I’m not really someone who likes writing historical fiction. I always find it more of a bother than fun. As someone who studied History of Art, I know that history is full of interesting events that could be explored as an inspiration for writing, but doing the research, trying to emulate the spirit of the time, and the dreadful “historical accuracy” are some of the reasons that I don’t do it. It’s not even laziness—I can do research if I want to. But I’m way more interested in playing with facts fast and loose, using the historical setting as a mere aesthetic with my own rules, than something that really happened.
So when I visited a mountain hut in a place called Ravni Dabar in Croatia, which used to be a school in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a mountain forest, I was instantly inspired to write a folk horror story with children who went missing on the walk to the school. And I was super annoyed because it was a story that I wanted to read, not write. However, you know that, if you want something done, you should do it? Yeah, it happened. From: I want to read a folk horror story set in this specific place; to: I’m going to write a folk horror story with missing children, wolves and a hungry forest.
This is my last story behind the story; or, let’s talk about The Sound of Wind.
I’ve already talked about this story, during NaNoWriMo. I had to cheer myself up because, at that point, my anxiety was flaring up, so I focused on what I liked about it.
And there was a lot to like. When I decided to write it, I went on to do a smallish bit of research. I knew that I wasn’t probably going to be focused on “accurately portraying” life there (I mean, I write about ritualistic magic and dark fantasy based on folklore, so… there’s a limit to my care for non-magical history), but I did want to learn what it used to look like, for inspirational purposes. So I got, by way of another writer friend—who does write a well-researched historical fantasy—two short texts about life in this section of Velebit mountain. The story about these villages, how they came to be there, how they lived, the story of the school and the teachers, and the conclusion to it all—abandoned villages, because nobody lives there anymore—was so goth and atmospheric, that I started doubting my ability to do this place justice. Long story short, I got over myself and wrote The Sound of Wind. A win for me.
But some changes had to be made. Originally, I had some ideas similar to what I wrote in my story The Rock at the Bottom. My original idea was somewhere along the lines of the villagers of Crni Dabar willingly sacrificing their children to appease some very old god living in the Velebit mountain. However, this was a village that existed, and I was a bit uneasy with turning it into a bloodthirsty cult. This was why, in the end, the village in The Rock at the Bottom wasn’t some historically real village, now abandoned. So I crossed out my original idea but still kept some things. Mostly the whole, missing child premise.
I also decided to write about Crni Dabar, rather than Ravni Dabar or the school there, because… I liked the name and the location more. Yeah, I’m simple like that. And when I started researching, my decision turned out to be great because Crni Dabar definitely had that sweet, sweet dark atmosphere (crni means black in Croatian). It was also the first of the Dabar villages and the whole story how it came to be was full of: destruction of the forest, theft and murder. A good place for a folk story, don’t you think?
Anyway, changes were made to my original plans, and the story that I ended up with looked much different than I’d expected. It’s also, I believe, the longest in my Mistress of Geese collection of folk horror stories. It has Little Red Riding Hood references, because it turns out it’s physically impossible for me to write a story with wolves and a girl lost in the forest without putting all of the references to this famous fairy tale.
In the end, though, it’s mostly an atmospheric story about a dark forest, a hard mountain, a hungry ancient forgotten god, the howling wind, shapeshifting she-wolves and a girl who needs to find her hidden strengths.
And you know what; even though it was hard for me to write this story because of my state of mind when I was writing it, I’m glad that I didn’t give up. I also learned some interesting, real-life historical tidbits, legends and a bit about Illyrian mythology which will surely serve in other stories.
If you want to learn more about my folk horror collection, check out my previous stories behind stories or visit Shtriga.com. Mistress of Geese is available on all major stores.