Horror illustrator Heather Landry AKA Sandpaperdaisy is officially a horror-fantasy novelist! Heather debuted her first novel, The Cradle of the Worm, as a HorrorFam.com FREEBIE on April 13th, 2020. Now, four days later, she joins Lauren Spear to discuss the book’s themes, her 25-year(!) writing process, and how — by pure coincidence — The Cradle of the Worm ended up becoming eerily “topical” during 2020’s pandemic.
Stay tuned until the very end for a reading of Chapter One of The Cradle of the Worm!
Get your FREE copy of The Cradle of the Worm by Heather Landry: https://horrorfam.com/free-horror-fantasy-novel/
Heather’s horror illustrations/comics: https://sandpaperdaisy.com
Follow Heather on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sandpaperdaisy
Follow Heather on Instagram: https://instagram.com/sandpaperdaisy
The Cradle of the Worm: Chapter One Audiobook Info/Credits:
The bloody actions of two fearsome strangers force a sheltered young man to embark on a perilous journey.
Ratings/Warnings: PG-13 for violence, blood, death or dying, harm to animals, kidnapping and abduction.
Read by Elliot Cantu. [email protected]
Edited by Heather Landry and Kim Cantu.
All images below were provided — and illustrated — by Heather Landry!
FULL Written Transcript:
*Intro music from FreePD.com*
Lauren Spear: Hi, Everyone! My name is Lauren Spear and you’re listening to the HorrorFam.com Podcast! My guest today is one of our co-founders: Her name is Heather Landry — but, you might know her better as “Sandpaperdaisy.”
She runs Sandpaperdaisy Art and she’s @sandpaperdaisy pretty much everywhere (Twitter, Instagram…). She did all of the artwork on HorrorFam.com — our banner, our mascots, all that wonderful stuff! So, you likely know her as an artist, even if you didn’t know it! *laughs*
But, today, we’re talking to her about writing. Because, my gal Heather just finished her very first novel: The Cradle of the Worm!
Lauren (continued): And I’m extremely excited to talk to you about it. And extremely excited to talk to her about it! So, [Heather], how you doing?
Heather Landry: I am doing really darn great! I’m kinda glad to have this [book] off my back ’cause, I mean, I’ve been working on this darn thing since I was a kid in high school. I calculated it up and it’s something like 25 years now…
Lauren: Oh my goodness!
Heather: Yeah. *chuckles* ‘Bout time for a new dream!
Lauren: Well, you have done something incredibly special for HorrorFam.com readers and listeners: You’re offering the 1st edition of your book, [The Cradle of the Worm], for FREE on HorrorFam.com!
Heather: Heck yeah!
Lauren: Yeah! And… why??
Lauren: Not that I don’t appreciate it! But why would you do such a crazy thing?
Heather: Well, because we are currently having a really darn crazy time. I mean, the situation that we’re currently in… Because, right now, whenever Lauren’s interviewing me, we’re dead smack in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020…
This time, Lauren, is so weird that we are already basically living in some kind of distopian sci-fi novel.
I mean, everybody I know, no matter how much they like or dislike fantasy and sci-fi, have all, without exception, come up to me and remarked about how they felt like they were in a movie.
So, obviously, everybody’s feeling it and everybody’s kind of… you know. Most of them are kind of scared or upset or, at the very least, they’re inconvenienced and annoyed because many of them have been told to stay home — and nobody likes being told to do anything.
So I really wanted to give the only thing that I could give to everybody in the world who’s stuck at home on the internet. And that is… *laughs* …my 25 years of work on this novel! So, here you go, Folks! I hope I could cheer one or two of you up.
Lauren: That’s so awesome! Yeah!
I know so many people — my friends and even just random people — are like, “Do you have any book recommendations? Do you…? Is there like…? I’m SUPER bored and I’m not used to being at home!” And, you know… They’re all just crazy bored and looking for things to entertain themselves with.
And you also created coloring book pages for HorrorFam.com — which are also FREE! And so, you know, people have been doing their adult coloring book pages. And now you’ve given them a novel to read… And I think that that’s just fantastic.
Lauren (continued): And, you know, I feel terrible for everyone. We’re a little bit more used to it because we’re freelance writers and artists and working at home is kind of our “thing.” But…
Heather: I know…
Lauren: I feel so bad for the people who aren’t used to that.
Heather: I know. Same.
I mean, some of my friends are just… losing their darn minds!
Heather: Yeah. They’re used to, you know, a 9-to-5 and then you go home and then you go out to eat or you do all these different things outside the home… Some people have almost their entire life outside of their home! And, yeah… It’s really freakin’ ’em out!
Lauren: Yeah. But, your novel is over 200 pages! So… That should keep ’em busy for a few hours at least!
Heather: I hope so! Yeah. It took me about a day or two to, like…
I did the whole, y’know, “read through the entire thing cover-to-cover” right before I pulled the trigger on it just to make sure…
Lauren: *knowing laugh* Yeah.
Heather: Yeah! *laughs* And it didn’t take me too terribly long [to read the entire novel].
Lauren: Yeah. And you were saying that — depending on the age group and their tolerance for gore *laughs* — [The Cradle of the Worm] should be okay for younger readers as well, yes?
Heather: Yeah. I would think that maybe 16, 17, and up…? Because there’s no…
Because there’s no, you know, erotic scenes where two people are into each other and are, you know, having a sexual encounter. There’s no hard language at all.
