It’s a mixed blessing these days to be a fan of the novella as a literary form, but also someone who prefers physical books over digital ones. While there’s been some great novellas lately, many are only available digitally. Thankfully, that’s often just a temporary condition, as fans of horror writer Ania Ahlborn are learning with the release of Apart In The Dark (paperback), which collects two novellas that, previously, were only available as 1s and 0s.
To start, what are the two novellas in Apart In The Dark about?
The first, “The Pretty Ones,” is about an awkward girl who just wants to fit in with her glamorous co-workers in 1970s New York City. When those pretty girls start turning up dead, Nell, our heroine, becomes suspicious of her mute brother and his intentions. The second, “I Call Upon Thee,” is a classic Ouija board creeper.
Where did you get the ideas for them, and how different are the finished novellas from those original concepts?
Ideas come from the ether. I knew I wanted to write something based in the grit that was New York City in the ’70s, and I wove that idea into the Summer of Sam incident, as well as the heatwave of ’77.
As far as the Ouija board story goes, I always knew I wanted to write something that touches on the spirit board. I had some interesting experiences of my own as a kid, so it’s always been lingering at the back of my mind.
Are there any writers or stories that had a big influence on either of these novellas, but not on the other one or your previous novels?
Not really. I read all sorts of stuff by all kinds of people — I don’t stick to genre — so it’s possible, but I don’t keep track of that kind of thing.
How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; were any of them an influence on the novellas in Apart In The Dark?
I don’t play video games, so no to that. As far as movies and TV shows, I would’ve said Mind Hunter for “The Pretty Ones,” but that show wasn’t out yet. Great show, though.
When you wrote these novellas, did you just sit down to write the story, and it just came out at the length of a novella, or did you set out to write a novella and these are the stories that came out?
My publisher specifically wanted novellas, and I felt that these two ideas were great for shorter length work. It’s possible that I could have stretched them into novels, but I didn’t feel it was necessary here. These are quick, compact stories that don’t need long-form to make their full impact.
Do you think writing shorter stuff like the novellas in Apart In The Dark has had any influence on how you write your novels?
No. Writing a novella is the same as writing a novel. You just have less runway.
Now, “The Pretty Ones” was originally published digitally in 2015, while the “I Call Upon Thee” came out digitally in 2017. But are there any differences between the digital versions and these new print ones?
No, they’re both exactly the same, though Apart In The Dark does have a forward and an author’s note that, rumor has it, is creeping the hell out of people.
You also have a book called Good And Joyful Things coming out later this year. What can you tell us about it?
Actually, Good And Joyful Things isn’t coming out later this year, at least not that I know of. We’re in the process of figuring out where to place it first, simply because it’s such a different style from my previous work. It’s a full-on domestic thriller in the vein of one of my favorite authors, Gillian Flynn [Gone Girl]. Not that I necessarily planned it to be totally different; that just sort of happened. It’s a full-length novel about the deep dark secrets of marriage, and how the person closest to you might not be the person you think they are. I’d love for it to be out this year, but that isn’t entirely up to me.
Gotcha. Going back to Apart In The Dark, has there been any interest in adapting either of these novellas into a movie or TV show?
Not yet. I think “The Pretty Ones” would make a hell of a TV show, though. “I Call Upon Thee” would be more suited for a fun horror flick.
If either of those were to happen, who would you like to see them cast in the main roles and why them?
I think Shailene Woodley would make a fantastic Nell from “The Pretty Ones.” She can pull off “plain” and still be completely fascinating, as she did in Big Little Lies. As far as Maggie from “I Call Upon Thee,” maybe Saoirse Ronan. There are similarities between Maggie and Ronan’s character in Ladybird. They’re both young, trying to find their way, and having difficulty doing it.
Finally, if someone enjoys the novellas in Apart In The Dark what other novellas would you suggest they read and why those?
I haven’t read a collection of novellas in a while, to be honest, so I can’t make a very updated recommendation. I can say that Stephen King’s 1922 was a fantastic piece of work that continues to stand out in my mind. If you’re looking for something short and seriously creepy, that’s a good one to look up.
To read my previous interviews with Ania Ahlborn, click here for the one she did about her book Brother, here for the one about her novel Within These Walls, and here for the one about The Devil Crept In.