Cover reveal: The new Robert P. Ottone novel is almost here!
It’s always exciting when we get to know, see or read something before it officially hits the public consciousness – it’s one of the perks of being part of the Horror Tree team. But sometimes that excitement brews and bubbles and is just about ready to boil over from how buzzing we are. The title, the writer, the cover – my word, that cover. Sometimes it all comes together perfectly. And this is one of those times.
Friends, countrypeople: we are gathered here today to launch the cover of Robert P. Ottone’s new tome, The Vile Thing We Created. You’ll need to open this article page to see it, but it’s worth it. It’s beautiful.
Robert P. Ottone is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of The Triangle, Her Infernal Name & OTher Nightmares, and, now, The Vile Thing We Created, a suburban folk horror about becoming a parent. Robert is, of course, also the publisher and owner of Spooky House Press, and no stranger to our dark worlds.
TWF editor Lauren McMenemy got to chat with Robert about the cover, the book, parenthood horror and more for the HorrorTree YouTube channel. Watch the interview here, or read on for an edited transcript of the discussion.
Lauren McMenemy: Hello, everybody and welcome to Horror Tree’s YouTube channel. Today, I have the absolute pleasure of speaking with Robert Ottone – or Robert P. Ottone I should say, to give you your full name. And we are talking about some very, very exciting things. You have a new book coming out!
Robert P. Ottone: I do, I do. I have a new book coming out called The Vile Thing We Created. And you wonderful, lovely, wonderful people at Horror Tree were kind enough to host the cover reveal. And I’m very excited about it. It’s from Hydra Publications and I’m very excited about it. It’s kind of my next thing that I’m putting everything into. I poured myself into the book for a couple years and found a publisher and they’ve been a dream to work with. I hope people like the cover because I love the cover. And I just hope people give it a chance and check it out and enjoy it.
LM: So The Vile Thing We Created: can you tell us a little bit about this? What can we expect from it?
RO: You can expect some pretty terrifying looks at parenthood, as well as the beginnings of parenthood. It’s about a couple named Lola and Ian and, you know, they don’t go into having a child for any bad reasons or anything. They think it through, they make rational decisions, they’re intelligent people. It just doesn’t go the way that they were hoping for. And it deals with the ugliness of pregnancy. It deals with the powerlessness of fatherhood, in a lot of ways. And it’s a lot of my own fears about parenthood.
I talked to a lot of my friends’ wives who are mothers, and learned a lot about the side of motherhood that nobody talks about. I talked to some medical professionals, same kind of thing, just learning about all these different aspects of motherhood that’s not, ‘Oh, now we’re perfect, because we have a baby’. Nobody talks about the other side of the coin, the healing after and like, God forbid, something happens during the pregnancy. I kept a lot of the stories that I had heard in my mind while writing the book.
I don’t have any children; my wife and I would like to adopt one day perhaps. But at the same time, I’m so terrified at the idea of being a parent. And I kind of put all of that into this. I’m obsessed with family horror, too, and the dissolution of family and the destruction of family. And I put that into this book as well. So it’s sort of a suburban folk, or family horror hybrid.
LM: It sounds amazing, and exactly the sort of thing that I will be rushing out to get myself. But I’m curious – you were talking there about the fears of fatherhood, and that’s something we don’t tend to see. There is pregnancy horror out there. There’s a lot of maternal horror, but the fatherhood horror isn’t really out there. What made you want to explore that?
RO: I guess for those exact reasons. You know, you see a dad in a horror movie, or read about a father in a horror book or whatever, or sometimes there is no father. A lot of the time there is no father, like, where’s Reagan’s father in The Exorcist? He’s a totally absentee dad. Or you see something like in Rosemary’s Baby where it’s the dad’s fault for the horrible things that are happening. I wanted to explore that. And none of my friends would admit to this because they all had this macho kind of headspace going on, but I put myself in the shoes of like, well, how would I feel if these things were actually going on? I know what it’s like when my wife isn’t, you know, feeling her best, and I’m trying to make her feel better and nothing makes her feel better. I just tried to imagine that, and ratchet it to 1000. Because, you know, I can tell my wife that she looks phenomenal all the time – and I do, and she does to me – but if she sees something wrong, then it doesn’t matter. So I imagined the pregnant couple largely being similar to that. From the early notes, people were like, yeah, that checks out.