It’s just that there are several very violent, terrible things that happen because the book includes war. And I’m sure you’re aware of some of the things that happen in war.
Heather: Yeah. So… you know. There’s some…
I’ll go ahead and tell the readers that there’s a very BRIEF touching on — in the context of war — a sexual assault. But, again, it’s something that’s talked about a terrible thing that happened. It’s not dwealt upon as something that, you know… someone should be titilated by.
Heather: So as long as “children” — older teenagers — are aware that things like war happen and, you know, people occasionally killed or assaulted or whatever and they’re okay with your basic-level monster movie…
I’m not talking, like, Hostel here! I’m just saying, like, John Carpenter’s The Thing or something like that where there’s creepy monsters. Y’know?
Heather: I think they’d probably be okay with it.
Lauren: I agree. Yeah. I think… You know. Don’t read this as a bedtime story to your five-year-old…
Lauren: …but if your 16-year-old is sitting around wanting something to read: [The Cradle of the Worm] will be fine. *laughs*
Heather: Yeah! Because, I mean, The Hunger Games or whatever… Again: It mentions very unfortunate atrocities that happened just in passing, but it doesn’t dwell lovingly on them.
Heather: It’s a very violent story, but you’re not supposed to just be wallowing in it, basically.
Lauren: Yeah. And I thought that that was really great that you were able to… Touch upon these horrifying aspects without…
Heather: Without it being the POINT.
Lauren: Yeah! Exactly.
Heather: There’s still an actual fantasy story that’s the point. Yeah.
Lauren: Yeah. And…well… I guess we should tell them a little bit about…
I don’t want to give any spoilers away! But, [The Cradle of the Worm] is a horror-fantasy annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…?
I don’t know, uh, how much would you like to say beyond that…? *laughs*
Heather: *thinking aloud* I suppose I could talk a little bit about some of the themes in the book or maybe some of the characters in the book a little bit…?
There’s a lot in the book about being accepted and people forming their own families whenever, perhaps, they were not able to keep their original family with them for some reason.
So, there’s a lot of people coming together and forming their own, sometimes unusual — but just as loving and valid — families in the face of having to adapt and adjust to extraordinarily bad circumstances. There’s a lot of that.
Lauren: Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! That sounds awfully familiar! That sounds quite a lot like what we’re all going through right now with our “Horror Family” on the internet!
Heather: True! Yeah.
There’s a lot of people who, for whatever reason, are not accepted by the current society that they are in… But they are able to find their folks — you know, THEIR society — by putting themselves out there and just putting one foot in front of the other and going on.
I mean, this is kind of silly, but one thing that really cheered me up really hardcore, right when all this stuff went down…
Unrelated: I had like, you know, lost a family member and all this other random [terrible] stuff.
…I had to get gas one day — on this wretched cold day! chuckles — and looked up at the marquee… And somebody had put “When you’re going through Hell: Keep going” up on that marquee. And it completely saved me on that particular day!
And that [concept] is in my book! I mean, the book is all about how… “Okay! It’s impossible… The world seems like it’s crashing down upon your ears! Everything’s wrong… Keep. Going.”
Lauren: I think that that’s a wonderful message. Especially with everything that…
It’s a wonderful message at ANY time — but especially right now. And the fact that you were able to give that message out and put it out into the world at THIS time is great.
I mean, it’s terrible that we need that message more than ever now, but it’s great that you were able to provide that to people. And for FREE!
Both: *rueful chuckles*
Heather: Yeah. I mean, I dunno. Obviously, all of us need to make enough money to eat and all that. Take care of our families. That’s a valid thing to do which we should all definitely do.
And we should all try not to get taken advantage of, of course.
But… If there’s something that you really want to do that you just LOVE that you want everybody to have… If you CAN: I think it’s so wonderful to be able to just give it to them.
And that’s the thing: I really do love — and I really do, genuinely, believe in — this story. ‘Cause I have to believe in this story! Because this story is basically…me…
I mean, it’s 25 years of my life. And I believe in it from top to bottom. And I love it. And I, thankfully, am blessed enough that I can just… give it to you guys. So, that’s genuinely what I wanted to do.
I mean, obviously, I’m going to have nice, you know, version that has…
I’m a horror artist, first and foremost, so I’m going to [create] a big ol’ fancy-schmancy version with just gorgeous drawings in it. And maps just EVERYWHERE! Maps at the front of every darn chapter! Big ol’ map in the front like, you know, Lord of the Rings. ALL that. And I will definitely make that available for people to buy in paper and have a nice, luxurious, creamy paper copy right there.
But, the STORY, I wanted to just give to people.
Lauren: I think that is absolutely wonderful and more than fair!
Lauren: And I can’t wait until the illustrated version comes out on paperback — or hardcover even!
Heather: Yeah, whatever! Y’know? Shoot for the moon! Why not?
Lauren: Yeah! We should have, like, a raffle or something with autographed copies when [The Cradle of the Worm as a paperback/hardcover] comes out!
Heather: Oh, for sure! Definitely!
Lauren: That’s gonna be cool!
Heather: Oh yeah.
Lauren: And I love the idea of maps! Like, one of my favorite books is The Phantom Tollbooth…
Lauren: And I love that map in the front with all the different lands and everything.
Heather: Oh, yes! I utterly adore that book. Yeah. I’ve got a copy that’s just falling to pieces!
