I had a chat with Madeleine D’Este recently to ask her a few questions about her writing. Her latest book Bloodwood, an Australian vampire horror story, is out now and can be found here. (Note: I had the pleasure of editing Bloodwood for Madeleine.)
A few questions…
with Madeleine D’Este
When and how did you make a start in writing?
I got serious about my writing about 6 years ago. I spent many years failing at writing, doing courses or Nanowrimo but never taking it further than a shithouse first draft. Then one day during a period of some serious navel-gazing (maybe it was a mid-life crisis), I realised that the one thing I wanted to do in my life was write a book. So I got stuck into it and finished it. And then I finished another book and then another. It’s completely addictive – making up stuff is the best fun in town.
Are there any particular themes you like to explore in your writing?
There are three particular themes that crop up constantly in my writing: the paranormal, redemption and cake.
I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of life (and death), and my redemptive stories come from the realisation that we humans make mistakes – some massive and life-altering – but I believe we can dust ourselves off and begin again.
Now that was deep. On the other hand, I’m not sure why there’s always cake, but who doesn’t like cake? And I do love to write a decadent food description. I blame Enid Blyton and her midnight feasts for that.
Which authors do you love to read?
Where do I start? I’m a serious bookworm and host a weekly book review radio show ‘Dark Mysteries’ on www.artdistrict-radio.com.
Just as COVID-19 struck, I bought 45 vintage Agatha Christie paperbacks off eBay and I’ve been working my way through them. She’s just remarkable, a plotting genius. I read a lot of crime fiction and most of the time I guess the ending but never with Aunty Agatha. She always thwarts me in the last few pages
Other writers I love include Shirley Jackson, Alison Littlewood, Erin Kelly and Michael Robotham. My ideal book is spooky, dark and twisty, a story that keeps me guessing.
What inspired you to write Bloodwood?
It was a dark and stormy afternoon, when the Winnebago broke down in a small town in southern New South Wales. While stranded, I picked up a cosy mystery from the nearest café book-swap. The book featured an eco-friendly undertaker (like Shelley in Bloodwood) and I was reminded of a story a friend told me about how the current body preparation process used in funeral homes is actually used to prevent vampires (removing blood and heart, etc.).
Then I got a case of the good old writer’s ‘what-ifs?’ What if an eco-friendly funeral director really did accidentally create vampires? … and Bloodwood was born. I also have an interest in folklore and wanted to explore some of the earlier superstitions about vampires, not only the Bram Stoker version. For example, in the opening scene of Bloodwood, there are a few ‘bad omens’ that contribute to the creation of the vampire: tears are shed on the burial shroud and a crow flies over the body.
Are there any characters in Bloodwood you feel you’re most like?
Obviously, the main character Shelley. I can be a bit aloof at times and self-sufficient to the point of pig-headedness. I was a chubby teen goth, so Sparrow too, and I hope one day to be a feisty old lady like Thora – but hopefully without the drinking problem.
And finally, tell us about Folklore Thursday!
Folklore Thursday began as a hashtag on Twitter on Thursday to promote all things folklore run by Dee Dee Chainey and Willow Wisham. Every Thursday there’s a topic and thousands of people share snippets of interesting folklore from around the world. Ever since I stumbled across the hashtag, I’ve been an avid contributor and through the community, I’ve learned so much about the stories we’ve told and superstitions we’ve held for millennia. I’m such a big fan, I have the t-shirt. I’ve also written a series of articles for Folklore Thursday on the origins of common superstitions such as opening an umbrella inside or leaving shoes on the table.
Madeleine D’Este is a writer of dark mysteries from Melbourne. Growing up in Tasmania, obsessed with books and the shadows at the end of the bed, Madeleine now writes female-led speculative fiction. Her supernatural mystery novel The Flower and the Serpent was nominated for the Australian Shadow Award for Best Novel 2019. When not writing or reading, Madeleine enjoys podcasts, knitting, forteana, indie films, kettle bells and coffee as ‘black as midnight on a moonless night’. Her website can be found at madeleinedeste.com.