Today Shane and I are excited to welcome Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi to Ink Heist! Erin is one of the hardest workers in the horror genre and has made her presence felt in various facets of the publishing world. She released her debut collection last year and has had numerous stories appear in anthologies and magazines since. In addition to her work as an author, she also handles publicity for some of your favorite names in horror and co-edited the Unnerving anthology Haunted are These Houses.
I remember when I first read this story, I fell in love with the way Erin managed to tie together the stories of the women who live on Vahalla Lane into an engaging story that shines a light on a very serious issue. It’s a powerful story that has resonated with readers and is one of the many standouts of Breathe. Breathe. I would like to thank Erin for sharing this piece that talks about her inspiration for the story and the future of the characters on who call Vahalla Lane home.
Within my dark fiction collection, Breathe. Breathe., which encompasses both dark poetry and short stories, is a quiet street called Vahalla Lane. It’s the kind of street that if you turn down it in the summer, you’re instantly canopied by trees full of green leaves and pink flowers, smiled at by waving neighbors even if they’re strangers to you, and there is a compulsion to go slow just to admire the colorful hanging baskets on the front porches.
You know these places, where all things seem right, but underneath the neat façade it just isn’t always so. Inside four walls it’s not always quiet. There are stirrings, of rage and control, of anxiety and desperation. Ever read The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin or maybe something more modern like Big Little Lies by Lilian Moriarty or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? There are all types of domestic violence scenarios with many examples that fit this designation, but often what they all have in common is pursuit of everyone involved, and sometimes not involved, to act as if everything is “pretty as a picture.”
Normally, a woman is either 1) too scared to plan her escape, which eventually could lead to an impulsive crime of passion, 2) a woman loses her mind, 3) she escapes (without or with it going awry), or 4) she is killed. All the time, as you drive by in your freshly washed car, you would never guess what was happening inside the homes, whether it’s the biggest and most expensively landscaped yard or if it’s the small two-bedroom ranch starter home that needs a power washing. Domestic violence knows not income bracket, education level, or happiness quotient. It’s a virus of the most insidious kind.
On Valhalla Lane we meet three women, each residing a few houses down from another, barely remembering each other’s first names due to their isolation, but all whom are fighting domestic situations. They feel alone, as victims often do, as if they are the only ones enduring the secret. In the end, if they could have signaled each other, as a support system of such, letting each other into their fear and madness, maybe all could have turned out better. However, that would have been too easy. And life isn’t easy.
Upon writing Vahalla Lane I pulled upon personal experiences of abuse, plus my interests and dreams, and coupled them with personalities of other real-life survivors I’ve known to write the main action and create character development. Of course, since it’s a dark fiction collection, and revenge was my main plot point, the female actions and thought processes were a figment of my own imagination. However, some of it was based using a role reversal of real-life actions of men toward women that I’ve encountered, both in my own area, in documentaries, in books, and from first-hand accounts.
Vahalla Lane is as real to me as any city street I’ve lived on and it has more stories to tell. Though the newspaper article in the collection that followed the trio of stories of the three women on Vahalla Lane – my own Valkyries – left some things hanging, there are even more stories to tell beyond any continuation of these three couples. As I closed writing the Vahalla Lane series, at least two more women surprisingly peeked their head out of their front doors at me.
Not only do I think that Vahalla Lane would make a great episodic drama or suspense series for Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, or Netflix, I know there are more stories to write. Already I’m working on a novella featuring a character from this Vahalla Lane series as well as considering a spin-off, because there are two more women still stuck behind closed doors in a nightmare. I can’t leave them behind. They won’t let me.
Remember, revenge hammered down by someone abused is the worst-case scenario, even if we find it within the pages of horror novels and stories like mine. However, domestic violence is real. I know, I lived it. One in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to statistics from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If you’d like to learn more staggering statistics, go to: https://ncadv.org/learn/statistics. See how you can help create awareness.
In the meantime, readers, welcome to Vahalla Lane. We’re all about revenge here.
“…in the Valhalla Lane tales, Erin looks to be creating her own small-town horror mythos with an episodic style narrative.” – The Grim Reader
About Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She is an author and has 20 years of experience in her field in jobs as a writer, a journalist, an editor, and marketing and public relations professional/publicist among many other things.
Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, was her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories. In its past year of publishing, it has hit the Top 5 Amazon best-selling list in women’s poetry and horror short stories multiple times. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful by industry professionals, reviewers, and readers alike. She has stories featured in several other anthologies and magazines and was the co-editor of the Gothic poetry and short story anthology Haunted are These Halls.
She is currently an editor at Sinister Grin Press and handles some PR for Raw Dog Screaming Press as well as continuing to own her own business, Hook of a Book Media, in which she does editing and publicity and consulting for many authors.
In addition, she serves as president of the board of her local mental health center and rape crisis domestic violence safe haven. She’s been honored to have received a woman of achievement award in her community and to have represented the Business and Professional Women as Ohio’s Young Careerist.
Erin continues to write multiple stories, novels, and poems from the forests of rural Ohio where she frets over her three children, partner, and a cat. She is currently in the editing stages of her new poetry only collection which delves into the theme of water.
You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Celebrating Its ONE YEAR Publishing Date Anniversary!
About BREATHE. BREATHE.
Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.
In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.
In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.
In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.
Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.
With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.
Amazon Link –
Available in e-book and print and Kindle Unlimited
Also available via Barnes and Noble in print and at other fine online retailers.
PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.
“Al-Mehairi creates engaging characters and often has twists to her plots that make for a unique reading experience. The highlight of this section would be the story “Dandelion Yellow,” a magical realist tale about a young girl and her box of crayons. It’s a rich, colorful tale with a suspenseful build up and haunting ending. Overall, the fiction section of the book is very well done.” – Cemetery Dance Online
“Precise writing, compelling plots…my favorite was The Madness of the Woodpecker. It’s a great example of perhaps a strong characteristic in both poetry and prose: unexpected endings.” – Gene O’Neill, Bram Stoker Award Winner
“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews
“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews
“Overall, Breathe. Breathe. is a must-read for any poetry lover. It is rich in themes and ideas, from heartbreak and heartache to women fighting back their abusers, to Japanese mythology to an ancient Egyptian goddess taking a human life for a greater purpose. I highly recommend it.” – Nadaness in Motion
“The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown
“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach
“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients
“Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.” —Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching and Creature
“Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.” —Michelle Garza, co-author and Bram Stoker Finalist of Mayan Blue and Twin Lakes
” Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.”
–W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)