Lauren: *surprised/delighted noise* Mine too!! *laughs*
Lauren: Yeah. Yeah. I re-read it about once a year and it’s… It’s held together with tape! *laughs*
Lauren: You know, maybe, someday, the 16-year-olds who’re going through the pandemic right now and reading your book… If they get that on paperback, in 20 years from now, they’ll be like, “Oh, yes. This is my 1st Edition copy of The Cradle of the Worm — it’s held together with masking tape.”
Heather: Ah, jeez! That’d be my dream! Yeah.
If there’s just one or two kids who, you know… “Ahh, I just love this book! And I remember the first time I read it and it just changed my life and I was so happy…!” Y’know? *wishful sigh* I would LOVE it if somebody was temporarily that excited and transported to another place by something that I made. Yeah.
Lauren: Aww. That’s awesome. And I think adults are really gonna dig it too!
We were talking about its appropriateness for younger people, but I think adults are really going to love it too.
My dad is actually super stoked to read [The Cradle of the Worm], but he’s waiting for the audiobook version to come out. Because he’s super into Audible and audiobooks.
Heather: Ah, yeah. That’s why we decided to do that. Because, talking to some of my other friends, I realized that the only way that I was going to be able to easily give [the book] to them was to let them listen to it.
Because some of them genuinely have trouble reading — like they have awful trouble with migraines or stuff like that — or they just really don’t have time…
But they DO really love audiobooks. Like, audiobooks kind of changed their life. It let them finally be able to enjoy books! And I don’t want to cut those people out!
Lauren: Yeah! And, we’re going to be sharing — at the end of this interview — the first chapter of your book!
Because you are slowly, but surely… *rethinks* Actually, rather quickly! *laughs* But, you are getting those audio chapters out there and uploading them pretty much as soon as they’re recorded!
Heather: Yeah. I have it on there, you know, quote-unquote “bi-weekly.” But, if we can get ’em out faster: We will.
We’re just going to do it as quick as we can, basically.
Lauren: Yeah! And, so… 37 chapters… That’s going to go quick!
So people will be able to listen to the entire book. And, in the meantime, they can read the eBook version. And, then, when everything is out, people can listen to it AND read it at the same time and have, like, you guys’ voices in their ears while reading the book version like it’s Closed Captions…
Heather: HAH HAH HAH!!
Heather: I love it!!
Lauren: Yeah. You mentioned that you’d been working on this for 25 years and I’ve known you for almost 15 years at this point…
Lauren: And I can testify: You have been working on it for at least as long as I’ve known you! And that’s a pretty long time at this point.
But, [The Cradle of the Worm]’s gone through several changes, right…? Like, it originally had a different title, and…
I’m not sure what other changes happened — or if you want to share any of them! *laughs* But, if you do [want to share]… Please do.
Heather: Well, let’s see. I’m going to try to see if I can figure out a non-spoiler way to share…
Well, the first title that it had was The Balance.
Because, back when I first conceived of it, the main point that I wanted to have was an external point. I wanted it to mainly be about the world — the environment these peope occupied — and the affect of the antagonist on the environment. And the motivation for the people largely centered around undoing the damage done by the antagonist to their environment and restoring… the balance.
And, as I went on, and I grew up and became a mother and had to do, you know, harder jobs and things like that, and met people who had different problems and challenges… The focus kind of changed.
And the focus in the novel became more about the people. And how the people were changed by the antagonist. And how the people changed to be able to face the antagonist…
What the people were willing to sacrifice. How the people grew. How the people adapted. How the people relied upon each other.
And, also, examples of people who didn’t do a good job of coping with the changes and the negative things done by the antagonist to their world. It’s…
Again, I didn’t intend [The Cradle of the Worm] to be quite so… apropos *rueful chuckle* But… it’s kind of reminiscent of how, right now, we are seeing how some people are really shining because of this terrible challenge that so many people are facing. And they’re doing wonderful things! They’re switching their businesses over to make protective gear. And they’re making lunches for poor people and children. And they’re going shopping for, like, all four of their grandparents who live in different houses. And they’re tirelessly sewing masks and sending them out to hospitals that aren’t anywhere near where they live!
But, we’re seeing other people who aren’t coping with it well. People who are becoming more afraid or angry or narrow-minded.
So, it’s, now — again, even though I didn’t mean [my book] to be quite so topical — it’s very much about the diffrent ways in which we respond to a very great challenge.
Lauren: Yeah. *rueful chuckle* It’s unfortunate that the timing is so perfect, and that your book is so “topical” at this point, but… I think it’s something we could all learn from and, hopefully, grow with the characters who learn to “shine.”
Heather: Yeah. I mean… I hope, at the very least, it can perhaps resonate and be cathartic because it does. Y’know?
I don’t want to be trite and be like, “Well, you know, ‘misery loves company.'” But, I think you do kind of feel better when you realize that you’re not the only person alone on the moon and you’re weird and nobody’s like you and nobody’s going through what you are… And then you find a friend who says, “Yeah. I know. I know. I’ve felt like that. I don’t think you’re weird. I think you have the right to be who you are… and I love you.”
So, hopefully, it’s more THAT than, “Yeah, let’s all be miserable and scared together!”
Heather: No. It’s more like, “Let’s all be US together.”
Lauren: Yeah. I like that!
Lauren: Let’s do that!
Lauren: It’s interesting that it went from being about that environment and then it changed to being about… people!
