The paperback edition of THE WHITE FOREST by Adam McOmber just came out, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, and more!
Please welcome Adam to the blog!
It’s been almost a year since your first novel (after your short story collection This New & Poisonous Air), The White Forest came out, and it was just released in paperback! Will you tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?
The White Forest is a metaphysical mystery set in the nineteenth century, in and around the ancient parkland of Hampstead Heath. It’s the story of Jane Silverlake, a kind of Victorian superhero. She’s a young recluse who has the ability to perceive the souls of manmade objects. One of Jane’s friends has recently gone missing, and she must come to understand her own power and use it to investigate a cult in Southwark that may have something to do with the disappearance.
Inspiration for The White Forest came from a variety of places, though I’ll say my primary inspiration came from reading works of Victorian comparative mythology like James Frazier’s The Golden Bough as well the weird tales of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. I also read a lot of Victorian ghost stories to get the tone right for the book.
Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, yes. Since I was a child, I’ve been in love with the way stories can ignite the imagination. I try to write the kind of stories that will get stuck in the reader’s mind, as so many stories got stuck in my mind as a child. Currently, I teach creative writing at Columbia College Chicago where I also am the associate editor of a literary magazine called Hotel Amerika.
What made you decide to set The White Forest in Victorian England? What do you find most fascinating about that time period, and what kind of research did you do for the book?
I love the way Victorian culture is steeped in explorations of death and mysticism. I also love that they wrote so many ghost stories!
What, or who, have been some of the biggest influences on your writing?
My influences are far ranging—from Stephen King to Henry James. I love ancient myth and fairy tales too. I like authors who can make us feel like we’ve been dropped into the world they’ve created. I strive for that in my own work as well.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
That’s a difficult question. The Stand by Stephen King, Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen, or The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. That’s more than one, but I couldn’t help myself.
What did you enjoy most about writing The White Forest, and what would you like readers to take away from the book?
I want readers to feel suspense and also to be filled up with the strange ideas that I’ve pulled from myth and Victorian mysticism. I want them to understand Jane by the end of the novel—even though she’s a troubled heroine, I want people to grasp why she does the things she does.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Figure out what you should be reading. What type of writing will help you grow? I think every writer is unique—different types of literature speak to each of us. My writing really came to life when I discovered Isak Dinesen and Angela Carter. Once I started reading their work, I came to a new understanding of my own. Seven Gothic Tales and The Bloody Chamber, in particular, helped me hone my craft more than any class or mentor. Let your reading life nourish your writing life.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I read a lot of 18th and 19th century fiction and nonfiction…and some comic books to help me unwind. I also love movies—horror movies mainly.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a fantastical retelling of the life of Madame Tussaud set in 18th century Switzerland and France.
Keep up with Adam: Website
About THE WHITE FOREST:
Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable and frightening gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. She finds solace in her only companions, Madeline and Nathan, but as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by jealousies and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite.
A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.