The White Forest: A Novel

The White Forest: A Novel

by Adam McOmber

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Overview

The White Forest: A Novel by Adam McOmber

In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451664270
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 09/11/2012
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 167,943
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Adam McOmber teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. Stories from his collection This New and Poisonous Air have been nominated for two 2012 Pushcart Prizes. Visit his website at AdamMcOmber.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Hampstead Heath, 18—

When Nathan Ashe disappeared from the ruined streets of Southwark, I couldn’t help but think the horror was, at least in part, my own design. I’d infected him, after all, filled him up with my so-called disease. The rank shadows and gaslight in the human warrens beyond Blackfriars Bridge did the rest. Madeline Lee, my dearest friend, would come to hate me for what I’d done. She said I ruined Nathan because of love, and that infecting him was my way of laying claim to his attentions. I couldn’t make her understand how he begged for it, begged me to touch him until he was changed. It wasn’t me—Jane Silverlake—he desired. He wanted the Empyrean, that improbable paradise, and I was its doorway. By the end, Nathan was no longer the boy we had adventures with on the Heath nor the young man who went to war in the Crimea. He grew to be half a human being and half some ancient and unnamed thing, and despite my warnings, we were all pulled into his hell, as if by the swift currents of an unseen river.

I can see the three of us there in the Roman ruin of my father’s garden. It was a warm day in spring, two months before Nathan’s disappearance, and looking back, I realize he was already beginning to lose himself. The ruin was a folly, meant to resemble the baths of Emperor Diocletian, and the broken gods of Rome stared down at us from their high pedestals—regal Apollo with hands and forearms missing and Venus with her face nearly worn away. Maddy and I sat together on the cool terrazzo near the sunken bath, our skirts pooled around us. We were the same age, not yet two and twenty. Maddy tended to be bold where I was circumspect, yet we shared a common affection for Nathan Ashe. He was a year older—aristocratic and lissome—and most importantly, he treated us as something more than girls. The three of us had been friends for years—taking restorative walks on the Heath and making our discussions in the garden. When Nathan began to change, everything was thrown off balance. We lost our careful orbits and began to fall.

In her lap, Maddy held a bouquet of purple comfrey she’d gathered from the outlying wilds. Her dress was a pale yellow with lovely white fox fur trim at the collar. Even her buttons were elegant—carved from ivory. I felt insubstantial beside her, wearing my fawn-colored linen gown and dark sash. A passing stranger might have mistaken me for Maddy’s servant or perhaps even a chaperone, present only to ensure nothing untoward happened between the lady and the young man. It’s difficult to even picture myself in those days—a mere girl in a plain dress, filled up with longings for things I could never have.

Nathan stood near the cracked bathing pool, which was littered with the remains of winter. Piles of decaying leaves and odd bits of bramble obscured the painted tiles. A lantern casing had fallen into the pool, and Nathan attempted to fish it out, using the tip of his cane. He’d only recently returned to us from the war in Crimea and still sported the red uniform and high jackboots of the Queen’s Guard. I could not help but admire his lithe figure as he strained to reach the lantern. He looked every bit the noble son of Lord William Ashe, famed arbiter in parliament, though Nathan was set to prove he did not share his father’s appreciation for power—at least not the traditional variety.

Crimea had clearly changed him, fraying some indispensable part of his consciousness. Since his discharge, Nathan had become involved with what amounted to a cult in Southwark, a gathering of the wealthy sons of London’s elite. These lost boys met in the chambers beneath a broken pleasure dome called the Temple of the Lamb, where they were instructed by their spiritual leader, Ariston Day. Day was a foreigner who’d recently appeared on the London scene with all manner of arcane philosophies in tow, and his Temple was our topic that afternoon in the garden.

Miss Anne, Father’s servant, brought a steaming pot of Indian tea from the house, but none of us touched it. Maddy and I were too caught up in our concern, and Nathan was oblivious to simple refreshments. As he worked to rescue the stray lantern, he described to us, for the first time, how he wanted to live upon the bedrock of the earth—this being Ariston Day’s own mantra. “Reaching a spiritual bedrock is the hidden enterprise,” Nathan said, a faint breeze playing at his auburn hair. “It’s the secret tract to all the world’s religions.”