Lauren: I think that’s really nice. Personally, I prefer that. I like stories that are more about characters than the environments they’re in. *laughs*
Heather: Yeah. I mean, I definitely…
Well, you know, I’m an artist. So, I really love beautiful, stunning vistas and visuals and things. But I’ll be happy to draw all that for you guys! laughs
I mean, of course, I’ve described all the different places and stuff and the people and what they see. But, the art is going to be a counterpoint to that in the final version of the book. Because I have faith that I can show you guys what I was seeing.
But, the book’s story focuses more on the characters.
Lauren: Well, it seems like you found your own balance then!
Heather: HEY, NICE!!
Heather: Perfect! WOW! That’s a good’un! Yeah!
Lauren: Yeah! A way to talk about the characters and talk about the beautiful scenery and now you get to SHOW that beautiful scenery!
Heather: Yeah. See… Oh! See? Now there’s a change that I…
It’s been so long that I didn’t think about it! But, originally, I was going to do [The Cradle of the Worm] as a comic for that reason — because I primarily make visuals.
But I also… My whole life, I’ve always really enjoyed writing. I just don’t do it as frequently as I draw.
But, yeah. Then I figured out, “Well, shoot. Let me make like 10 or 20 just gorgeous, elaborate paintings and not have to, you know, make 3000 panels that are each not perfect.” Which is what I’d like them to be…
Because the comic that I did make — The Killing of Dreams — was quite small because every panel I did want to be a painting. And, you know, The Balance/The Cradle of the Worm/… you know… is a LOT longer of a story than that.
Heather: So, I kind of realized, after I did The Killing of Dreams, that I just couldn’t do [The Cradle of the Worm] as a comic because I do really want every single picture to be perfect.
Lauren: Speaking of which, if you go to Heather’s website at sandpaperdaisy.com, she’s got The Killing of Dreams on there — which is the comic book she was talking about — and it is gorgeous. So, check that out if you haven’t.
Heather: Thank you! *chuckles*
Lauren: So if you are into comics, and you’d rather read a comic book, go there and check that out.
Heather: Yeah. Also: Horror. Of course.
Heather: It’s what I do.
Lauren: Yep. Heather is a horror artist. And now she’s a horror-fantasy novelist!
Lauren: One of your dreams for [The Cradle of the Worm] was to get pretty much all of your… Basically YOUR “family who isn’t family” involved in this book, yes?
Heather: Yeah! And I’m really happy to say that I’ve been largely successful in that endeavor!
My actual family also, you know, of course, over the space of 25 years has suggested different little scenes or ideas or whatever…
My dad named the main character. Which… It’s not going to spoil [anything for] you guys to tell the main character’s name. I’ve got his description on the [eBook download] page…
His name is “Corm” with an “M.”
Heather: Because my dad wanted [the main character in The Cradle of the Worm] to have the absolute least prestigious, least impressive name that anyone could ever have. And a corm is like… an onion bulb.
Like it’s just like a dirty onion or crocus bulb *snickers* in the ground. It’s just the most… *laughs* The plainest, most homely little thing that you could be is just a garden bulb.
So, my dad actually named the main character.
Heather: Yeah! Y’know?
And then, my friends next door…
I’m so psycho that I literally moved my best friends next door to me. *laughs* So, my friends, who now live next door, are the voices on the audiobook! My friend Kim and her husband, Elliot, and then me are the three voices that you all are going to be encountering on the audiobook.
I’m going to be the voice of Chapter Two, which you’ll be hearing pretty soon. Kim will be chapters Three and Four and so on…
We’re alternating because there are basically three or four main, big threads that the book follows. It follows a few different people and each of us will be heading the clump of chapters that addresses our chosen person. And we each chose the people we identified with the most.
And then… I’m trying to think of who else…
Oh yeah! My friends at work are getting into the act. One of them was going to teach herself to learn guitar to cheer herself up. So she’s gonna try to provide some guitar music, eventually, for an intro for it.
Another friend of mine’s trying to teach herself harmonica! She’s gonna try to provide some voices or sound FX or something.
You’re one of my very dear friends and so I released it on [HorrorFam.com]. And then you’re helping me tinker around with the mastering of the audio files and stuff like that. And, you know, seeing how the [written book] edit is and all this other stuff…
So… yeah! I wanted to try to involve everybody that I love… And I pretty much managed to do it! I’m pretty darn happy about that.
Lauren: That’s really cool!
Lauren: Yeah. Because one of the main themes of [The Cradle of the Worm] is “friends as family.”
Lauren: They come together and they become each other’s support system and get things done and grow and thrive together…
Heather: Yeah! Pretty much! I mean, that’s a big important part of the book. But it’s also…
Both: a big important part of life.
Heather: Yeah. A big important part of life! And of the book being made, too! Yeah.
Lauren: Yeah! *giggles*
Oh my goodness. You’ve been working on it for SO long! And, like, you talked about…
Like, you started this book when you were… Still in or just out of high school, right?
Heather: I was still in, yeah. Let’s see. I’m 38… Yeah. I started it when I was about 12 or 13 years old.
Lauren: Oh my gosh… No. That’s not… Twelve or thirteen?!
Lauren: That’s like MIDDLE school! *laughs* That’s not high school! Unless you’re, like, some kinda super genius! Are you a super genius??
Heather: Nah. I’m not a super genius.
Lauren: *laughing, teasing her longtime friend who is, in fact, a super genius in so many ways* You been holding out on me?!
