We recently caught up with Venero Armanno, author of The Crying Forest, who kindly gave us an interview:
Describe your book The Crying Forest
It’s a supernatural mystery set mostly in an outer western rural area of 1970s Brisbane.
After the death of her adoptive mother and a horrific incident at her school, Lía Munro and her father Paul move from Hong Kong to Australia for a new start. The two move back to Paul’s childhood home in Grandview, a place of wide-open spaces, farmland, and a terrible history. The old Rosso home appeals to Lía for reasons she cannot explain to herself, but Paul is just pleased to see her content and thriving.
Yet little by little, it becomes apparent that Grandview’s past is bloodied by supernatural rituals – all attributed to a witch known as Agata Rosso. Children have disappeared only to meet grisly ends and the families who remain in the area know more than they let on. A place that once promised to be Lía’s solace has now become an unimaginable threat. She must rely on her wits and the uncanny gifts she possesses if she hopes to escape alive – and to save everyone she cares about.
What motivated you to write this book?
Probably the house where I live! It’s a lot like the one in the book. Plus, the nearby forest where I walk my dog most days. The house is a classic of 1930s-era Gothic construction, far more suited for the dark and cold winter days of rural England than Brisbane—but that’s what’s so unique about it and made us want to buy it in the first place.
When we first moved in 20 years ago the region was much less gentrified and there were deer and nightly packs of wild dogs wandering around. Hearing those howls at night is probably all a writer really needs to get the imagination going… plus in my youth, I had two encounters with a “real” Sicilian witch, something impossible to forget.
What background research did you do?
A lot into my local area and its development in the early 20th century, from widespread farmlands into the initial stages of semi-urban development. Then there was a lot into the seventeenth and eighteenth-century European agrarian folk tales, especially from the north of Italy, where stories about witches and werewolves were really quite common.
So, are there local witches and werewolves?
Well, there are certainly folk in Australia, as well as most countries, who live and even work as witches. We always think in terms of literary or filmic negative connotations but most of my research revealed individuals and large groups practising witchcraft for what they feel is the greater good.
When it comes to werewolves, the old agrarian legends I researched didn’t talk anything at all about the images of lycanthropy that we expect from fiction. Instead, these were usually tortured souls who probably needed mental health interventions. All of which was sadly lacking at the time, of course. Understanding this, sadly we have “werewolves” everywhere.
What supernatural power do you wish you had?
On a selfish level, to fly like Superman. On a more egalitarian level, to cure illness, make people feel better i.e. I do wish I’d had the brains to be a doctor or scientific researcher.
What’s the most common myth about writers?
That we sit around drinking shots of whisky and drop a book or two while wandering around in our slippers. Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, and takes just about all one’s effort. Having said that, I started life as a bricklayer’s labourer, and I wouldn’t dare compare the mental toil of writing, hard as it can be, with that sort of physical labour – especially in the Brisbane summer sun.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
I’ll cheat and pick a collection of novels: The Bandini Quartet by the pretty much forgotten John Fante. As Charles Bukwoski said, “Fante was my god.”
Who or what inspires you?
The great flow of life is more than enough.
What do love most about what you do?
The months and months of close attention to character, plot, detail, editing and everything else. Then being free to go out and talk to people about my book. It’s a weird mixture of loving isolation, then being freed from for about, oh, two weeks… and repeating the cycle over and over. Also, I really love my job at The University of Queensland. Being able to interact and learn from so many students is just a wonderful gift.
What’s next for you?
Another book, of course. Well, a couple. One definitely not in the supernatural or horror realm, more related to my usual sort of writing, and one which might be a very creepy continuance of a particular plot thread in The Crying Forest.
About The Crying Forest
The Crying Forest is published by IFWG Publishing and available in paperback.
Read more about Venero Armanno here: https://veneroarmanno.com/the-latest-book/