Short Sharp Shocks! #35
Joanna Koch: The Couvade
Reviewed By Stred Stred
Look at that cover! Look! Look at it!
If that cover doesn’t make you want to read this, I don’t know how else to get your attention. Oh, actually – I do. The story inside is fantastic.
I’ve read, I think now, a dozen of the Demain Publishing Short Sharp Shocks! Series and every single time, cover artist Adrian Baldwin has delivered a stark cover that does the story and theme total justice. When I saw this one announced I was shook. Just a riveting piece of artwork and 1000% jealous that I’ll never have that moon and that furry, clawed hand in front of it on any of my releases.
The story itself is simple. Boyfriends, Martin and Jerome have returned to Martin’s childhood home. Having had the home left to Martin after a family members passing, he’s reluctantly arrived to sort through things and decide if they will keep the mansion or sell it.
The family has history in the small town, large parts of which really reminded me of ‘The Folks’ by Ray Garton – those stolen whispers amongst locals that maybe not all is right behind the closed doors.
Martin does his best to protect Jerome from the truths that he wants to stay buried, but Koch does such a great job of building dread and making you unnerved that you really wish he’d just stop and let Jerome find out what’s going on.
The ending is phenomenal, brutal and devastating. I loved how the folklore reared its fanged head and then was delivered succinctly and efficiently – like the cold killers portrayed within.
This is easily one of my personal favourites so far in the series, a series that really is a must-read for all horror fans!
Martin’s keeping a dangerous secret from his partner. He’s found love with Jerome, and a life happily estranged from the shapeshifting rituals of his past. But some secrets don’t die. As the past comes alive and lures them into a trap, Martin must choose whether to be hunter or prey…
Joanna Koch: The Kendall Reviews Interview
(This interview was conducted back in late October 2019)
Kendall Reviews: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
Joanna Koch: Certainly. I’m a writer who started writing a little later in life, after my mid-thirties. My education was in Fine Art and Psychology, and I spent most of my creative time drawing and painting until about ten years ago when the writing bug burrowed deep under my skin. Its eggs have been growing and hatching ever since.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
JK: Pretty much anything a cat would like to do: Stare out the window at birds and swirling leaves, play in the garden, eat, attack, receive snuggles. Like a cat, snuggles must fit exact specifications which constantly change from moment to moment.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
JK: My first two fairy tale books were early twentieth-century copies of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Grimm is my favorite. Both were old when I got them, and unlike newer copies that kids from wealthier families had, my books featured terrifying illustrations and way too much violence to be considered suitable for children nowadays. My earlier, more horrifying versions of stories like Cinderella stuck with me, and in contrast with the tidy movie and storybook versions you find in popular culture, I think they gave me the idea early on that a story might have different levels of meaning depending on who was telling it.
KR: What was the last great book you read?
JK: “Last Days” by Brian Evenson. It is so deceptively simple, hilarious, and weirdly hypnotic. One can’t help imagining a lost limb and starting to feel a sort of visceral identification with the main character as the story progresses. The biblical and apocalyptic fetishism, the painful satire he achieves simply takes it to another level. I’m a sucker for a murdering Christ.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
JK: I love a real book, the physical paper, and if it’s a hardback, the beauty of a gorgeous design, embossed calligraphy on leather or linen, the smell and feel of it…okay I’m getting a bit worked up. The tragedy is there are too many books to own, and I am the opposite of a hoarder. When the library can’t meet my needs, I resort to E-books and heave a small sigh of acceptance.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
JK: I didn’t start writing with the idea that I wanted to write. I started writing with the idea that I wanted to speak to the dead. Or hijack across some kind of boundary, the divide that grows between you and the world when you’re old enough (or young and unfortunate enough) that the people and animals (and possibly things, like places) that border and contain your life are gone. They take a bit of your identity with them, and you must work on rebuilding to remain grounded and vital. I think this is why we see people with long or intense life experiences telling the same stories over and over again. After living long enough or going through enough drama, one needs to reconcile.
Oh, but to actually answer your question: right now I’d say the writer who most inspires me is Kathe Koja, for her style, intensity, imagery, politics, and bravery. She’s every bit as brilliant as William Burroughs (who I read in high school) and better at holding my interest with characters and plot. I’ve been seeking out transgressive fiction all my life, and yet I’d never heard of her until I started writing! It’s a damn crime and speaks to some big problems with how often the work of non-male authors is ignored or undervalued.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
JK: More and more I’ve come to realize that I do both, that I have an excellent capacity for cognitive multitasking. While the details can work themselves out as I go, and I very much want to remain open to whatever arises, the outline is a sort of thought-form or emotional goal that stays set. Or maybe it’s a string of archetypes, or a mathematical model, or anything. The outline is there, but it’s never words on paper.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
JK: Yes! I’m beyond thrilled to announce my first novella “The Couvade” is being released in the Short!Sharp!Shocks! series from Demain Publishing. It’s a story about lovers and shame, about shape-shifting and family secrets. Martin, the main character, is keeping a dangerous secret from his partner. He inherits an old family estate, and when the couple returns to the house, the past comes alive. They’re lured into a trap. Martin must choose whether to become beast or prey.
I put so much heart into this story that when an earlier, shorter version was (rightly, thankfully) rejected, I actually cried! Not for me, but for Martin and Jerome. I was so upset that they’d vanish into the slush pile. Yes, apparently now I’m “that” writer. I’m so pleased that I was able to mold the story into shape and that they get to live their fictional lives out in the world. I hope readers will care about them as much as I do.
KR: What are you working on now?
JK: My current project is a serialized novella that will span all four volumes of “Seasons of Rot,” an anthology series loosely structured around seasonal cycles from CarrionBlue555. Editor Joseph Bouthiette, Jr. proposed the idea of my attempting a much longer work than I’d ever imagined, and I took the leap and said Yes despite my personal fears. Joe published my story Paradisum Voluptatis in “Honey & Sulphur;” he took a risk on the work of an author he’d never heard of with hardly any publication history. That’s the kind of bravery he asks for in a writer, and so far the results are pending, but I think it’s going to be something beautiful and ugly, speculative and disturbing. If all goes well, the first volume will coincide with the spring equinox in 2020.
Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Author of the novella “The Couvade” and other short fiction, their work has been published in journals and anthologies such as Synth, Fable, Honey & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. Consume their monstrous musings at horrorsong.blog.
You can find out more about Joanna by via her official website www.horrorsong.blog
You can follow Joanna on Twitter @horrorsong
Joanna’s Author Page can be found HERE
For more information about SSS! please visit the Official Demain Website www.demainpublishing.com
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
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here