciFi novella called Fish! by Ida Keogh about mermaids. It lives rent free in my head.


Rachael K. Jones

In terms of nautical stories, I’ve watched the film Master and Commander too many times to count! I also adored The Shape of Water, and more recently, The Lighthouse (although I also found it terrifying). In books, I’m currently reading a riveting nonfiction book called The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann, which is about a shipwreck and mutiny in the 1700s.


Amanda Cecelia Lang

My all-time favorite aquatic story is the 1989 movie The Abyss. James Cameron’s underwater cinematography and his hauntingly realistic depictions of deep-sea exploration still hold up thirty-five years later. The sunken scenery feels evermore otherworldly the deeper the story goes, infusing scientific revelations and spiritual marvels into a message about mankind’s place on this fragile planet that remains relevant and transcendent.


Jessica Peter

I really loved The Deep by Alma Katsu, which is a darkly haunting post-WWI story set between the Titanic and the Britannic.


Lyndsey Croal

Some books that I love featuring Scottish Folklore: The Grief Nurse by Angie Spoto, The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan, Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris, Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie, Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury, and The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke.


Wendy Nikel

When I think of stories of the sea, the first ones that jump to mind are the Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. They both personify the sea as being chaotic and untamable and yet at the same time, a source of wonder and intrigue. Even today, venturing out onto the sea is fraught with dangers, but that’s one of the reasons I love fiction: it gives us the ability to explore all of it from the comfort of our favorite chairs!


Can you tell us a little about your writing process?


M.K. Hardy

‘M.K. Hardy’ is two people: Morag and Erin, who bounce words chaotically back and forth via email and hash out all our thorny plot snarls on long dog walks in the Scottish countryside. We’ve been writing together so long that we could no longer tell you where one’s voice ends and the other’s begins. We are inveterate ‘pantsers’ who have recently begun to write proper outlines and are most displeased to discover it works.


Gustavo Bondoni

I write every weekday, and aim for 2,000 words a day. This is a pretty grueling number, at least in my case, and I often end up exhausted at the end of it. Of course, the product is better some days than others, so I often end up doing quite a bit of editing. But if you don’t have the words, there’s nothing to edit. Travel and holidays at the beach are torture for me, because they throw off my schedule completely and I mentally think of all the words I’m not writing. Still, I produce a lot of prose in any given year, so I shouldn’t complain too loudly.


D.S. Ravenhurst

My writing process changes a bit with everything I write, but when I’m drafting I like to maintain momentum with daily progress of some sort. I enjoy working at my local library at a table overlooking the creek, but I also write in front of the fire, in bed, and slumped on the couch. I have to write in order, and while I always have a bare bones outline for novels, I figure out my short stories as I go, which sometimes means editing out a lot of waffle.


Melinda Brasher

I don’t use any special software besides a good word processor, but I do love working outside on my laptop when weather permits, and if I get really stuck, I write by hand on paper. I’m more of a pantser than a planner. I usually know where I’m going in any given story, but sometimes my characters do something I didn’t expect them to do…and that has produced some of my favorite stories.


Samara Lo

I’m most productive in the morning, but recently my time has become more limited so I try to write when I can. It could be late at night or while sitting on a train. I find revisions easier to do at different times of the day compared to drafting something new.


Amal Singh

I have a very chaotic writing process, that somehow ends up in a cohesive shape. Early mornings never work for me, so I write at night. When I’m drafting, I tend to write large chunks (about 1500–2500 words) at a time. They’re mostly clean at the outset, because most of the story shape is already in my head. Editing, for me, is a long drawn out process that happens much later, after I’ve had some distance from the story/book. That distance could mean either rejections and/or time.


Derek Heath

I tend to find most time early in the mornings before work, and usually flit between two or three projects. I never start a story without a beginning and an end in mind but without much else in the way of direction, and I usually find that once I’m a few chapters in, the middle comes to me and I can plot out the rest. Short stories are usually far more improvised than longer ones; at the minute I’m working on an enormous book called The Green and the Dead which is definitely challenging my usual process.


Lucy Zhang

These days, I try to write at least two thousand words a week, mostly on the weekends because being a corporate cog during the weekdays really drains one’s soul. Sometimes the words come in small chunks, sometimes in masses, usually from the comfort of my home. Occasionally you’ll find me tapping fiercely on the Notes app from my phone if I don’t have my computer with me.


R.J. Howell

I wish I could say I had exciting rituals but honestly, I went through a rather intense writing-centric undergrad program which trained me (through a crucible I would wish on no one) to drop quickly into the ‘writing trance’ and produce stories on a tight deadline. As for where the ideas come from, anywhere and everywhere. Every moment feeds the creative well, and anything from a prompt to a vivid image to a story in another medium to a misheard lyric or phrase can get the words dancing.


J.M. Merryt

I start with research. I treat every story like a Uni essay, because I want it to be as factually sound as possible. After that, I hand write a rough draft, sometimes in chunks, depending on where I am in research. Then it’s free writing via typing. I very much write off the top of my head. Honestly, you could play bingo, ticking off all the real life bog bodies I reference in my story in Shadows on the Water!

Shadows on the water gothic fantasy short stories flame tree publishing

The book is available to buy now – get your copy here!


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