Originally from the Czech Republic but now residing in the UK, Erik Hofstatter is a writer whose work continues to impress. I really enjoyed his short story collection ‘Amaranthine & Other Stories’, released earlier this year (you can read my review here) and his recently released novella ‘Rare Breeds’ through Dark Silo Press is one of my favorite novellas of 2016. I reviewed that a couple of weeks back too so check it out here. Hofstatter is a writer you never know what to expect. Each release is very different from his last, exemplified perfectly by ‘Rare Breeds’ which has more than a couple of WTF moments! I found myself lost within this story of Aurel and Zora and the bizarre twist that occurs left me quite speechless. This book is impossible to put down and the ending is one of the very best I have read this year. It also features some great art inside that adds even more darkness to the tale.
I was stoked when Erik agreed to write a Storytellers piece about this excellent novella. Find out more from Erik Hofstatter in the links at the end of this terrific piece and thanks, as always for the contribution.
Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. It’s also a title of lesser-known and underrated Canadian horror flick. The film is adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Lurking Fear (concerning a prominent but incestuous Dutch family, inhabiting tunnels under their abandoned mansion after mutating into goblin-like creatures due to years of inbreeding) and stars Rutger Hauer. Despite its many flaws and onslaught of negative reviews, the B-movie holds a special place in my heart. My childhood best friend liberated a VHS copy from his parents and we watched it in secret in my room. I was about thirteen. The deformed grotesques induced nightmares but at such tender age, I failed to grasp the deeper meaning of the film—I was only terrified by the visual aspect. When I re-watched it years later with more matured eyes, the film awoke a philosopher in me and I began to ponder bloodlines and families. I recall a visceral scene, forever embedded into my memory. When the creatures are finally confronted in their tunnel by the community, they attack everyone—except John, the main character. He scoops up a body of one of the fallen islanders and carries it to the deformities. They feast together as he realises that they share the same appetites and that he is in fact, a lost descendant of their family. John’s girlfriend is crying, begging him to come with her so they can go home. He veers around, gazes at her with one eye blue and the other brown (a hereditary eye trait of the Dutch family) and says: “I am home.” I adore that scene. I thought that was the heart of the film. The acceptance of who you really are and where you belong can be a beautiful tragedy.
When I began writing Rare Breeds almost two decades later, I decided that the story would be my tribute to Lovecraft. A dysfunctional and (possibly) incestuous family is involved, residing on a close-knit island community and harbouring a multitude of depraved secrets. The story is set on Isle of Sheppey (ideal location for inbreeding, I hear!). Like John in the film, Aurel was the one that “got away” from his deranged clan. He relocated into a faraway town and blended into society. However, he still yearned for an heir of his own and after a multitude of failed relationships, he finally married Zora—a woman significantly older than him and burdened with a daughter from a previous marriage. She was reluctant to provide Aurel with kids, blaming age on her refusal. A vital detail Aurel did not consider. He seeks solace in the arms of his twin sister, Cornelia, who dwells in abandoned tunnels. Aurel shares his frustration and together they formulate a cunning solution to satisfy his cravings. The novella explores many subjects that intrigue me, including sleepwalking, astral projection, and genetics.
As I wrote, the story adopted a more complex form. I drifted with the current, away from my original destination. One night, I stumbled upon a shocking genetic condition. The article stated:
“Approximately one in eight childbirths are thought to start as multiple pregnancies and occasionally cells from the miscarried siblings are sometimes absorbed in the womb by a surviving twin.”
I figured that this riveting discovery would enrich the story. It was mind-blowing. I completed the first draft within three months and was pleased with the metamorphosis. What began as a simplistic tale of incest morphed into something much more sinister. The piece covers a vast distance in its puny length, ensuring the reader will be entertained with every page (if you feel otherwise, you may tweet me but I’ll just put my Russell Crowe on, shout: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” and throw a sword in your face). I’ve sent the original version to my beta readers and although the feedback was positive, I disliked my own style. The sentences flowed but the stream was contaminated with awkwardness that had to be eliminated. There were also several incidents where suspension of disbelief proved impossible. When I pitched the synopsis to Brian Kaufman of Dark Silo Press, he confirmed my fears. I assured him of my intention to strip the manuscript and include a full rewrite. To my good fortune, he embraced the suggestion and the project was accepted. Together we licked it into shape and I’m proud of the result. But still, the irony remains. You can read the finished product in under an hour, yet many readers are oblivious to the aeons we sacrifice to produce manuscripts. Writing is a hungry beast and consumes many hours. The blood, sweat, and tears writers pour into their art are often overlooked. But the sacrifices are willingly made. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. We are Rare Breeds.
Visit Erik Hofstatter at his website here.
Visit Dark Silo Press here.
Pick up a copy of RARE BREEDS from here.
Visit Erik Hofstatter’s Amazon page here.
Find him on Twitter and Facebook.