One note that I got was that – the reader, in this case, was a gentleman and horror author – I feel called out. So I guess, you know, hopefully we’ll see more men maybe writing about how difficult this can be for them, as opposed to just being like, No, I must soldier on and be brave and strong and tough. And it’s like, because I don’t feel those things pretty much ever. I’m not a super tough guy. If I have to be I guess I can be, but I guess I wanted to explore that.
LM: To be a bit more vulnerable in your masculinity for the horror reader.
RO: Yeah. And I feel like readers will be able to connect to that, hopefully more. They may not put that out there, that might not be their front-facing thing. But like inside they know. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with vulnerability.
LM: Absolutely. You said you were talking to medical professionals, and some of your friends’ wives who had gone through pregnancy? How did you feel covering that side of things?
RO: You know, I don’t know these things. I’m not a woman, I will never know the experience of childbirth. It’s body horror ratcheted to 1000, I guess, and I just can’t wrap my head around it. And so by talking specifically to the writer EV Knight, who blurbed the book, she is a medical professional. I believe she’s an OB GYN. And she gave me a tonne of information and a tonne of guidance in certain scenes and with different things.
Also because the couple is a mixed race couple, there are a lot of issues that affect women of colour going into having a child that I never knew about until I started researching them. And it was horrifying. Some of the stuff that I had learned and I was like, God, they got to deal with this on top of already being pregnant. Now, they got to deal with this as well. Like, that’s insane. So it was super eye opening to me.
I already had respect for women having kids, but like, after doing all this research, I don’t know how anybody does it. It’s hardcore. It is the ultimate hardcore thing. A guy could lift like 1000 pounds over his head, I’ll be like, cool – have a baby dude, that’s real strength.
I think being a parent in general is real strength. I struggle with the idea of doing it. Like I said, we might adopt, but when we’re older. It’s a difficult thing. A friend of mine said it’s not for the faint of heart, and I think that’s fair. That’s not like a pet response that I’ve heard from a lot of parents, either. A lot of the parents that I talked to were very honest with me about the ugliness and the difficult parts. So a lot of that went into the book. A lot of it was ratcheted up, obviously, poetic licence and all that, but yeah, pretty hardcore.
LM: So talking of hardcore, for those who maybe haven’t come across your work before, when we’re talking about this particular novel that we want people to go out and get as soon as it’s on the shelves, digital or otherwise – what sort of style do you tend to write in terms of horror? Is it a full-on body horror gore fest? Is it slightly more subtle? How would you describe it?
RO: I think there’s quite a bit of subtlety. I’m not a huge gore fest guy, but when I do turn on the gore, I really turn it on. I think of like, the George Romero type horror – his stuff was always very bloody and very spectacular and stuff like that. But if you really watch one of his movies, he doesn’t do it nonstop. It’s not a hostile movie where it’s just a gore fest the whole time. When he does it, he does it for a specific reason. And when I get really bloody or gory, I’m doing it for a very specific reason.
Like there’s nothing to me worse in this book than the sequence where Lola gives birth. And I didn’t know, how I was going to translate this kind of thing, so I translate it in two ways. And that was really interesting because it allowed me to get really body horror visceral with it. And then it allowed me to get really crazy and cosmic too. So I got to play in both of those realms.
I don’t know how to see my own writing. I’m really inspired by Ira Levin and Thomas Tryon and guys like that. And, you know, Paul Trembley is a mentor figure to me. And so I try to lean into that. I guess I lean a little more subtle. I’m very inspired by the horror of the 70s, William Peter Blatty – that muted, conversational chamber piece kind of horror, that’s a little more my speed.
LM: Okay, so I think there are some nice names being thrown out there to give people a bit of a flavour. And it’s obviously not your first work either that’s out there. And we do have to, of course, say congratulations on the Stoker nomination for your YA book as well. For those, again, for those maybe coming into your world, where does The Vile thing We Created sit in terms of your work? Is that a good entry point?
RO: Yeah, for sure, that would be a really good entry point. All of my stuff takes place in the same universe, so there’s like little references that people who’ve read some of my short stories might pick up on. I don’t know why I do that. I just kind of like it. I like having little nods to other things. But um, yeah, I think The Vile Thing We Created would be an excellent start for somebody.
It takes place in a region that I created, a fictional version of upstate New York that I – I love upstate New York, I don’t live in upstate New York, I wish I did, hopefully soon. But again, it’s more about highlighting this world and The Vile Thing We Created is definitely a good entry point for sure. There’s a lot of things that I’m building in that one novel that will come into play for me later on. And other things that I’m working on – I actually just finished something that takes place in the neighbouring fictional town to the town that The Vile Thing We Created takes place.
