New Release: A Bit of the Dark World by Toni Sweeney

For a slight change of pace, I’m pleased to have Toni V. Sweeney here to tell us about her new horror romance, A Bit of the Dark World.
DarkWorld2Does no one know of Howard Phillips Lovecraft? When asked about my new book and with my answer, “I’m basing it on some of HP Lovecraft’s characters,” all I get is…”Who?”

Oh my. I’m flabbergasted. Now would be a good time to lament, “Oh how the Mighty have fallen!”

Almost everyone is familiar with Edgar Allan Poe. At one time or another, we’ve probably read one of his short stories, even if it was in tenth-grade English where “The Pit and the Pendulum” was required reading. How did HPL, as he’s affectionately known by his followers, get overlooked? He was a man was influenced by Poe, AA Machen, and Algernon Blackwood (Bet no one knows who they are, either!) In the early Twentieth Century, he became Poe’s equal in writing tales of mystery and imagination.

Lovecraft was a New Englander, a sickly child growing into an introspective man, not breathtakingly handsome fairly ordinary in appearance. He married, but eventually divorced, seeming to flourish more in a more isolated and less social atmosphere. Other than his own writings, his second claim to fame is that he carried on a correspondence with several aspiring teenaged authors, most of whom, because of his mentoring, later became well-known themselves.  (Do the names Robert Bloch (Psycho)and Robert E. Howard (The Adventures of Conan the Barbarian) ring bells?)  Known as the “Lovecraft Circle,” they furthered the “Cthulu Mythos” by promoting Lovecraft’s stories and using the characters and places in their own writings

In this century, he’s influenced Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy and Pacific Rim and writer of The Hobbit screenplays), John Carpenter (creator of Halloween), and HR Giger.

HPL, as he’s general referred to, authored stories often set in the harsh surrounds of his native habitat. They centered around a group of beings older than Time, tossed out of their own dimension into ours where they were bested by enemies and imprisoned on our world. The setting was in and around the towns of Providence, RI, and Arkham—which some readers may recognize as the name of the Asylum where the Joker and many another criminal pursued by Batman eventually ended incarcerated. Led by the ancient god Cthulu and with the significant wordmarks “eldritch” and ”batracian,” these “Great Old Ones” occasionally escape their bonds and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting New England countryside.

What inspired A Bit of the Dark World?

I was introduced to Lovecraft during my teenage years through a single story “The Dunwich Horror” in an anthology entitled Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, which I received as a gift for my twelfth birthday. (I might add it was published by Arkham House, a publishing company started by one of his protégés.) This story was later made into a movie but like the screen adaptations of most of Poe’s stories, Lovecraft’s tales don’t translate well, since they rely on a good bit of atmosphere and description of the characters’ mental states and internal conflicts rather than physical action.

Later in life, I had the privilege of living next door to a Lovecraft scholar. A fascinating man who was also a black belt instructor in karate and a professor of psychology at the local state college, he had a library consisting of hundreds of books on Lovecraft as well as translations of his stories, in German, French, even Japanese. He graciously allowed me to borrow some and read them. Initially, I didn’t know what a honor I was being given until his wife commented, “You really rate. He doesn’t let anyone touch those books.”

As expected I, being who I am, immediately began to weave my own pseudo-Lovecraft tale, thinking along the lines of…why did the Great Old Ones center themselves only around New England in our part of the world? In other stories, they exist in England, the Middle and Far East, in abandoned cities, deep jungle valleys, or high, frozen mountain peaks. Why couldn’t some of them have traveled further South on our continent and found disciples among the southern population?

…and thus I came up with the idea for A Bit of the Dark World

…of a young man fighting his heritage while ambiguously accepting it…a foolish young woman reveling in the attention she receives from him…and a doctor genetically embued with the truth about the island off the Georgia coast, fighting to prevent the disaster he envisions…

There’s sex in it so I doubt if HPL would wholeheartedly approve, but perhaps he might at least give me an agreeable nod for the general tone of the novel as well as the way I’ve portrayed his creations.

What’s next for you?

A Bit is of the Dark World is turning into a series…or at least a trilogy. I have the sequel, Child of the Dark World, already written and the third (as yet untitled) is on its way.

A Bit of the Dark World—the title is a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw—was released by Class Act Books on October 15th.


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