Heather: But, yeah. I confirmed it because…
You know. I keep my old schoolbooks because I drew all over them. So, y’know, I didn’t want to throw away my drawings.
So, I went and looked back at, like, the very first drawing. And it was back in, like, ’93 or ’95 or something like that. So, yeah. I mean… *laughs* It was a LONG time ago!
Lauren: Oh my goodness. Yeah. Just…
That’s such a HUGE span of time! Like… You’ve done so MUCH!
Like… Okay. There’s middle school, there’s high school, there’s everything that comes after high school… Meeting your husband, having your children… Like, ALL of that stuff! That’s… that’s just ENORMOUS!
And, through all of that, this book was with you and a part of you and being formed…!
Heather: Yeah. And that’s one reason… I mean…
I’m GLAD it took that long for that reason. Because that means that there’s some of me as a child in there. And there’s some of me as an uncertain young woman — teenager, young woman — in there. And there’s some of me as a woman’s who’s just starting to become more confident and growing up. And there’s some of me as the *giggles* HARDBOILED wife and mom that I am now!
Heather: So, since there’s so many different types of people in [The Cradle of the Worm], I’m glad that I’ve been so many different types of people while I wrote the book.
Lauren: That’s so wonderful. I love that.
So… As you were growing up, your influences must have changed a lot. But, I know that some of them are probably the same…
And, one of the things that keeps coming up for this book, for the people who’ve already read it, is that it’s sort of “The Thing (1982 version) meets Disney’s Mulan.” And was that kinda what you were going for, or…?
Heather: Yeah. That was absolutely what I was going for.
That is my favorite Disney [cartoon] movie…
Lauren: Yeah? Mine too!
Heather: Yeah. And it probably always will be.
And, The Thing is my favorite movie of all time.
Heather: Yeah. And, The Thing very definitely has a… Well, both of them do…
Mulan has a theme about somebody not being accepted as the way that they are and needing to change…or die.
And, The Thing is about not wanting to change…in a very, very bad way that will destroy everything good about you.
And so, it’s really hard — and scary — to try to fall between those two choices. Because, when you are trying to survive, and when you have to make a very very great change in yourself in order to do so, it could be a categorically good thing… or it could destroy you, even if you physically survive. And that’s another really big part of [The Cradle of the Worm]: How much are you willing to change in order to survive?
And, in The Thing, you know, at the very end, you don’t really know…
I hope it’s okay if I spoil a 1982 movie for you guys, by the way! *laughs* Is that okay?
Heather: Am I allowed, or…?
Lauren: It should be okay! I can put a timecode on here if they want to skip the spoilers! *laughs*
[NOTE: Skip to 00:26:34 in the audio to avoid 38-year-old spoilers! Written/transcript spoilers start here].
Heather: Okay! *chuckles* So… At the very end of The Thing, you don’t know which one happened. You don’t know if Childs is the Thing. You don’t know if MacReady is the Thing. You don’t know what should happen to them! You don’t know if they should just die there… You don’t know if they can really trust each other and should try to escape and warn everyone! Y’know?
You don’t know what they should DO because you don’t know who they ARE.
[END OF SPOILERS!]
And, if you have made some sort of huge change in yourself to try to survive something incredibly threatening and dangerous that would be exceedingly hard to survive — and it’s something you could not survive on your own — you don’t really know, at the end of it, what you’ve become in order to do that…
So, it is, you know… That’s one of the scary parts of [The Cradle of the Worm]: The fear that you’ve lived long enough to become the villain, basically.
‘Cause, you know, you’ve heard that saying. You know. “Well, you can either die a hero or live long enough to…” You know.
Lauren: *chuckles* …yeah…
Heather: But… yeah! That’s one of the ideas that’s played with in the book as well: What did you do to…”win?”
And I guess that’s also just, you know, playing of the thing of: How are you going to adapt? Are you going to adapt in a GOOD way or are you going to adapt in a BAD way? Stuff like that.
Lauren: Yeah… Many years ago, you actually gave me some advice regarding adapting to things. And you were like, “Well, you can either expect world to become leather and that it won’t hurt your feet [which is unlikely and unreasonable]. Or, you can put on a pair of shoes!” *laughs*
Heather: Yeah. I wanna say that’s like an old Buddhist saying or something, but… Yeah. It’s like, “Why do we wear shoes? Because you cannot cover the world with leather and make it soft — you gotta do this on your own.”
Heather: And, you know… And that is something that you should do! But it’s also scary! Y’know? You’re scared of… Are you going to be too hard-hearted at the end of this, y’know? “Am I gonna lose my soft heart?” or “am I gonna lose my empathy?” That’s a scary thing!
Lauren: Yeah. I thought that was such… *laughs*
Like, “Heyyy. This Heather gal! She’s all right!”
Lauren: Um… *sheepish laugh* We kind of discussed this earlier and… It’s like… I don’t know what to ask you that won’t lead to spoilers! Because I don’t wanna spoil [your novel] for anyone! I want them to just go and read it — or listen to it being read — and experience it for themselves!
So… I’m not really sure what else to talk about in order to shine a bright enough spotlight on you and how awesome you are without ruining the experience for people…
Heather: Oh, I think sometimes people just also ask stuff like… “Well, what kind of horror do YOU like…?” Y’know?
I mean, like, this is HorrorFam.com! I don’t think it would be remiss for you to ask general horror-related questions.
Lauren: SO! What kind of horror are you into, Heather?