Maddy lowered her head, running her fingers over her fox fur collar. Her rosy lips and large expressive eyes appeared less vibrant than usual. “I’m not sure I understand your sudden interest in these foolish ideas,” she said.

“It’s not meant for you to understand—not yet, at least,” he replied. “And the ideas aren’t foolish, Maddy. Living on the bedrock elicits a state like death—a perfect state, which is, in fact, eternal life. We can all attain such an existence if we find the right path.”

“So you’re looking for death?” Maddy asked. “Your adventures in Southwark have turned you morbid, Mr. Ashe.”

“Not actual death,” he said. “A state like death.”

“Those are Ariston Day’s words, not your own,” she replied. “It’s not a Temple he’s created down there. It’s—I don’t even know what to call it—a pit where good people get lost.”

Nathan finally succeeded in hooking the tip of his cane through the loop atop the brass casing of the lantern. He slowly pulled the rusted thing free from the bramble and deposited it neatly at his feet, looking proud, as though he’d accomplished something of merit. “Your father really should have this place cleaned up, Jane,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a folly and quite another to make your guests feel as though all of Rome is going to come toppling down on their heads.”

“Father is—distracted,” I said. This was of course an understatement, as both Nathan and Maddy were well aware. My father had cut our family off from London’s social line after the death of my mother, years before, and I’d been largely a recluse in our decaying house until my friends came into my life.

Forked shadows of oak branches creased the brows of the stone gods that surrounded us, mirroring the troubled look on Maddy’s face. She said, “Why don’t you return to telling us how you’re going to avoid getting yourself murdered down there in wretched Southwark, Nathan?” I could see she wasn’t going to give up on her inquisition of him, and though I took exception to her willful approach, I agreed with her intent. I wanted to know more about Nathan’s experiences at the Temple as well. He’d always had an interest in spiritism, ethereal planes, and the like—such curiosity being provoked by his mother’s frequent séances and my own unnatural abilities, which I’d shared with him. But joining Ariston Day and the other young men at the Temple of the Lamb revealed a far more serious commitment. I couldn’t comprehend Nathan’s talk about the spiritual bedrock any more than Maddy, but I knew from firsthand experience how easily our Nathan could be affected by the promise of transcendence.

“I wouldn’t expect any response from you other than dismay, Maddy,” Nathan said. “You’re afraid of every little thing. If we’re being honest, you’re even afraid of Jane.”

“I am not,” she said. “Jane, you don’t think I’m afraid of you, do you?”

I smiled at her, letting her know things were fine between us. “You have your moments, dear.”

She laid the bouquet of wildflowers on the stone floor of the ruin and looked sternly at Nathan. “I think fear is an absolutely appropriate response to Ariston Day. Since you’ve been crossing Blackfriars Bridge you’ve changed, Nathan. And not for the better. Now comes all this talk of death.”

“I merely know my purpose,” Nathan said.

“What is your purpose?” Maddy asked. “Define it. Stop being so cryptic.”

“You know I can’t do that,” he said, then looked to me. “Jane, why don’t you speak up? Talk some sense into Maddy.”

I found I couldn’t respond. When the two of them argued, I became even more timid. Maddy said my quiet manner made me generally less attractive and was sometimes even off-putting. “Girls should be demure, Jane,” she advised, “but there are times when I see you from across a room, and I think you might have turned to stone. I’m loath to sound conventional, but we must at least sometimes consider how we are perceived by prospective suitors.”

Such concerns as my comportment had gone by the wayside when Nathan’s involvement with the Temple came to our attention. Maddy and I were privy to precious few details about Ariston Day and his rituals, but as far as I could gather, Day was a charismatic who spouted half-formed theories about a return to the original Paradise—his so-called bedrock—that lay beneath the scrim of common reality. He promised his followers that if they continued to provide support, he would help them find the entrance to that Paradise. Day was a dangerous creature, the type of worm who worked his way into minds already weakened by boredom and alcohol, and I worried that his hold on Nathan was only growing stronger.