LM: Wow, how do you keep it all together? Do you have a bible somewhere that says this is all of the maps, the whole bit?
RO: I tried making a map – I’m going to try again – but I have a document that has the different towns, where they are located from one another, and the major features of them. This hospital is here, this ball field is here, that sort of thing. Where some of my stories will take place, this highway goes through this part, and this part, but not this part. Stuff like that. So I do have a running document. But my next step will be putting together an actual map of my fictional upstate New York area.
LM: Amazing, I’m always in awe of writers who do that sort of thing. It’s not like you can go on Google Earth and just double check something.
RO: It’s fun. Like, it sounds like it’s a lot of work or could be daunting, but it’s actually really fun. I’m inspired by the challenge of actually putting it to a physical map, you know, like, that’s really interesting to me. And it’s always evolving too, it’s not bound by you know, certain limits or whatever.
I have one thing that I’m working on that takes place fully on Long Island whereas most of my stuff is upstate New York. So now I have to work with a place that actually exists. And how does that place that actually exist function within the fictional version of what I’ve put together so far. And that’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun at the same time.
LM: Awesome. Well, we should probably get to the logistics of the book. You said it’s on Hydra, The Vile Thing We Created. When is it out? How can people get hold of it?
RO: It is out April 18. And you can get it at all, you know, reputable bookstores as well as the super shady ones. You can order it online. I know Barnes and Noble has it ready to go and yeah, so I just hope you check it out wherever fine and shady books are sold. And if you like it let me know, if you don’t like it – let me know. I’m trying to do some some book tour type stuff. I’ve got a couple booked already. So I guess stay on the lookout for those and I just hope you check out The Vile Thing We Created.
LM: And I guess if people follow you on social media, they will see all of the launch event type things come through as they get sorted out.
RO: Yes, yeah. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram @RobertOttone – it’s the same on both of those – and you’ll definitely see all the weird places I’m going and the things that I’m doing with the different authors and all the podcasts and all of the things. All of the things.
LM: But one thing I did want to ask you just to really hammer home that people should go out and sort their copies out now is the question of pre-ordering: how important is pre-ordering to an author?
RO: I’ve talked to authors who are way bigger than me, and I’ve talked to authors who are at my same level. And every single one of them says pre-orders are superduper important. So preorder the book, even if you’re not super interested in my book but there is a book that you’ve been on the fence about, pre-order it because it does help the author. And it helps show the publisher that like this person has readers and has the ability to sustain an audience. That’s the most important part. So, yeah, pre-order your books, I pre-order my books. I’m a paperback or hardcover kind of guy but I understand a lot of people like to read on their phones or on their Kindles, either one is fine. I’m a physical copy kind of guy.
LM: We have a big debate in our household about that. As you can see behind me, there are piles of books I love. Currently, my husband is in another room on his phone reading. Robert, what’s next for you? Obviously, this book is coming out, The Vile Thing We’ve Created, but what are you working on now? What can we expect to see from you next?
RO: I’m going to be going into revisions on my book Curse of The Cop Man, which is coming out from Weird House Press. I’m very excited for that; there’s no release date yet, I’m only just going into the revisions now. But after that, I’ve got another book I’m writing for Weird House. And then I’m working on a middle grade novel for Cemetery Gates, which – I’m excited for everything I get to write, but the book for Cemetery Gates is something that I’m chomping at the bit to get to because it combines two of my favourite things: The 98 New York Yankees and horror, it combines baseball and horror. And I couldn’t be more excited to do that. I’m very excited for all of these things that are coming out. I have a new collection as well. I can’t say with who, they haven’t given me the green light to say who’s publishing it, but I will have a new collection of short fiction coming soonish. But more on that soon.
LM: Awesome. Well, maybe we can have another chat when that happens. So Robert, thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the launch.
RO: Thank you so much. I appreciate everything you’ve done and can’t express my thanks enough to Stu and everybody had Horror Tree, Willow, Jacque, everybody’s been just fabulous. So thank you so much again and just taking the time.
The Vile Thing We Created is out on Hydra on April 18, 2023. Pre-order it at your favourite local bookstore today, or at: Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Rokuten Kobo, Bookshop.com or Amazon
You can watch the full video here.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.