Short Sharp Shocks! #47
S.J. Budd: Crowded House & Other Stories
Reviewed By Steve Stred
The second I saw S.J. Budd’s name announced in the final names of phase one of the Short Sharp Shocks! Series by Demain Publishing, I was beyond excited. S.J. writes like no other; beautiful, brutal and thought-provoking. When this was offered up for review, I jumped all over it, like a feral mutt seeing the last piece of kibble.
The release is a three-story collection. First up was ‘Until I Go.’ This was a tough story to read. Psychological and very cerebral, we follow a scorned daughter coming to terms with her mother’s terminal illness. She needs to go say goodbye. One last time, make it quick, in and out. The buildup was dark and the ending was fantastically executed.
The second story was the title story. ‘Crowded House’ tells us the story of someone inheriting their uncle’s house. The uncle was an eclectic anthropologist, someone that was shunned and kept at a distance by the family, which led to a surprise that the house was inherited. Upon arrival, the house feels alive and once entered, it is seen that the uncle was a hoarder. But as things unravel, we find out that there just may be more in the house than originally believed. Outstanding.
The final story was ‘A Bubble of Friendship Will Keep Us.’ I was blown away with this story. It is a simple story, featuring two young female friends, best friends, who hang out in the woods near their home and believe that they are surrounded by fairies but have yet to see them. Then one friend begins to develop new interests, leaving the other friend feeling abandoned and betrayed. Budd pulls this off with simplicity and devastation. Absolutely loved it.
Budd is such a great writer that you’ll hum through these three stories faster than expected. I really loved each story and believe this showcases her deft skills perfectly. For folks wanting to check out her work for the first time – this is an ideal place to begin.
Crowded House & Other Stories
Containing the stories: UNTIL I GO – Selina longs to be free from her mother’s hatred. They haven’t spoken in years until Selina is asked to visit her dying mother in hospital one final time. This is it. Soon Selina will be free but will their last goodbye go smoothly? CROWDED HOUSE – A young woman finds out she is the sole heir of her Uncle’s estate after he vanishes. She comes to Canterbury for a new life but the house is not what she was hoping for. It has been left in a terrible state and holds many secrets she must confront if she is to take control of it before it takes control of her. A BUBBLE OF FRIENDSHIP WILL KEEP US – On the cusp of adolescence, Ella fears for her best friend Jade who is turning her back on their childhood friendship and the mysterious forest beyond their homes. Jade wants to grow up but the fairies want Ella to put a stop to it.”
S.J. Budd Talks To Demain Publishing
(Originally featured on the Demain Publishing Blog 17th January 2020 HERE)
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi! Great to meet you – can you tell us a little about yourself?
S.J. BUDD: Hi, I‘m Sarah I’ve been a horror writer for about five years. I live in London but am originally from Cornwall which is an ancient Celtic region in South West England. Cornwall is home to many myths and legends as well as ghosts which had a big effect on me growing up.
DP: Ah, a beautiful part of the world. Been a little while since we’ve been down that neck of the woods but definitely one to add to the list of places to visit in 2020. What are your stories about?
SJB: Sure. Until I Go – This is a tale of a young woman, Selina who is seeing her mother for the last time. They have had a troubled relationship but she still hopes that maybe some love can be salvaged before the end. Selina visits her mother in hospital hoping that maybe her mother will finally tell her she loves her only child, but not all mothers are kind and loving. Crowded House – Near where I live there is an abandoned house is a very nice little street which has fascinated me for years and is the inspiration for this story. Most people dream of owning their own home, creating their own little sanctuary from the outside world in which to build a family. So how come this one was allowed to fall into ruin? I began to wonder who had lived here and that’s how this story came to be. A young woman has been left a house from her mysterious Uncle. She hopes this will be the start of a new life, a better life. When she arrives, the house is in a dire state, but she is determined to fix it and to also find out more about her Uncle. She feels guilt at never making an effort to see him. A Bubble of Friendship Will Keep Us is about trying to hold on to the magic and innocence of youth, of wanting things to always stay the same.
DP: Three great stories – we really enjoyed them here at DEMAIN so well done. Did you have to do much research when writing them?
SJB: None, unless daydreaming counts!
DP: Ah, fair enough. What would you say was your biggest creative success?
SJB: Recently I had a short story released on the No Sleep Podcast. I’m a huge fan! I never thought for one moment they would accept my story but they did and it allowed me to join the HWA.
DP: Good for you and again well done. Which books (or authors) do you read and would you say they influence you?
SJB: I read so many books! They are mostly horror, but I will occasionally delve into contemporary fiction. I’m a big fan of short stories as well as novels. Currently I am reading the latest Ellen Datlow – The Best Horror of the Year (Volume 11) and am really loving it. I also love Aphotic Realm which I’ve been published in. They are really going places [they are!]! My favourite authors include; Adam Neville, Stephen King, Patrick Rothfuss, Susan Hill, Jonathan Janz and Shirley Jackson.
DP: Some great names again. What is ‘horror’ to you?
SJB: Horror is so many things to different people. To me horror is a quiet force that sneaks up on you. It’s not about scary creatures and monsters with big teeth. Horror is a daily part of our lives, there’s no escaping it. It’s it the dark underside of life, of things going wrong, life not turning out how you expected it to. We only have one life, and for some it’s not very long. If we mess up, we can’t always fix our mistakes. There’s no rest button, our past haunts us, our ultimate demise is inescapable.
DP: So true, so true. Sadly as you get older a point quickly comes when you realise how fleeting it all is…is there a book or film you’re looking forward to?
SJB: I’m really excited about The Reddening which has just been released by Adam Neville. He’s one of my favourite authors whose stories scare me so much I usually end up having nightmares! I’ve still yet to see Midsommar and Pet Sematary.
DP: Us too, though did actually get out to see Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker recently…what is S.J. Budd scared of?
SJB: I’m afraid of EVERYTHING! I am the world’s biggest wimp. My fear gives me never ending inspiration for horror tales. Recently I flew to Iceland and cried all the way there as there was some slight turbulence.
DP: Oh my lord, I’m with you on that one. I hate flying. And oddly I was recently commissioned to write a horror movie set on a plane. It’s going to be filmed in the Ukraine on a purpose-built set. Don’t worry though I’ve done my research and if I travel overnight etc I think it’ll only take me three days to get to Kiev by train. There’s no way you’re getting me in the air again! Let’s change the subject: creatively is there anything you’d like to do which you haven’t quite managed yet?
SJB: I’ve been writing seriously for about five years, but I still feel like I’m just getting started. There’s so much I want to do with writing. In the future I’d love to release a short story collection, as well as longer works of fiction. I’ve recently finished a novella and will be submitting it this year.
DP: Good for you! Never give up either. A frothy one: Marvel or DC?
SJB: Eeek! Can I say Batman? My kids are obsessed with Harley Quinn and the Joker. That’s DC right?
DP: [Right!] Finally then, can you tell your readers something they might be surprised to find out about you?
SJB: I have an obsession with Cactus plants!
DP: That’s…unusual ha ha!
S.J.Budd is a dark fiction author and HWA member from Cornwall. Her work has appeared in The No Sleep Podcast, Aphotic Realm, Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins, Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of three novels, a number of novellas and four collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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