“Wouldn’t it be better to simply live freely,” I suggested to Nathan finally, “away from any sort of rocks?” I tended to side with Maddy in our discussions, as solidarity put her at ease.

Nathan came closer and took my hand. I found his touch all too hot, and he smelled of the awful glue factory near the Temple of the Lamb. “We are free,” he said. “But with the help of Ariston Day, we could be so much more. We could find the bedrock and live together like this—the three of us—forever. Jane, I tell you, Day would be fascinated by all the things you can do, your secret talents. I believe he could even help us achieve the Empyrean.”

I pulled my hand away. “I don’t want to start talking about the Empyrean again.”

“Please, let’s not,” Maddy said. There was fear in her voice, real fear. Nathan was right; my closest friend, more often than not, found me unnerving.

“That business is finished,” I said. “It has to be.”

“I’m only saying that Ariston Day might be able to help you, Jane,” Nathan said. “He knows so many things.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine without his help.”

Nathan released my hand and walked toward the edge of the folly, pausing to look toward the southern woods. Afternoon was quickly slipping into evening, and the whole sky had turned the color of granite. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind stir the branches of the budding oaks, trying to calm myself. Beneath the blossoms of spring, I could still smell winter. Nathan would not be deterred. Soon he’d insist on experimenting with the Empyrean again, and I wondered if I’d let him.

We’d previously put our explorations aside after the terrible events that occurred before Nathan left for the Crimea—events that had changed us all. I certainly didn’t want the likes of Ariston Day probing those memories, nor did I like it when Nathan talked about my abilities in the presence of Maddy. She was apt to start calling me a witch again. There’d been a time, shortly after I’d revealed my talent to them, when Maddy carried the Malleus Maleficarum, a hoary medieval text otherwise known as the “Hammer of Witches,” that was meant to help inquisitors suss out and dispose of so-called unnaturals. When I told her I took offense, she replied that the book had nothing to do with me or my “afflictions.” Rather, it was research for a series of historical daguerreotypes she intended to make. I wasn’t certain about Maddy’s explanation. For weeks after her initial experience with my talent, she’d adopted an air of mistrust in my presence. I didn’t think she wanted to go as far as tying me to a stake, though the looks she gave me were, at times, as searing as any fire.

It was clear that both of my friends misunderstood me. I wasn’t a witch meant for burning, nor was I precisely the doorway Nathan imagined. I had no lock that could be picked. If anything, I was the landscape behind the door, and even on that day in the ruin, I was still only beginning to comprehend my own flora and fauna.

“We should go for a walk on the Heath,” I said quietly. “It might clear our heads.”

“Jane’s right,” Maddy said. “Let’s forget all this business about Ariston Day—at least for a while.”

“I don’t want to walk,” Nathan said. He took a cigarette from the silver case he kept in his uniform jacket. “I’m sorry, girls. Maybe another time.” He struck a match on Mercury’s pedestal and lit the cigarette while gazing out across the unkempt garden. The more time Nathan spent at the Temple of the Lamb, the quicker he slipped into such bouts of melancholy. There was nothing Maddy or I could do to wrest him from these moods, so we fell silent there among the broken gods.

The Heath remained a memory of younger days when our friendship was still elegant—not yet fettered by jealousies or thoughts of unnatural forces. The three of us had forged our bond walking those houseless heights beneath the great marble skies, watching storm-dark clouds cast shadows on the tall grass. We passed through forests of hawthorn and birch that rose above purple bogs and walked fields lush with wild iris and lavender. Hampstead Heath was like a chapel, serene and godly, and I loved the feeling of the wind burning my cheeks as it swept down over the hills. When I walked there, I felt the poetry of Keats and Coleridge clinging to its winding paths. But such poetry was nothing compared to the presence of my friends. Our walks provided a sense of stability and comfort that I hadn’t felt since before my mother died. When I was with Maddy and Nathan, I was no longer the lonesome girl lurking in shadows. Instead, I imagined I belonged. I could laugh and even felt that I might one day fall in love.