Heather: I… really love…
Well. Hmm. That IS a little bit of a spoiler…
Heather: I’m just gonna say… And if you care enough… If, you know, if you’re brave enough then go do this.
But, one of my absolute favorite pieces of horror of all time — that has deeply influenced me, and that includes in this book — is the poem “Darkness” by Lord Byron.
And, if you guys have never heard of this, this is one of the…
I mean, Lord Byron! What do you think of? You think of, “Ah, she walks in beauty like the night.” Or you think “Whoa, Man. That dude liked his sister Augusta TOO much. Wuh!”
Heather: Or maybe you’ve seen, you know, that really cool Gabriel Byrne an’ Julian Sands movie that was super freaky or whatever… Gothic, I think it was called.
But, [Lord Byron] wrote this brief, incredibly beautiful, incredibly dark, creepy poem. And “Darkness” is nothing more and nothing less than the light of the sun being extinguished and the people of the earth having to… Well. They can’t live through it.
I mean, SPOILERS from an 1800’s poem but… *laughs* Everyone eventually dies. Because the sun stopped shining! Duh.
But, yeah, the poem is just amazing! It’s some of the best horror that I’ve ever read in my life. Or will ever read. And, I mean…
I’m trying to see if I can just remember a little piece of it…
“I had a dream that was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the earth rolled blind and blackening in the moonless air.”
It’s something like that. And it, you know… That’s one of the things that I read when I was bright-eyed little 12 or 13-year-old Heather starting on my journey. And that’s one of the things that influenced and informed this book. That’s one of my favorites of all time.
And that I owe to my dad. He was the one who turned me onto the poem. He told me about it.
Lauren: Woooooooooooow. Yeah. Not too many people bring up poems as their, y’know, favorite horror mediums…
Heather: I did an ENTIRE art show on that poem! I had like 20 or 30 art pieces and then I had books…
Now, you know, I love books. I’m not a Bonfire of the Vanities type person. So I did, literally, JUST use textbooks that had faulty information in them…
Heather: Like, I deliberately had… My friends and I went and found, in the bookstores and stuff, textbooks that were actually harmful because they had incorrect scientific information in them, for example.
So, I spraypainted them all black and I nailed them shut. And then I nailed stanzas of the poem to these books. Then, I put these black creepy-lookin’ books at intervals all through the entire gallery. And then the pictures and paintings and things that I made in-between them.
So, people read the entire poem as they went through and they looked at all the pieces of art.
And, in addition, because this poem was about the destruction of everything, my art was also the destruction of former pieces of my art.
Heather: I deliberately destroyed and rubbed-on and painted over pieces of my own ORIGINAL art that could not be replaced… *laughs*
Lauren: Oh my gosh.
Heather: …in order to make the new pieces of art for this art show.
So… yeah. That’s how much I love that poem. *chuckles*
[SURPRISE! Bonus Freebie: Download the PDF virtual art gallery of Heather’s “Darkness” tribute solo show!]
Lauren: Oh wowwww… *laughs*
Lauren: Oh my goodness. Yeah. *laughs* DAAAAAANG.
Uh… So! How about movies? You like movies??
Heather: Yeah. You know. Like I said, The Thing‘s my all-time favorite. I mean… Because it’s a closed-set horror movie.
I mean, it’s just as majestic and perfectly efficient to watch as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope — which is another absolutely amazing movie. Because Rope just takes place in ONE room. That’s it!
Heather: It’s in ONE room. And it is PERFECT.
So, I really do like horror that is as efficient as possible. Which, you know… *chuckles* I’m sure you might end up deciding… When you’re going through this and editing it and stuff you might be like, “Oh man. She needs to cut some of them sentences out!” Because I haven’t gotten there yet!
I try not to be HP Lovecraft levels of flowery…
Which, by the way, I adore him. [HP Lovecraft] is one of my absolute favorites of all time. BUT…you know… Dude liked his adjectives.
Lauren: *knowing laugh* Yeah.
Heather: But, I prefer for horror to be not one wasted sentence. Or not one wasted look or expression or scene or act. I’m all about, like, “Chekhov’s gun” or whatever. By gosh, if we SEE the gun, then it needs to be fired later. And I don’t want anything to be wasted or “extra.”
So, I tried, very very hard, to have every single thing that happened in [The Cradle of the Worm] be significant. Everything.
I don’t know if I succeeded, but that was my goal!
Lauren: That’s very, very cool.
And I was just teasing you earlier by switching topics to movies! I think that was really cool that you did that with the art show. It’s HARDCORE, but it’s awesome. *laughs*
Heather: Eh. You know. I mean…
People have, like, all these really weird ideas about art, y’know?
The Mona Lisa… Which is perfectly fine, by the way. I went and saw it, you know. It’s lovely. But… The Mona Lisa is this old, rotting, small picture behind about three inches of glass. And it has been revered and worshiped by many for a very, very long time.
But, even though I think the Mona Lisa’s great and I’m glad that it’s taught, I don’t think that it matters whether or not it’s hanging there behind three inches of glass since we have all kinds of copies and pictures of it and we’re able to show it to people in MANY different ways… Which is one reason I do digital art: Because I don’t CARE about the original. At all! As long as I’ve managed to preserve lots of copies of the original and I’ve got ’em all backed up and I’ve printed ’em out on all kinds of pieces of paper and everybody’s been able to see ’em… I’m happy!
