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MOODBOARD: “The Red House”

May 4, 2020 in Moodboard, Patreon, Writing
Moodboard image for the short story, "The Red House" by Rebecca Jones-Howe

HOLY SHIT does it feel like forever since I last made a MOODBOARD post. It wasn’t even that long ago but time obviously hit a weird pandemic vortex in mid-March. I posted my last moodboard for “Coping Mechanisms” on April 6th, which still kind of feels like distant history. We were all still processing this stuff. Now we’re all pros and I’ve got a new tale set in pandemic times for you. It’s called “The Red House” and it’s a classic gothic horror but set in, well, pandemic times.

Preview graphic for "THE RED HOUSE" by Rebecca Jones-Howe with the quote: "It was important, now more than ever, to maintain a positive focus."

Battling Writer’s Block

I had some extra time between publishing “White Rabbit” and I used it up to write “Coping Mechanisms”, which took up a bit TOO much time, quite honestly. Therein began my problem. I used my pandemic story to work through my pandemic feelings, and once I finished it, I found myself overwhelmed with a void I couldn’t fill.

I’ve been plagued with many late nights as of late. It’s like anxiety brain on the verge of insomnia. It’s COVID-19-related while also just being adult-related. I worry about the door being locked. I also worry about my blood sugars crashing and whether or not I did my insulin or did too much insulin. Also, the pressure of writing these stories IS getting to me. While this exercise has proven beneficial, that impulsive need to produce MORE MORE MORE agonizes me at times. I want to be writing like 7 stories at once. I want to be submitting work and working on a novel and DOING ALL THE THINGS and I just can’t.

Long story short, I worked through it. It took time but I slaughtered those writing demons. Yes, I still have the endless late-nights but who bloody isn’t having late nights at this point?

What’s “The Red House” About?

It’s essentially a ghost story, a haunted house story, and domestic violence story all wrapped up in a gothic wrapper. Since the pandemic hit, I’ve kind of felt his NEED to tell stories about people working through this mess.

Seeing that I’ve been feeling wary about what the future holds, I have made the intention of telling stories set in pandemic times. “Coping Mechanisms” was about essential workers. This time around I wanted to tell a quarantine story, so why not make it a haunted house story, right?

Essentially, “The Red House” is about a non-essential worker, Annie, who moves in with her distant uncle to find some safe-haven from her brooding fiance.

Preview graphic for "THE RED HOUSE" by Rebecca Jones-Howe with the quote: "His steps creaked slow, calm, steady. Plotting steps."

Inspiration

Originally I was inspired by this viral thread on r/relationship_advice about a man whose fiance won’t let him into the upstairs floor of their new house. It’s pretty crazy, and also proved to be mind-stimulating in a time when I LITERALLY WAS IMPENETRABLE TO NEW IDEAS. This thread proved to be a damn god-send, honestly. It triggered the original idea for “The Red House”, but it quickly evolved beyond the “what the hell is upstairs?” question from the Reddit thread.

Honestly, I have a lot of trouble building terror in fiction. At least, when it comes to terror in a supernatural form. It’s just not the story I want to tell, because, as I mentioned before, I like my horror to be psychological in nature. And so I threw in the right psychological stuff to make this truly a RJH tale.

A Breakup Story

One of my absolute favorite things to write about is the death of romantic relationships. I’ve done it time and time again. The subject fails to bore me. There are endless ways to tell breakup stories, endless ways to make them fresh and relevant.

“The Red House” touches both on romantic relationships and family dynamics. It deals to some degree with domestic violence, which is currently a very concerning factor for many women currently in quarantine. And just like “Coping Mechanisms” was my way of working through the concerns of minimum wage essential workers, “The Red House” is essentially a story of a woman in danger. It’s about a dying relationship and the impacts of its fallout on all parties involved.

Gothic Inspiration

I don’t call myself a “horror fan” but the first story I ever wrote in the third grade WAS a ghost story. My tastes in horror lie mostly in the slasher or psychological horror realm but I do LOVE me that gothic horror. I can’t get enough of it. I’m a lady and I like my fictional men untrustworthy and dangerous.

