Thursday, July 7, 2016

...a book to read with the lights on and its engaging author...

“Words have no power
to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror
of their reality.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe *

Thanks to the RVA Horror Book Club and horror author Thomas Olde Heuvelt for posting on the book group’s page, last night I headed to Fountain Bookstore  to see Olde Heuvelt, whose novel HEX was published on April 26, 2016. The event was part of the author’s US book tour. And while he’s in his early 30s, Olde Heuvelt’s debut novel came out when he was just sixteen.

I’m actually going to start referring to him as Thomas in this post since he went around and greeted everyone who attended his reading/book signing last night. For starters, Fountain is a small indie bookstore in Richmond so with fewer than two dozen folks in the room, he had time; yet, his gesture was so genuine that I was a little taken aback and wanted to point it out here.

He IS a story teller. I was captivated just by listening to him discuss his ideas about the book and his early inspirations. He began by talking a bit about his upbringing in the Netherlands. He’s from the same hometown as the famous painter Hieronymus Bosch, which I’ll come back to in a moment. 

Thomas’s uncle, whom I believe he said is named Manis but I didn’t write this down because frankly I was a bit mesmerized with this guy; anyway, his uncle was the type who read a 7-year-old Thomas stories such as Dracula and Frankenstein. I recall Thomas stating that the stories came alive when his uncle would share them. This uncle also shared urban legends with a young Thomas while the two took walks in the woods. Basically, he was one of those amazing uncles with a ton of creativity whom influenced a young boy. Keep that in mind the next time you’re around little children. They still believe in magic; make sure that everything that you do keeps that going, or at the very least, doesn’t destroy it.  

Thomas also shared that being from the same town, he grew up around images of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. He recounted a story about taking a small raft with a friend when they were younger and going through the tunnel canal known as Hell Gate which has life-size figurines modeled after the painter’s monsters from his work The Garden of Earthly Delights and how in the darkest hours of the night, moments like these are when horror really gets under one’s skin. 

Thomas then read from part of HEX, which completely sold me on the story. 

Blogger-imposed political statement: I have to admit that I feel a bit sad for the author and uncomfortable about being American considering that HEX was originally published in Dutch. Thomas spent time in the US reworking parts of his novel to alter the setting, names, and a bit of the story line in order for it to "work" with an American audience. While I found the explanation and the steps one must take to translate a story into another language fascinating from an academic perspective, I'm a bit appalled and much more embarrassed that THAT is what one must do to reach an American audience. Don't get me wrong, I love my country but sometimes I'm not so sure about the people, especially in this election year. Meeting people from other countries and traveling to other countries broaden our understanding of the world and ourselves.  

Thomas tackled the question from an audience member about the translation process with great tact and even noted that knowing a location helps one feel more disturbed when reading a story about the place. Okay, fine, I agree with that but if a place becomes real in my head I'm not sure I have to see it with my eyes. 

My last point about the process... while he's fluent in English, he did work with a translator to make sure that his English voice would be able to terrorize us all.

There are so many posting on social media about how this novel is forcing folks to sleep with the lights on since it’s apparently that scary. Even Stephen King tweeted about HEX and called it "totally, brilliantly original".
Thomas's story, "The Day the World Turned Upside Down” won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2015.

With all the comments and accolades, and meeting the author, I’m looking forward to reading HEX. I'll be honest; I'm getting a little freaked out before even opening the book especially since it came with this Eye Sewing Kit card with an actual needle and thread. Ummm, okay. 

I need to finish the novel that I’m reading and then it’s up next. 

* I specifically selected a Poe quote since Thomas visited the Edgar Allan Poe museum during his short visit in Richmond. 


  1. I just ordered this book from Amazon based on your post about it and I'm so excited for it to arrive. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas last year, which I wasn't too excited about because I prefer to hold a book in my hands. There just something about the whole experience of a book. I've read many books on my Kindle and I've grown to love it but this book, Hex, had to be read in book form so that when finished it can take it's place on my shelves with the likes of Stoker's Dracula, Shelley's Frankenstein, the complete works of Poe and so many others. Love your blog by the way! RL

    1. RL,
      Thank you. I appreciate your kind words.

      I have a Kindle too since I'm a commuter and have the tendency to pack my bag way too heavy. I tend to have multiple copies of books as a professor. I keep copies at home, copies at work, and then there's always an e-copy. I agree with you; there are just some books that need to be touched and I think HEX will be one of them. It's interesting. My husband recently bought a new copy of Dune, one of his favorite books. His original copy is a bit too loved and he doesn't want it to fall apart. So he buys a new copy and the font is different. It's really changing the way he is experiencing the text. I find that fascinating but then my copy of Dracula is a Norton Critical Edition from which I teach. There are wine, wax, and goodness knows what other stains in that copy. It is taped together in parts and highlighted from various readings. I know which part I'm coming to based on the markings. There's comfort in that.

      If you can, try to go see Thomas on his book tour. Aside from being a talented writer and storyteller, he's just so charming and, dare I say, *nice*. :D

    2. Sounds like a great guy and a great book. I've just checked out UK publication - we have the same translation as the USA. Unfortunately I've missed his UK tour. Have added to my wish list to buy on my next physical book order as it sounds right up my street.

      I also have a Kindle that I use under protest! There are some books I just can't get hold of for a reasonable price in physical format - I really wanted to read Caitlin Doughty's Tales from the Crematorium. It cost a small fortune to import from the USA so I was more than happy when she released a Kindle only UK download.

      Books that need to be touched...I have so many of them! Alice in Wonderland should be in physical form, the Hobbit, my Poe collection could put out windows - it's a great big brick of a book that I could have downloaded to Kindle for free, but preferred to own a great black tombstone of a book.

    3. I feel you. I fought against getting a Kindle for a while but it is convenient. The Post Office doesn't want anyone to have international friends :p I recently paid £35 for shipping for a necklace from Whitby...ouch! I cannot imagine the price of sending books that are heavier.

      I have a very old edition of a Poe series from the turn of the century. They're to be looked at not read because of their condition but I have all of my Poe texts from my childhood; and, considering I live in the town he called home, they were quite easy to come by.

    4. £35 for shipping from Whitby?! Seriously? That's extortion...

      I live about 90 minutes from Whitby. Next time I go tell me what you want!

      You can get some seriously lovely jewellery there. My husband tends to be frogmarched into Hammonds on arrival. They make the pieces on the premises, but also restore vintage pieces (which cost an am and a leg to buy). It's amazing to walk the little cobbled streets peering in all the shop windows at the jet and amber.

  2. Wow, He'll Tunnel sounds amazing and terrifying!

    Really interesting to hear about translating books! I don't think they usually change so much!

    I'm so behind I planned to finish my first book before I was 20 and I'm nearly 30 now! Still my writing has improved!