A little while ago, I stumbled upon a novella called The Russian Sleep Experiment. It was immersive, and terrifying, and I immediately felt compelled to speak to author Holly Ice about her inspiration for the story.
Holly kindly agreed to a Q&A, sharing the ideas behind her brilliant horror novella, and her experiences as a writer:
1.) I’ve just finished reading The Russian Sleep Experiment, and it gave me chills! Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
I’m glad you enjoyed the read! The novella was inspired by a popular short story of the same name which was published as a Creepypasta. My publisher Almond Press approached me to write a novella inspired by the tale which moves away from supernatural horror and into a more scientifically rooted approach but I think that inspiration struck for me when I looked into the harsh reality of the time and how the decisions of certain national powers impacted people under their care.
2.) You managed to create what felt like a very real environment, which is why the story is so frightening. What sort of research did you do to recreate 1940s Russia?
Thank you. The USSR and the 1940s in particular is a historical interest for me as I have family that were in Latvia when the country was occupied and made part of the USSR. I had done a fair bit of reading before writing the tale as a result, though I looked into the details of Siberian gulags, the landscape, and the day to day life there, before writing the novella. I tried to make the environment as realistic as possible and to show a few of the different types of prisoner that might be in these camps.
3.) Have you always aspired to be a writer? If so, what does it feel like to have people reading (and enjoying) your work?
It’s amazing to have people read and enjoy my stories. I put these tales into the world in the hope others will discover characters they can relate to and worlds they want to escape into and explore. That’s the joy of being a writer – we’re always playing pretend with characters and creating new frontiers, new realities.
To begin with, I was much more into art, but I’ve been writing stories and muddling my way through book ideas since I was very young. It took me a number of years to build my confidence enough to share my work and try to get published. I started producing (and submitting) work more consistently around the age of 15 and had my first piece published in 2010.
4.) The Russian Sleep Experiment was published by Almond Press, and this isn’t your first time working with publishers. What have those experiences been like?
I’ve worked with a number of small publishers and fellow authors, which has been a great experience. I’m lucky to have been published in collections with fantastic authors. I’ve learned a lot from the hands-on style of many of the editors and from the imaginations of the other authors. The community as a whole is very welcoming to new authors and I highly recommend going to conventions and meeting people in the industry.
5.) Your website teases us about a new fantasy series you are currently writing. Can you tell us anything about this work in progress?
Sure! I took part in NaNoWriMo this year to work on the first book in The Riftkeeper Series – While I Slept. Though I wrote the first draft back in 2012–13, the story need a lot of work. I spent this November rewriting the second and third acts to improve the structure. I’m now in the process of polishing the characters and doing a full line edit.
The book is a fantasy story based in the English countryside and begins when a history and archaeology student unearths Arthur, an ancient warrior. When Arthur is awoken from his magical sleep, he finds the rifts to this otherworld have reopened, and someone is killing the people of Wardley nearby. He must work with Annie to learn how the modern world works and thwart this new enemy.
Rather than following ‘traditional’ Arthurian myth of Merlin and the round table (likely created by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th Century), I base Arthur on the man alluded to in ancient Welsh poems. These state he is an accomplished soldier who battles supernatural creatures in the otherworld.
I was especially interested in how a more amoral fae culture would clash with our own, and how the modern world would deal with such a departure from what they know to be real and scientifically proven. I hope to fully explore this idea throughout the series.
6.) Finally, do you have any advice to offer budding writers?
There’s no formula that will bring success but it’s good to write consistently and make sure you finish a piece – even if you don’t like it. It’s more helpful to finish something and then write something new than it is to have dozens of half finished works. Once that’s done, read up on things to look out for when editing and find yourself a critique partner – online or in person. Ideally, you want someone who will give you the truth but is constructive rather than destructive when it comes to your writing. There are some communities online which can be a great place to start, such as NaNoWriMo and Scribophile. And remember, the old adage ‘write what you know’ may mean you need to read up on 18th century politics or space travel rather than avoid writing about it.
A huge thank you to Holly for participating in the Q&A, especially during the busy month of NaNoWriMo!
You can explore Holly Ice’s website and other works by clicking here.