“The Red House” started as a bit of a ghost story and went full-on classic gothic with some V.C. Andrews influences. I even reference Midnight Whispers from the Cutler series. Why? Because V.C. Andrews men are always brooding and messed-up. They’re virtually never sexy (IMO!) but I’ve noticed while doing my Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews review series that they often have this ridiculous obsession with vintage sheer nightgowns that always borders on laughable.

Look, I love me a vintage peignoir. I wish I could wear them. I wish I could be reckless enough to spend a quarter of my CERB benefits on a brand new Catherine D’Lish robe but I am — how you do say it — at least reasonably responsible with my money now.

I’d describe “The Red House” as a bit of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca meets V.C. Andrews meets the coronavirus.

The Setting

I’m not sure how other writers form houses in their stories. I typically like to use places I’ve been to but places I haven’t spent too much time in. The place needs to linger in the corners of memory so I can create new stories happening there. That, or I’ll look up house plans online and get a proper idea of a building, because I HATE how the mind can’t properly construct a house. Mine can’t anyway.

The house itself is one in downtown Kamloops that I went to once to pick-up a dresser I bought online. It was gorgeous and spacious but the upstairs definitely looked a bit creepy. You know that like thick shiny paint look? Where they paint over the windows and the heating grate ALL THE SAME COLOUR? That stuff? I do recall the windows all having a pretty pane of stained glass. The woman who lived there was in the process of moving out but mentioned just how much she loved living there.

I’d forgotten about it for a while, but it being an old house was perfect. I tried to find it on Google Maps but I can’t, despite the fact that its location was only limited to a few blocks on a few streets. I’m positive the owners must have repainted it from the house from the red colour it was 5 years ago to a blue shade.

Preview graphic for "THE RED HOUSE" by Rebecca Jones-Howe with the quote: "I wish I could fix it. I wish that being a changed person was enough."

A Break From the Norm

Ultimately, “The Red House” sent me out of my comfort zone. I left minimalism and extended my word count to properly describe the house in gothic detail. The story’s over 6000 words and I’m really excited to share it. I’m proud of it.

If you’re just as excited to read, you can get it on Patreon once it drops by joining my Exclusive Stories tier for $5 a month. You’ll get access to all the stories I’ve written thus far this year (with ebook downloads!), plus exclusive posts on Patreon AND here on the blog.

You’ll also be supporting me and my work, which means absolutely everything to me. I spend a lot of late nights writing, making graphics, designing the ebooks. It’s a major labour in terms of self-marketing.

Art is important now more than ever. Art makes the world go around and a portion of the money I make via Patreon just gets recycled back toward the small group of writers and creators who I support on Patreon. Let’s keep the money in creative pockets!

Preview graphic for "THE RED HOUSE" by Rebecca Jones-Howe with the quote: "He stood, cap in hand, his figure taking over the hallway, his smile forming, his lips curving too high."

IMAGE CREDITS

Closet / Hand / House / Bathroom / Lace Woman / Wood Floor / Bottles / Bathing Woman

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Rebecca

Rebecca is a neo-noir author from Kamloops, British Columbia. Her first collection of gritty short fiction, Vile Men was published by Dark House Press in 2015. She also writes about her writer lifestyle on her blog at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

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  • Emily Slaney May 5, 2020 at 1:27 am

    Well done you! Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone so often for these stories is such a great writing exercise, you are probably learning so much. Looking forward to reading this.

    • Rebecca May 5, 2020 at 10:07 am

      It was a lot of fun. Hopefully it’ll make my next novel endeavor much easier. I struggled with my voice with the first one quite a bit, breaking away from minimalism.

    I'm Rebecca Jones-Howe, a neo-noir writer and author of the short story collection, VILE MEN. My work has been featured in [PANK], Pulp Modern and Punchnel's, among other magazines. This site houses my writing profile and my blog, which features posts on writing, fashion, lifestyle + more. Want more?

    - RJH

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