It was Maddy who’d rescued me from obscurity. Her family had been driven from central London, where they’d lived in the fashionable area of Mayfair, and they settled at the edge of Hampstead Heath not far from where I lived. She accompanied her father on his first visit to our home, called Stoke Morrow, as he sought legal advice from my own father. I remember watching Maddy from the dark recesses of the stairwell on that long-ago day. She was a petite girl in a honey-colored dress with an impressively complicated braid in her hair. To others, she appeared to be a displaced society girl, charming and quick with wit, but I would come to know her secret life. Her beauty was of her own invention. She drank a glass of vinegar mixed with honey once a week to banish the color from her skin and darkened her hair to a near black with silver nitrate from her father’s daguerreotype studio. Her wish was to become the opposite of all the simple, sunny girls who’d rejected her after her father was ousted from the London Society of Art for a series of unsavory daguerreotypes. Perhaps this will toward difference was why she chose me as her friend. I was as far from a society girl as one could get.

She’d moved about our foyer slowly, studying Father’s collection of oil paintings—all of them odd and varied depictions of the Holy Ghost. To me, she seemed impossibly fresh and alive, and I held my breath, not wanting to hear her scream if she mistook me for a spirit. But when her gaze finally fell upon me, Maddy did not seem taken aback. Her features softened, and rather than moving away, she stepped toward me. The smell of lilacs that wafted from her made me realize all the more how much I smelled like dust.

It was later, as we walked in the garden, that Maddy said something marvelous; she declared that we were going to be companions. “We’re so clearly meant for that,” she said. “Both of us are all alone out here in this wilderness. I had so many friends in the city, Jane, but out here, well, out here there’s only you.”

I wondered if I detected a slight bitterness in her voice, and I considered, for a moment, whether Madeline Lee might feel that she was “settling.” In all honesty, I didn’t care. I’d never had a proper friend before. I’d never even imagined that I could have one, and I wasn’t going to lose my chance. Though we were only fifteen at the time, Maddy seemed a woman of the world, and I could think of nothing finer than remaining constantly in her presence.

Nathan Ashe joined our little group soon after, a graceful creature of myth who’d ventured out of the tangled woods. He was a wealthy boy with manners such as I had never seen who played equally at games of war and more mystical enterprises. It was Maddy who pulled him in. She was charming where I was not. She was the one who first invited Nathan to take a walk with us on the Heath, where he lived in a great Tudor mansion, called Ashe High House. To my astonishment, Nathan took a liking to both of us and even began visiting Stoke Morrow of his own accord. After our first charmed walk together, I never wanted to be lonely Jane Silverlake lost in her manor house again. I wanted to be always with my new friends. I imagined that the three of us might even make a little cottage of our own one day in the hills beyond the Heath. Nathan would hunt and Maddy and I would make a garden. We’d have everything we needed.

Such memories of my naïveté are painful even now.

• • •

Nathan left us there in the ruin that spring evening after our discussion of Ariston Day’s Temple, cigarette smoke trailing behind him as he made his way toward the path that led through the southern woods. I followed him with my gaze for as long as I could, watching as his red uniform coat dimmed and finally disappeared in the shadows of the trees. The air was becoming cool as dew set in, and I felt my consciousness drifting, mingling with the old gods. I wondered about Nathan and the trouble he was involving himself in at the Temple of the Lamb. I wondered about Maddy too—what would become of her should anything happen to him?

“We have to do something, Jane,” she said quietly behind me. There was a new desperation in her voice.

“What do you suggest?” I asked.

“Is tying him to a heavy piece of furniture out of the question?”