Because the art is ALIVE. And I never want to be so scared of losing the original piece of art, and thinking that it’s “magical” just because it was the first thing that I drew that piece of art on…
So, yeah. I was happy to destroy my art! Because I don’t care about the originals. It’s dumb to elevate a particular piece of wood, or a particular piece of cloth. The thing that I want to elevate is the IDEA that I put onto it.
Heather: Which is another reason why I, you know… I didn’t mind writing and re-writing and correcting and slashing this and slashing that out of a book over the course of 25 years! Because I never want to fetishize something just because it’s the first draft.
Lauren: Yeah! Yeah. Absolutely.
That’s one of the things that I’ve loved about having a cellphone with a camera in it. Because now it’s like, “Well, this shirt or whatever doesn’t fit me anymore…” and I can just take a picture of it and then be like, “Okay! Now it can go off to Goodwill and bring joy to someone else! It’s still perfectly good, it’s still fancypants and looks awesome, but it doesn’t fit ME and I have a PICTURE of it. I can remember it. And someone else can enjoy it!”
Heather: Yeah. And I think it’s kind of the same way as about YOU as a person as well…
I think it’s great to have a record of yourself. I definitely think, if people can, they should keep diaries or, you know, do a little voice note every once in a while about how they feel and who they are then. But they’re not going to be that person forever.
And, again, they shouldn’t just fetishize that person that they were… Because it’s okay that they’re going to grow and continue to learn things and THAT will make them into a different person in the future. And it should.
Lauren: Yeah! Absolutely. Like your story! You’ve gotta adapt. And you’ve gotta adapt in a HEALTHY way.
Lauren: So you don’t destroy yourself or destroy those around you!
Well… anything else that you want to share?
I mean, I want to tell everyone your links and everything. And then I’m very eager to share Chapter One of The Cradle of the Worm!
Heather: Yeah… Right now… Much of what I would’ve planned to do this year… As, I’m sure, many of… pretty much everybody, really…
Much of what I would’ve planned to do this year is now… out.
And I’ve basically had to just revert to my most basic level of existence in many ways.
BUT what I learn whenever that happened was… I was actually kind of grateful. Though I’m really not happy about all the terrible things that have happened to people! But, I’m really grateful that I’m kind of stuck just being Heather for a while. Not having to go somewhere. Not having to do something specific.
Well, because it’s kind of like being reminded that: It’s OKAY for me to exist. It’s okay for me to enjoy being in my house. It’s okay for me to just enjoy being next to my children and listening to them prattle on about whatever.
Heather: It’s okay for me to just EXIST and be here and live my own life and not be currently trying to help someone else or make someone else feel important. Like… I deserve to exist, basically. *laughs* That’s what this has taught me.
Now, whenever I was just at my most basic level of existence and was just kind of enjoying that… I found that I still WANTED to help people. So, I did!
But, it felt so great to know that it was just really okay for me to be ME for a while… And not being trying to help anyone else particularly achieve any particular goal. Which is what I’m usually doing to some extent when I’m at an art show or I’m at my job or whatever. You’re ultimately, you know, working with somebody else and trying to help THEM out too in a business way. You know, if you’re at an art show or something like that.
So, honestly, that’s what I’d kind of like to keep doing for a little while. As I, you know, work on the illustrations for [The Cradle of the Worm] and get other things done that I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time.
But I want to just remember that I am myself and it’s really okay to just be me… And find out what I want to…do…
Because I haven’t really thought about what I want to do for a while! I’ve been busy, you know, trying to take care of other folks.
Lauren: I think that’s so true for so many people! I know that [was] true for me. And… same for pretty much everyone who created HorrorFam.com — my husband, Frank; my friend, Christi; you; me! We all had that kind of… We were always helping other people. And then, now that we…
Now that the world is stopped and we’re just kind of stuck being ourselves… It’s kind of like, “Uhhh? Um…what do we do now?” *laughs*
Heather: Yeah, it’s kind of… It’s beautiful and it’s exciting and it’s intimidating! It’s like, “Yes! It’s FINALLY okay for you to just exist. So who ARE you really? And what do YOU really want? This is it. This is your time.”
And it’s like, “Oh wow! Oh! THIS is my chance?! Oh shoot! Okay. Oh man! Oh gee! I wanna write!” *laughs* Y’know?
Lauren: *laughs* Yeah.
Heather: But… This is it! I know it’s super depressing and scary and weird, but… It’s also our time.
Lauren: Yeah! And I hope that people listening to this kind of realize that it’s their time. And… this is it! It’s okay. Be you! Do the things that you wanna do. It’s okay, y’know?
Lauren: The world has given you permission. *chuckles*
It’s so weird! It’s like… Yeah. People who’re going to be reading your book…! It’s like, “Oh hey. Back in the day, before work and all the things that I usually do: Didn’t I used to like to READ?”
Heather: Oh my gosh. Oh, I feel that SO hard. Yeah.
Heather: Right before it hit the fan, y’know, we could tell it was about to hit the fan… And, me and my dad went to a used book warehouse. And we both just got a big, huge, stack of books.
Because, it was that magical couple of days, you know, when we were pretty darn sure we were just about to be told to shelter-in-place. Like, we were pretty sure it was coming, y’know?
Heather: But we were still free for, like, a COUPLE more days.
So, yeah. We went and we just got big ol’ huge stack of books and… I found out who I was! Because I wanted to read 1970’s sci-fi schlock!
