Two years ago, if I’m not mistaken, I wrote a novella during NaNoWriMo and then sat on it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I tried to publish it and submitted it to some call for authors immediately upon finishing it, but then they didn’t answer until the spring of this year, 2020. It wasn’t accepted, but I wasn’t surprised. While the novella had potential, I didn’t have time to revise it, so it was a rushed job, something you shouldn’t really do when you’re trying to publish your work. But it was what it was. With a clear answer, I decided to finally take it into my hands, and do some honest work this time.
A lot of it was changed in the end, to the point where I could finally say ‘I’m satisfied with this, it turned out great’. My editor and partner in crime agreed with me and I got the green light to publish it. So what did I write then?
What is my sapphic horror novella What do Nightmares Dream of about?
One of my ARC readers said in her Goodreads review, “Wasn’t sure what to expect…” And really, it’s hard to blurb it without telling too much. But here are a few things that I played with.
First of all—Slavic folklore. There’s this creature in our folktales called mora or mare (in English), pretty much a sleep paralysis demon that haunts your dreams and then tries to strangle you while you’re struggling with the nightmares. So, fun stuff, really. I absolutely loved reading about moras and decided I wanted to write about them.
Second was that I wanted to write about loneliness, hunger and a (millennial) dread connected with a closeted woman trying to navigate harsh realities of an unwelcoming (late capitalist) world. It all plays an important part in the story. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Even though the story talks about a woman dealing with depression, social anxiety and repression, it’s also a story about survival. About not letting the heavy thoughts rule your life.
Essentially, it’s a story about breathing.
That last part is the most important one. As someone who has problems with anxiety and panic attacks, while I was reading about moras and what they did to their victims, I saw in the descriptions what my own anxiety was doing to me. It’s important to understand, though, that everyone deals with these issues differently, and my novella is not some universal story, nor is it trying to encapsulate everything depression or anxiety can be. That’s only a part of the story, based on my personal experience. Nor is the mora in my novella a metaphor for living with depression. She can be a lot of things: hunger, loneliness, internalised homophobia, fear, but she’s also just a supernatural monster in a supernatural horror story who does what fantasy monsters do. No need to read too much into it, but you can if you want to.
I really just wanted to have fun with the horror elements, because I love horror. So there’s comedy too, not just to balance out the dark, but also to laugh at some tired tropes. Because—why not? There’s a lot of ridiculous stuff in the horror genre, so there’s some ridiculous stuff in my novella too.
In the end, what I got was a sapphic horror comedy which talks about some heavy issues, but which ultimately gives an uplifting conclusion—yes, we can survive this world, we can have a future. Not everything is grey, even when there’s a heavy curtain around it in our heads.
So, if you’re interested in Sanja’s story, check it out here. And if you end up liking it, or find something in there that resonates with you, or just want to comment on something, leave a comment on Goodreads or social media. This is a small press edition, so word of mouth will help a lot!