Hi Priya, thanks for inviting me to talk about my novella, hopefully it won’t be too long now before we can actually meet up and chat in person.
Writing Matryoshka has been a strange experience, I was originally approached by Peter from Hersham Horror to write a novella to be released at Chillercon this year. Luckily by the time we heard Chillercon was being delayed until 2022 I had pretty much finished the book, otherwise I’m not sure how well I would have been able to motivate myself to continue writing during lockdown. I’ve actually not managed too badly with writing over the past 12 months, but that’s only because I’ve had deadlines to meet on stories that I promised people upfront. I hate letting anybody down so no matter how hard I find writing, if I’ve got a deadline then I will power through to meet it. If I haven’t then I will just procrastinate on social media. My next concern after getting Matryoshka written though is release day. I get really bad impostor syndrome every time I have anything published and I think not having the opportunities to dissect the writing process over a wine or a coffee face to face with people during the last year has exacerbated it. I’m not really a particularly natural writer, more a natural storyteller. I get too side tracked with new ideas, or I just get overwhelmed with the whole process and struggle to break it down into sizeable chunks. I’m not one of those writers who can shovel sand into a sandbox and worry about the castles another day, I fret about each word and comma, and then give up and just bury my head in the sandbox instead.
Matryoshka is being published by Hersham Horror as part of its Primal novella range, and its central themes are pregnancy and loss of self. The story is very loosely based around a patient I nursed who developed post-partum psychosis in the last two weeks of her pregnancy. It was terrifying for her family and for the medical professionals involved in her care: she was refusing medication and she wouldn’t eat or drink because she was sure we were poisoning her, she was a flight risk but we couldn’t restrain her because of the advanced stages of her pregnancy. I remember being all too aware that no matter how fearful we were for the wellbeing of her and her baby; for her it would have felt as if she was living through a horror movie. She was in a waking nightmare, where she believed that her son had been replaced by his evil twin, as had her mother, and they were now trying to replace both her and her unborn child. Luckily both mother and baby were fine (although labour did start in a barricaded attic), and once the baby was born the mother consented to treatment, and six months down the line both were back to full health. With the novella itself I tried to capture the paranoia of Rosemary’s baby, and also the claustrophobia and dreamlike quality of the 1953 film Invaders From Mars. That sensation of being on your own, of nobody believing you. Of that ultimate despair when you start to doubt yourself and question your own sanity. When you start to wonder what would be preferable: the horror that surrounds you being real or that you had gone insane. That to me is what makes these stories so terrifying.
There’s something wrong with her husband, Mark. Lucy had heard all the rumours about him, the whispered warning behind her back. The half heard Chinese whispers seemed to haunt her, mocking her wherever she goes. Now it appears that whatever’s the matter with Mark is spreading; tainting, infecting both strangers and those that she loves the most. So, Lucy will go to any lengths to protect both her young daughter and her unborn child.
Matryoshka cover art by Neil Williams.
Penny Jones knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person (her family knew when Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas when she was three). Penny’s debut collection “Suffer Little Children” published by Black Shuck Books was shortlisted for the 2020 British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, and her short story “Dendrochronology” published by Hersham Horror was shortlisted for the 2020 British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story.