Heather: That was what I wanted to read! That was Heather Landry!
Lauren: Well, there you go! *laughs*
Heather: And I felt SO good! Because I wasn’t trying to read some kind of… you know. I didn’t get, like, all 80 volumes of Remembrance of Things Past or whatever to “prove” myself. I just got what I wanted! *giggles gleefully*
Lauren: Yeah! There you go! And you didn’t have to get, like, YouTube for Dummies or…
Like, so many of the books that I’ve had to read the past few years… It’s all been non-fiction, like… How to do certain things for aspects of business. And now it’s just like, “Nah. Nah. Now, I can just read something purely for the enjoyment of it!”
Lauren: Like, I can sit down and read The Cradle of the Worm and get involved in a horror-fantasy adventure epic where…
Heather: Oh yeah. I feel it!
I mean, it’s… sad. But, like, in the past ten years or so… A few of the happiest days of my life in the past ten years or so have been when I was really darn sick. Like SO sick that I had to be isolated in my bedroom, y’know? Because I didn’t want my kids and my husband to get whatever I had. Like, stomach flu or something like that.
And, you know, obviously, that’s awful… BUT, that was the only time that I could lay there, in bed, for 20 hours, with a stack of books at my elbow…
Whenever I wasn’t busy… you know. *chuckles* Dealing with being sick, if you know what I mean!
Lauren: Yeah. *laughs*
Heather: But, aside from THAT, that was some of the happiest days that I’ve had in the last ten years. Because I was just allowed to exist in my room for 20 hours and just READ.
So, yeah. You know. This is like an extended version of that, but — thank God, knock wood — I’m not horribly ill during this time. I’m just…here.
But, yeah. That’s how darn busy and overbooked we’ve all been, Woman! I mean… ya feel me?! *laughs*
Lauren: Hah! I feel you, yes.
Lauren: Ahhhhhh… Oh, God. Yeah. I think every cell of me feels that. *exhausted chuckle*
Heather: Yeah! And… I chose to do everything that I did and I’ve loved it all, but… Boy howdy did I not have a whole bunch of time for me!
Lauren: Oh my goodness…
I’m SUPER stoked that you finished your novel and that we get to share it with everyone. And people have already seen your wonderful art on HorrorFam.com — you did our banner, you did our mascots, you’ve done pretty much anything that we needed artwork for…
Even people listening to this podcast right now! If you look at our podcast logo: That was drawn by Heather.
Heather: I love ants. Ants are good.
Lauren: So, go to HorrorFam.com/Freebies! Or just go to HorrorFam.com and click on the “FREE STUFF” tab. Heather’s novel, [The Cradle of the Worm], is there. Along with the coloring book pages she made! So, if you want to do some adult coloring while you’re listening to the novel or reading the novel, you can do that. Just relax, “zen” out, color with crayons or coloring… colored pencils…
Heather: Heck! You can use nail polish if you gotta! I’ve had to do that before.
Lauren: Oh, I’ve done that before too! *laughs*
Heather: Yeah! I mean, you know, have a fan on, by all means…
Lauren: Yeah. It STINKS…
Lauren: …but it turns out real pretty! *laughs*
Lauren: And then, on Heather’s own website — sandpaperdaisy.com — you can get The Killing of Dreams comic on there and you can see all her other cool horror art.
And, well… When the lockdown is over, you might be able to catch Heather at a festival or an art show or…
Heather: Yep! One day… One day we’ll be back out there and I’ll be chugging away, happy as a clam, I’m sure. I’ll probably be like, “Oh man! All that stuff about, you know, ‘having time’ was just so BORING. I’m so glad to be back!” *chuckles* I dunno.
Heather: I think I’m going to enjoy myself while I’m stuck. And I think I’m going to enjoy myself when I’m out. That’s my goal anyway.
Lauren: Yeah. Let’s all work on enjoying ourselves more. *chuckles*
Lauren: Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd Heather is on Twitter and Instagram — both handles: @sandpaperdaisy
So you can follow her on [those platforms] and engage in conversations with her and tag her in things…
If you do those coloring book pages, make sure that you tag Heather so she can see ’em too! We’ve both been enjoying the photos that people have been sending in of their renditions of our mascots…
Heather: Oh yeah. I love ’em! They’re so great. *laughs* Joan’s still my favorite!
Lauren: And… gosh! I-is it time?? Should we… Should we share Chapter One?
Heather: Let’s do it!
Is there anything that you wanna say before we dive into that, or…? Any prep needed?
I know, uh… How do you say your friend Elliot’s [last] name? Elliot was the reader for Chapter One!
Heather: Yeah! Elliot Cantu.
Lauren: Cantu. Okay.
Heather: Mmhmm. Yeah. And, you know, there will be a link somewhere if you need his lovely voice for your efforts. We’ve got his email down there somewhere. I know I’ve got it on the bottom of the novel page, for example.
Lauren: And I’ll include it for this as well!
So… okay! I guess… without futher ado, here’s Chapter One of The Cradle of the Worm by Heather Landry.
Heather: This one’s for you, guys!
*Elliot Cantu’s voice begins reading Chapter One*
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Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner of LittleZotz Writing, a super-respectable multiple award-winning website for freelance writers. She’s also the HorrorFam.com founder! Lauren grew up in the horror industry (her parents did practical special FX work for many of the horror movies you love from the ’80s and ’90s) and basically created this site so she could freely gas on about creepy stuff and stop having to pretend to be normal.