I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath of spring air. “I don’t know, Maddy,” I said finally. “Do you really think we could catch him?”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The White Forest includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Adam McOmber. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Set in Victorian London, The White Forestis the story of Jane Silverlake—a young woman with an unusual ability to see the souls of objects. When Jane reveals her ability to her best friends, Madeline Lee and Nathan Ashe, Nathan’s fascination with her talent upsets the balance of the trio’s friendship. Soon, Nathan has disappeared while participating in the dark activities of a cult that may have something to gain from Jane’s ability. Jane and Maddy resolve to find Nathan, but doing so forces Jane to confront the mysterious sources of her ability, and brings the three friends to the brink of a new reality from which they may not return: the Empyrean.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. After Jane reveals her talent to her friends she tells Maddy: “When [Nathan] looks at you, Maddy, he sees a beautiful girl…when he looks at me, he sees my talent. We both have something to offer” (p. 89). How does Jane’s talent change the dynamic of the threesome? What does Nathan have to offer Jane and Maddy?

2. At the beginning of the novel, Jane says, “I wasn’t a witch meant for burning, nor was I precisely the doorway Nathan imagined…If anything, I was the landscape behind the door” (p. 9). What is the significance of this foreshadowing? How do the other characters see Jane? How does she come to see herself? How does your understanding of who, or what, Jane is shift throughout the novel?

3. How do the wildness, beauty, and strangeness of Hampstead Heath contribute to the plot and atmosphere of the novel? Why does Jane both love and fear the Heath? In what ways does it shape her as a character?

4. After Nathan’s disappearance, Jane and Maddy’s relationship is increasingly strained by the question of whom Nathan loved. Whom do you think he loved, if he loved at all? Explain your answer.

5. Discuss the ways that Jane uses her power to help, to protect, and to manipulate. What are some examples of each? As her understanding of her power grows, how does Jane change? How did your perception of her change—is Jane innocent or culpable?

6. Nathan is so fascinated with Jane’s talent that he uncovers the secret writings of Theodore de Baras while abroad during the Crimean War. What drives him to do so? How does the discovery change him?

7. What motivates Nathan? How does his curiosity about Jane set many of the novel’s events in motion? Do you blame him for wanting to experience the Empyrean?

8. Jane is sometimes described as “unnatural” and she uses flowers or nature to control her abilities. In what other ways does the theme of natural versus unnatural play out in The White Forest?

9. Discuss the recurring image of the Lady of Flowers that Jane first sees in her mother’s wardrobe. Who is the Lady of Flowers? When is the image a source of fear? When is it a source of reverence?

10. Ariston Day wants spiritual transcendence and a “cure for every ill of modern society” (p. 263). Do you think the world’s betterment is his true goal? In what ways do his actions contradict this claim?

11. Jane asks Inspector Vidocq, “Why is it that all men wish to explore me?” (p. 285). How would you answer her question? Jane’s servants and Madeline fear her talent, while the men around her want to use it. Why?

12. Maddy tells Jane that she and Nathan thought of Jane as “charity,” as a “lark” (p. 291). Is she being honest? Given what she says, do you think Maddy truly cares for Jane? Why does Jane remain loyal, despite Maddy’s admission?

13. After Jane sees Nathan and Maddy together in the woods, she prays for him to be taken. Do you think her prayers cause his disappearance? Is Nathan responsible, to some extent? Ultimately, what do you make of Jane “devouring” him (p. 339)?

14. In the white forest, Jane realizes that her friends have changed her and that “the flesh and blood part of [her] had grown strong. [She’d] learned to love the world” (p. 343). What does Jane’s humanity cause her to do? How might she have acted if her friends had not drawn her out of Stoke Morrow?

15. Jane, her mother, and Mother Damnable are all avatars or manifestations of the Lady of Flowers. In what ways are the three women similar or different? How does each handle her powers and her role?

16. When Jane visits the church in Spitalfields she is told: “The role of the gifted one has nothing to do with power or with kings. She’s meant to keep a balance between air and aether” (p. 300). How does this differ from what Jane and others believe her role to be? In the end, is the balance maintained or upset?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Flowers hold a great deal of significance and power in the novel. If you’re hosting the group discussion, sit outside (like the heath), decorate with fresh cut flowers, or give each member a tiny bouquet like the one Jane ties to her wrist. For instructions on how to make a corsage, visit www.save-on-crafts.com/cormakbas.html.

