When I first read Roma Gray's short story collection, Grey shadows under a harvest moon, I was a little disappointed and I'll tell you why - it was because all of the stories were related to future books she had in progress and reading the stories felt more like reading excerpts of those books rather than short stories in themselves. I continually found myself wanting...more...and then feeling frustrated when the stories ended with, for me, no real sense of closure. It's not that the stories weren't good, they just felt a bit to me like they were a little incomplete - as a taster for her potential future novels this kind of works, it just wasn't for me.
The Hunted Tribe: Declaration of war is the first of Roma's books to be released, the first part in a new series, and I have to say, a very impressive debut from Miss Gray.
Quite simply, I couldn't put it down.
For generations, the Native American Indian Dwanake tribe have been hunted. Hunted by a demonic animal spirit that is determined to wipe every last one of them out because they once tried to control him...and failed. For hundreds of years, they have been running scared, systematically being slaughtered one after another as the ferocious beast tracks them down.
But not any more.
Now they have hope.
Now they finally have a slim chance at fighting back.
Sean is your typical dysfunctional teenager. Sent away to his grandmas for messing in witchcraft and possibly even being responsible for causing a fire that nearly burned down his home, he soon discovers he has a much bigger destiny.
For, unbeknownst to him, Sean is an uber-witch - and the only hope his family and ancestors have of fighting the Grishla and finally defeating it once and for all.
If he can only learn how to control his powers first...
The hunted tribe starts with a bang - thrusting us right into the heart of the action as we witness one of Sean's ancestors, back in the past, attempting to flee his nemesis and carry his daughter to safety - and from then on, the pace never lets up for a second.
Even during some of the quieter, more reflective moments of the novel, the threat of the Grishla continually hangs overhead and Roma never lets you forget its presence for a moment.
I really loved this book and found Roma Gray's style of writing to be both highly engaging and addictive. I never wanted this book to end and in fact, if I had one criticism, it is for me that it all co Es to a close just that little bit too soon. Just as things really start to get going, the story stops, and does so with a shock revelation that will no doubt leave you, like me, hungry for more!
I'm hoping Roma gets the next book out in the series quickly because it is painfully obvious from what we see here that there is a much bigger story to tell, and that everything might not be quite as clear cut as it at first appears...
Roma is a great writer, this is a great book, and I look forward to reading more by her in the future.
I caught up with Roma and asked her a few questions...
1) How did you get into writing?
At Halloween time I used to check out spooky anthologies from the library. I really loved them, but the library only bought a couple new ones each year, so it didn't take me long to read through them. This forced me to start writing my own stories.
2) You mention in The Hunted Tribe that the Grishla is based on a monster invented in your childhood, is there any more of your childhood fears we should look out for in future works?
Hmm...interesting question. I've sort of been purging all my childhood terrors into my current stories, not sure what's left. The pit in The Hunted Tribe is actually one of my terrors. It doesn't take much imagination to know that's going to lead to a disturbing situation. Another one is in my story A T-Rex for Xmas that is in the JEA anthology Jurassic Attack! That was my take on the famous scene from the movie Trilogy of Terror. Yet another one is in my story in an upcoming anthology, Twisted Tales Tea Party, called Trapdoor. It's based on giant trapdoor spiders. It also takes place on Christmas, which makes me wonder if deep down I'm afraid of holidays, haha.
3) Two of your characters in The Hunted Tribe are vegan. Are you vegan, and are any of the dishes you describe real or ones you have had experience of? Asking because I'm a chef and I found the descriptions of some of the food really interesting.
Yes, I am vegan and a few of my friends are as well. All the dishes in that book are real, and I ended up making each dish while writing the book. The food in my book killed me! I was hungry all the time! But...I had to add the food. That's how grandma's bond with their grandkids, right? If I didn't add that, it wouldn't feel like we were at grandma's house, would it?
The vegan part was important to the bigger story, which you will see in the 2nd book. That's why I added it. Also, I have to admit, I added vegans because part of this book addresses the issue of bullying. When I first became a vegan, I ended up being ridiculed and essentially bullied by people I thought were my friends (people I'd known for over ten years.) I'll never forget how confused and betrayed I felt . The vegan characters helped me tap into that hurt and anger.
4) Do you have any tips for future aspiring writers?
Read a lot and analyze what you read. Notice what you like and don't like in stories, every detail, right down to the sentence structure. Decide what's you and what isn't. Your writing will improve tremendously. Also, practice with writing games. One of my favorites was to make a list of words, pick two, then write a story based on those two words in one hour.
5) What can we expect to see from you next?
Everything and anything creepy and spooky, it would seem. I have 11 short stories scheduled to come out this year (two are already out in books Jurassic Attack! and New England Weird, while a third is in an anthology Twisted Tales Tea party which should be released in another few weeks.) In other media, one short story of mine is being considered for a made for TV movie in England right now. I'm working on an audio book version of The Hunted Tribe, and this book is also being considered for a movie by an American film company. In novels, this year I'm working on the sequel to the Hunted Tribe as well as three other books: Radio Silence (a dino book with Keith Olsen), Jurassic Jackaroo (a Grishla story set in the old West), and Haunted House Harbor: Hope for Humanity. It will be a busy, busy year.
6) Do you ever experience writers block? Do you believe it is even a thing? If so, how do you deal with it?
It doesn't really exist for me and therefore not a thing in my life. Granted, in my case, I may have conditioned myself out of writers' block, spending many years working on writing exercises. I think it all comes down to lots of practice and giving your brain a license to play.
7) Did you do any research for The Hunted Tribe or about Native American Indians? Or did you just fudge it? Be honest, lol.
Hahaha! Lots and lots of fudging. Although, a funny thing happened. For a short story on the Grishla (my story Maples and Tall Grass in the recently released anthology New England Weird), I needed to involve an old Native American tribe called the Croatoan. To my utter surprise, they really did have a witch whose job it was to communicate and negotiate with the animal spirits. It worked so perfectly for my story, it was creepy!
8 ) Who are some of your favourite writers - who inspires you and who would you want to be compared to?
Douglas Scott and Lincoln Child wrote my favorite book Relic. I particularly love Lincoln Child's writing style. Their stories are different, though, and typically don't have a supernatural element. I'd probably name my biggest inspiration for the type of stories I write as the ones found in Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Night Gallery, although they are not books but television shows.
9) What is the secret to being a good writer do you think?
Read a lot, write a lot. Analyze what you read, and push yourself to write about new things. In fact, all you writers out there, here are two words: vampire and blind. Write a story. Now! You have an hour.
10) what scares you? What's YOUR biggest fear?
Humans. Humanity's inhumanity is so ghastly and horrific I find it more terrifying than any monster or creature in the animal kingdom (yes, even spiders). That's why I typically don't write serial killer books. It's too real. Completely freaks me out.
Thank you Roma, good luck with your success...