REMAINS TO BE TOLD: An interview with Kiwi author Denver Grenell

REMAINS TO BE TOLD: An interview with Kiwi author Denver Grenell

In this unique interview series, we chat with the contributors of Kiwi horror anthology Remains to Be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa, edited by five-time Bram Stoker Award-winner Lee Murray (Clan Destine Press, 1 October). 


Today, we welcome Denver Grenell, whose action horror short story “Ngahere Gold” [Bush Gold] appears in the anthology. 


What, in your view, are the core elements of Aotearoa horror? What makes Kiwi horror unique? 


Our landscape, our history, and our voice—all of which are intertwined like a complex raranga / flax weaving. There is a darkness to the history of Aotearoa, which hangs over us like a long (white) cloud and often seeps into our art—from the cinema of unease to certain musical stylings and, of course, our written word. 


Aotearoa has many haunted / weird places –Tarawera, St James theatre, St Bathans are famous examples – but it also full of quiet unease, uncanny objects, unexpected occurrences. Please share an everyday observation if you have one. 


Well, I have been in a supposedly haunted farmhouse once. Before we knew about its history, a friend and I went into a room that had a real intense energy to it—as if the room didn’t want us in there. After we left, a person who lived there told us it was haunted by a great-grandmother who was prone to smashing objects in the room if things got moved around. 

What draws you to horror? 


I was bitten by the horror bug (well, shark actually) when I saw Jaws aged 4. I was absolutely terrified and traumatised, but strangely, I loved the experience. That, combined with also viewing Star Wars, meant that from then on, I was drawn to fantastical storytelling—sci-fi / fantasy initially and, before long, horror. Growing up on the darker-hued ‘80s films like The Dark Crystal, Indiana Jones, and Jaws films gave way to reading Stephen King, and Clive Barker and watching every single horror movie I could get my hands on (which proved difficult growing up an hour west of Christchurch.) That was 40-plus years ago, and here I am today, pretty much still that wide-eyed 4-year-old (albeit in a more decrepit body). I love everything about the genre, starting with storytelling but encompassing film, music, art, comics, Halloween. Everything. 


Horror is affective, which means it is different for all of us. What book/author scared you most, and why? 


To be honest, after Jaws, there wasn’t much that scared me for a long time. I read all the Stephen King and Clive Barker I could get my hands on at a young age, and nothing bothered me too much. It wasn’t until I went back to some of King’s works as an adult and a parent that it really affected me. The Shining and Pet Sematary were quite tough reads when viewing it through the lens of a parent and seeing King’s own fears of losing a child or becoming a monster himself. 


Care to share an excerpt from your story with us?  


The decomposing remains of half a dozen men lay strewn across the forest floor like discarded chicken bones. The bodies had been eviscerated. Tama fell to his knees, overcome by the sight and smell of the slaughter. He looked down and gasped. A large bald head stared at him from eyeless sockets. The birds must have eaten his eyes. The lower half of the man’s body heaved with wriggling maggots a few metres away, the legs mostly stripped of flesh. The white of the bones peeked through loose scraps of ragged meat and brown, dried blood. 

“Tama, where are you, mate?” 


Can you suggest other Kiwi dark fiction/ horror we should be reading? 


There are lots of really great Kiwi writers in the genre. I would recommend Cassie Hart’s Butcherbird, which I loved. I would love to see it turned into a film. 

What’s coming up for you on the writing front? Any news we should know about? 


I have just released my third book, 20,000 Bloody Words: A Collection of Horror Flash Fiction. And my previous book Red Ruin, co-written with Ian J Middleton is a finalist for Best Novel at the Australian Shadows Awards. I am also collaborating with Ian again on another project in the Red Ruin universe, and trying to finish two long-gestating books.And I’m working on lots of horror-themed and musical events in the Wellington region over the next few months. 


Thanks for joining us, Denver! 


Featuring uncanny disturbances, death, and the dank breath of the native bush, Remains to be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa is an anthology of dark stories and poems mired in the shifting landscape of the long white cloud, and deeply imbued with the myth, culture, and character of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Laced with intrigue, suspense, horror, and even a touch of humour, and comprising a range of subgenres, the volume showcases some of the best homegrown and Kiwi-at-heart voices working in dark fiction today, including stories and poems by Neil Gaiman, Owen Marshall, Gina Cole, Tim Jones, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts, Marty Young, Debbie Cowens, Paul Mannering, Tracie McBride, Kirsten McKenzie, Jacqui Greaves, Nikky Lee, William Cook, Bryce Stevens, Kathryn Burnett, Celine Murray, Denver Grenell, Del Gibson & Helena Claudia. Foreword by six-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, Lisa Morton.  


Remains to be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa is published by Clan Destine Press Australia with the kind support of Creative New Zealand. Original cover art by Sir Julius Vogel Award-winner, Emma Weakley. 


Denver Grenell is a writer of horror and dark fiction who lives with his family in a small rural town in New Zealand. A life-long horror hound who got back into writing after a long break, he is now making up for lost time, furiously expelling every idea that has collected inside his skull over the years. His stories have been featured in various anthologies from Crystal Lake Publishing, Black Hare Press, Bloodrites Horror, Hawke Haus Books as well as on Hawk & Cleaver’s The Other Stories podcast. His debut collection of short stories The Burning Boy & Other Stories is out now through Beware the Moon Publishing. The survival horror novel Red Ruin was co-written with Ian J Middleton and was a finalist for Best Novel at the Australian Shadows Awards 2022. Sign up to his newsletter at: 


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