2. Read Adam McOmber’s short story collection, This New and Poisonous Air, for your next book club pick. Do you notice any similarities to The White Forest?

3. Jane’s unique ability allows her to see the souls of manmade objects. As a group, choose a nearby object. It can be anything—a favorite mug, a vase, a chair. Spend a few minutes writing a paragraph about the colors, feelings, and energy that you associate with that object. Share your profiles with the other members. Were you surprised by what others wrote? Who had the most imaginative profile?


A Conversation with Adam McOmber

Are there elements of The White Forest that are based in research or inspired by a certain event? Or is the story purely a product of your imagination?

I researched many aspects of life in mid-nineteenth century London. I wanted Jane’s surroundings to feel authentic, so when the reader arrives at the more fantastic moments in the narrative, those too will feel somehow true. Though no single historical event inspired the story, there are many pieces of actual history embedded here.

How did you dream up Jane’s talent? What is the connection between the souls of objects and this other reality, the Empyrean?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the idea for Jane’s talent came about. The best way to explain it would probably be to say that the talent was built, piece-by-piece, both from research and from my own imagination. I considered concepts like animism (the notion that non-human entities possess life or spirit) and psychometry (the nineteenth century idea that a psychic can perceive the history of a manmade object simply by touching it).

As for the connection between the objects and the Empyrean, there are many ways to think about this. If a body (either animate or inanimate) has a soul, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to imagine that the soul might provide a kind of window onto the metaphysical world. I’m interested in the idea that the material can become a doorway to the immaterial.

The book contains some powerful imagery, such as Jane’s visions of the Red Goddess and the white forest. How did you write these scenes? Why is the recurring imagery important to the story and to your style?

Images arrive at odd moments and often seem to come out of nowhere. These sorts of fantasies tend to form suddenly in my mind when I’m thinking about something unrelated to writing. I try to keep myself receptive to such images, and I write them down when they occur to me. After I find the right image, I begin to explore it, pushing it as far as it will go. It’s my hope the reoccurrence of images that resonate will help the reader slip deeper inside the dream of the story.

Why did you choose the Victorian setting and Hampstead Heath? Did you spend time in London before or during the writing of the novel?

Yes, I spent time in London a few years ago and was certainly inspired by what I saw during that time. I chose Hampstead Heath as the primary setting for the novel because of its natural beauty and the sense of isolation it evokes. Jane feels comfortable on the Heath because she is surrounded by nature, and yet at the same time, she is left feeling ill at ease. She senses that she has been separated from something vital—something she must find in order to make herself whole again.

The names of the characters and places in the book are so distinctive. How did you come up with them?

For me, a character’s name should act as a kind of invocation. I worked for a long time to get the names right in The White Forest, speaking them aloud and listening to them. There were times when I started only with a sound, and I worked until I found a name that matched the sound. My hope is that the reader gets a feeling of the character from the name alone.

What do you hope a reader will take away from The White Forest? What kind of experience do you look for when you read?

My hope for readers of The White Forestis that they will feel drawn into the book by both the story and the characters. I want Jane and the others to come alive for a while in the reader’s imagination and to take him or her on an adventure. As a reader myself, I’m interested in books that have characters who feel like real people. I’m particularly interested when these realistic characters have strange and fantastic experiences that I myself could not have. The best sort of literature for me is the sort that creates ecstatic moments—moments when a reader feels that the everyday world has been torn away. I want to feel that a book has connected me to something larger than myself—something mythic.

When you are writing fiction, with what germ of an idea do you begin? A story element, a character, a setting?

This varies from story to story, but for The White Forest, the character of Jane definitely came first. I saw her clearly, walking across the overgrown Heath beneath a gray sky. I knew that she was lonely and dangerous. She didn’t belong on the Heath. In fact, she didn’t belong anywhere in our world. There was a kind of desperation in her. And I wanted to write about that.

