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October Frights: Our Fearful Roots

Mary relocates her family to her aunt’s old house in Alabama, a place she fled from sixteen years earlier.

When her family experiences odd and threatening occurrences, Mary dismisses them as dreams or heat-induced hallucinations.

Can Mary accept the truth before it is too late to save her family?

Our Fearful Roots is a Southern Gothic Horror novel by Carmilla Voiez and Faith Marlow.

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Faith and I were already friends before we started this project, although we still haven’t met in the flesh. We decided to write together after a larger group project was abandoned. Choosing the concept was easy, the haunted house idea appealed to both of us, but we were unsure about how we might approach co-writing as a process without stepping on each other’s toes. I think it was me who initially suggested we have multiple protagonists and divide them between us, but as happens with collaborative projects, the idea quickly became ours rather than mine.

We imagined a family with two male and two female characters. Faith took the father and daughter and I, very happily, wrote the mother and son. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the house itself feels like the primary character in the finished novel; it connects them all and acts as both hero and villain. Everything beyond the family and the haunted house was revealed to us through the process of writing. We had no plan, and the story grew organically or magically, like the sinister climbing roses in our story.

The novel was written entirely via email. After writing a scene or two from the mother’s or son’s perspective, I send it to Faith who picked up where I left off. Editing the finished draft was challenging. I had to fix time jumps and repeated scenes, choosing the most powerful and important POV (character’s point of view) for each event and weaving in any vital plot points which would have been lost in the cutting of the other version(s). I smoothed the narrative and adjusted aspects of language use so that it would feel as though a single author had written the story, not me or Faith but a consolidation of both of us – Familla Marloiz, if you like, but I needed to be careful to do this without sacrificing the individuality of the four protagonists.

As is often the case with my novels, it took longer to edit Our Fearful Roots that it took to write the first draft, but the favourable reviews and being shortlisted for an award assures me that the finished book succeeded in its purpose.


“Run!” The breath that accompanied the voice in Mary’s ear felt colder than the recycled air blasting through the dashboard vent.

She was smothered by darkness, unbroken except for needle-points of blinking stars far above the towering treetops. Her nose burned with the acidic perfume of conifers while her ears caught the sharp sounds of pine needles snapping underfoot. Adrenaline spurred her onward as she sprinted between ancient trunks, knowing that if she were caught, she too would die.

Not a dream— she wasn’t asleep. Was it an exhaustion-induced hallucination?

Mary was in the passenger seat of their minivan— her husband, Chuck, behind the wheel and her children in the backseat. She shivered uncontrollably while staring in disbelief at the superimposed woodland which obscured the road ahead. Her desert-dry eyes pulsed.

“What?” she asked out loud.

Chuck glanced at her briefly, his forehead furrowed by a frown before returning his concentration to the road ahead. “I didn’t say a word,” he snapped.

“Eric? Anita?”

Eric, at fifteen, was frequently lost in his own world, but Anita had the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a rabbit— a five-year-old who missed nothing and would surely be able to provide the validation Mary needed. Both kids glanced up from their electronic devices and shook their heads. Mary noted their bleary-eyed stares and realized even Anita’s senses had been dulled by the monotony of travel.

After four days on the road and three nights spent in cheap motel rooms that stank of other people’s sweat, the atmosphere in the minivan had the weight and darkness of a burgeoning storm. Her family was wrapped in blankets of resentment, and Mary could taste their anger. None of them wanted to leave Seattle, and all of them blamed her for forcing the move.

“None of you heard the voice?” The sharp, plaintive tone of Mary’s question grated on her nerves. “It sounded old and female.”

“Must have been a dream. You didn’t sleep well last night,” Chuck said.

October Frights Giveaway:

Thank you for joining me this October Frights.

Carmilla Voiez is a British horror and fantasy writer living in Scotland. Her influences include Graham Masterton, Thomas Ligotti, and Clive Barker. She is pansexual and passionate about intersectional feminism and human rights. Carmilla has a First-Class Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Linguistics. Her work includes stories in horror anthologies published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Clash Books and Mocha Memoirs; a co-authored Southern Gothic Horror novel; two self-published graphic novels, and the award-winning, dark fantasy/horror Starblood trilogy. Graham Masterton described the second book in her Starblood trilogy as a “compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life”. Carmilla is also a freelance editor and mentor who enjoys making language sing.

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