The weeks seem to be going by quicker and quicker, or maybe it’s just me? Well, here we are yet again with another intriguing look behind the scenes on BTB Storytellers. This week the excellent Duncan P. Bradshaw stops by to talk about his most recent novel ‘Heaxagram’, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading a couple of months back and you can read my review of it here. But wait! there’s more. I also had a bit of fun with Duncan via an interview and Zombie quiz and If you want, you can check that out here.
Anyway. ‘Hexagram’ is a very different horror novel. It’s actually quite pulpy in its execution and travels across a huge timeline where the interruption of an Incan ritual sets off a bloody chain of events. It shows that Bradshaw isn’t afraid to experiment with his writing and I thought he did a stellar job.
Bradshaw is also one third of the Sinister Horror Company, a UK based press specializing in genre fiction and I highly recommend you check out their books. Duncan has also released other horror books including ‘Class Three’, ‘Class Four’, ‘Prime Directive’ and his first foray into Bizarro fiction ‘Celebrity Culture’. Find out more with links to everything Duncan P. Bradshaw at the bottom of this article. And check out Dunc’s forthcoming collection of Zombie shorts called Chump.
Thanks to Duncan for providing this great essay on ‘Hexagram’.
Duncan P. Bradshaw
Hello there, and welcome to Jazz Club, mmmmm, nice. Oh wait…wrong write up. Anyhoo…I’m here today to give a bit of background to my latest horror novel, time-spanning epic, HEXAGRAM. It is six stories, set across five hundred years, charting the history of an ancient ritual changing hands.
Like most of my stories, HEXAGRAM spawned from one rogue thought, and the saying, ‘We are all made of stars’. What if there was a way that this stardust could be extracted? If so, what could it do, could it summon a god? Or worse? Originally, I had a provisional title, of STARDUST (which, let’s face it, sucks for a horror title), and it was going to be a novella, based on a pair of twin sisters. Using the whole star motif, I had a search and found that both Stella and Esther, were translations of the word star in other languages, so it fit perfectly. I started off, and the pair were merrily mashing up organs, scraping the dust from the pulp as they went.
Typically, after a few days, my brain began to nag me, “Buy milk,” or, “Quit touching it at work, it’s weird,” but mainly, “How did the sisters get this information?” Luckily, the last question was a lot more helpful with this story. So it got me thinking. Straight away, I made the Inca connection, mainly due to their storied history of sacrifice and organ removal, but also the mystical element. After all, there has to be a point to what they’re doing, else it would make a pretty rubbish book.
I then thought it would be cool to somehow link the original ritual, back in the 16th century, to the modern day. After a few days of research, I began to come up with a timeline, and the number of stories I’d need.
Same amount as the degrees of separation, or…the points on a hexagram. All roads led back to the original star theme, which was a weird moment when I realised it.
Now I knew where the story started, and where it would end, but how in the name of Satan’s underpants, was I going to be able to link them together? Luckily for me, it was all down to the Spanish, god bless ‘em.
One of the central themes became how knowledge can be hidden away, sometimes for decades, even centuries, when it is found again, in a time period which has moved on drastically from when it was created, how is it viewed? The second story in HEXAGRAM, is nearly two hundred years later, and I utilised the 1715 Treasure Fleet, which sunk in a ferocious storm, off the coast of Florida.
With each story, I wanted to use an historical event, even if it is considered a footnote in the grand scheme of things. The 1715 Treasure Fleet gave me ample room to work in.
Three ships have never been discovered, so I was able to base the story on one of them. The tale of an unnamed man, recounting the sinking, and his attempt at salvation, to a priest. Throughout his story, you can tell that what he found changed him, and that his mental state was an ideal receptor for the macabre instructions.
Now that I had managed to move the trail up into America, right at its birth, I was able to link the next story into one of its most famous events, the Civil War. There were hundreds of battles, so choosing the right one was key. I didn’t want to use a major engagement, as, like the treasure fleet, I wanted something which I could have some wiggle room to do my own thing in.
The Battle of Kolbs Farm is not a well-known battle, but as soon as I saw pictures of it, and maps showing the ebb and flow of the fight, I knew that I had found my setting. Right at the back of the war, with the South on the canvas, a Confederate soldier is wounded, and is taken in by members of the Church of the Saviours Star. This cult, and its inception, is linked to the earlier stories, one of many threads which join history together.
From Kolbs Farm, I needed to get the action across the pond, and would you believe it, it was perfectly set for a little dabble into the Whitechapel murders. A retiring detective catches up with the head honcho in charge of the case. Given the unknown identity of the killer, I was able to throw in a little curveball of my own.
The way the victims were mutilated, and organs removed, dovetailed perfectly with the ritualistic process of getting the stardust. I loved writing about Detective Norton spinning his tale. Done in first person, it mixes whimsy with a sense of British stiff upper lip.
I was one step away now, from getting to terminus, so needed to bring it to the near present. The Jonestown massacre has left an indelible mark on me, but whereas the settings before gave me enough blank canvas, that wasn’t the case here. So instead, I used it as a basis for Pastor Jim Gimbal and his increasingly erratic ways.
Then I was there, through various twists of fate, the story was woven through five hundred years to the present day. When I was writing it, I came up with an idea of how to link it all together, to apply the outcome to something larger than the characters, larger than all of us, you, me, the reader. So I wrote a wrap-around story, not much, you could skip it and you wouldn’t notice a thing, but it draws everything together, and gives you a hint at the wider universe, and how we are all connected.
Finally, every chapter gives a countdown, telling you that the world is going to end, saying how long is left. My final mystery, when does it countdown to?
Now…that is truly a story for another day.
Duncan P. Bradshaw at Amazon.
Duncan P. Bradshaw Official website.
The Blog of Duncan P. Bradshaw.