Do you think of your fiction as literary gothic, supernatural, or something else? How do you, as a modern writer, approach these genres? How do you keep them feeling fresh and contemporary?

I am attempting to blend a wide variety of genres and literary tropes that I personally enjoy. At the same time, it’s important to me that my stories do not rely on generic cliché or formula. As I write, I am always asking myself if the scene or image feels fresh. If so, I know I’m going in the right direction.

If you could tap into the emotions of one specific object, what would it be? Why?

I’m not sure I can privilege any one object over another. I love the thought of being able to look through the objects—to look beyond the surface of the everyday world and see what’s behind the curtain. In a sense, I think using one’s imagination provides a similar feeling. Looking at a blank sheet of paper can have the same effect of looking into another world.

What do you like to read? If you were to suggest a book to a reader to read after finishing The White Forest, what would it be?

I love to read great imaginative fiction—works that reach beyond our everyday lives. I would encourage anyone who enjoyed The White Forestto read Isaac Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales. For me, these tales are near perfect. They are at once lushly Romantic and strange.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel that, like The White Forest, makes use of an imagined reality. It’s too early to say much about the story itself, but I’m really enjoying my exploration of this new set of characters and the mystery of the world that they enter.

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The White Forest 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
7710 More than 1 year ago
Gothic, dreamy, enchanting and beautifully written. I absolutely recommend!
Qwillery More than 1 year ago
Enchanting! The White Forest is a mystery wrapped in the supernatural set in Victorian London. It's also the story of Jane Silverlake. As the book description notes, Jane can see the souls of objects. Why this is and its significance are unknown. Jane's only two friends are either afraid of Jane's disease (Maddy) or fascinated and obsessed by her talent (Nathan). Much of the information about Jane, Maddy and Nathan are given in a series of flashbacks of various sorts related by Jane, who is the narrator. These are interwoven into the fabric of the story. Overall I found it a very effective way to communicate the genesis and changing quality of the relationships between Maddy, Jane and Nathan. The flashbacks also provided hints to the Empyrean and Jane's talent. I really enjoyed The White Forest. The style of writing is beautiful. At times I felt like I was caught in a forbidding Gothic dream. The descriptive prose is often sumptuous. The novel starts off slowly but builds intensity as it reaches its crescendo. The mythology and supernatural elements in The White Forest are inventive and well-constructed. The Victorian London setting forms an ideal backdrop for the events in the story. Jane is an odd character. If not for Maddy she never would have ventured from her home. Jane does not seem to understand the world in many ways. There are very good reasons for this. Nathan's disappearance is the catalyst for the events in the novel. We get to know him primarily through the flashback sequences since in the present of the story he is missing. Maddy again is only seen through the filter of Jane's eyes. There are times that she is an unsympathetic character (at least from Jane's point of view). The supporting cast of Inspector Vidocq, Ariston Day, Maddy' mother, Nathan's mother and others serve pivotal roles in the story. Each push Jane forward in their ways to an ending that surprised. Bottom Line: I was enchanted by The White Forest. It is an atmospheric feast of the supernatural, exceptional mythology, Gothic chills, and mystery. (Originally posted at The Qwillery)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Get into the characters- not much empathy written in the early chapters-no HOOK
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
aksecrets More than 1 year ago
At first it starts off a little slow and you almost feel at times like you don't know what is going on and then as the book continues, the characters develop more and more. Then you reach a point in the book where you just can't stop reading since you want to find out what is going to happen next. I found it to have a similar feel to it like "The Night Circus."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glack
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am here to join thunderclan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know what im not kidding im sorry this just wont work with my schedule. Also im GOLDENPAW!!!!!!!!!!!! Not goldenheart so i hope you understand i must depart from your clan:( with all respect i can not stay
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
May i join?i would like to be med cat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im Silentsong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry to interrupt, but great news! Couragestar has returned! Please respond to tell us if he can join or not.