Oct 11

The Fairy Tree available now!

The Fairy Tree is an immersive, 3D audio interactive fantasy adventure written by Audio Epics’ Domien De Groot and produced by The Owl Field.

Put yourself at the centre of the enchanting, mysterious, and often dangerous world of The Fairy Tree. Choose your path, decide the fate of the Realm, and discover who you truly are.


This new production is a feature length, interactive fantasy with multiple endings, a full cast, exclusive sound effects and music, written by Domien de Groot, produced in immersive 3D audio, and can be personalized.

It is The Owlfield’s most ambitious to date and features ALL of the below:
– An interactive narrative where you get to choose your path with multiple endings
– The chance for you to personalize your story and have the characters address you by name
– Our standard and award-winning immersive, first-person 3D audio experience
– The fantastical and award-winning penmanship of Domien de Groot
– A full cast, custom and exclusive sound effects and cinematic music.


Download Price: £6.99


The Fairy Tree

Aug 17

Parsec Awards News

We are happy and grateful to announce that Witch Hunter has been nominated as a finalist in two categories for the Parsec Awards:

  • Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Long Form)
  • Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team

Thank you to all our listeners for supporting us!

Jun 02

The Will of the Woods now on the Audio Epics Podcast!

The Witch Hunter Podcast has changed its name and is now known as the Audio Epics podcast.

Last week we released the final episode of Ludlov’s epic saga, but the podcast continues! Discover the Inifinite Woods today in the first episode of The Will of the Woods over at the Audio Epics podcast!

Welcome to Audio Epics

May 04

The Audio Epics approach: Part Three – Narration

This topic seems to be the most contentious one within the audio drama community. Many contributors to the world of contemporary audio storytelling have strong opinions about having a narrator in the story or not. So why is this such an important question?

At its heart, I think the discussion surrounding narration is about the clear distinction between audio drama and audiobooks. Creators of audio drama want to make it very clear that their work is nothing like “those dry audiobooks”. Since audio drama is such a niche product, this is understandable. It’s very obvious that most ordinary people don’t even know there is a difference between the two media. To an audio drama producer, this can be very frustrating because they know there IS a huge difference, and of course they’re right.

I think on a subconscious level, most audio drama makers are afraid that the average person will stumble upon a dry audiobook on Audible, listen to it and decide that this audio stuff is far too boring and not for them. Consequently, this person will never try out audio drama. Again, I think this fear is not unwarranted. People often really are that quick to judge.

On the other hand, there is also the opposite scenario: a listener enjoys a good audiobook, goes looking for more and stumbles upon a richly cinematic, modern audio drama production like We’re Alive. And hates it.

This opposite scenario usually doesn’t enter the mind of the audio drama enthusiast, because he has a strong bias in favour of the more theatrical approach. To him, audio drama is simply a superior alternative to audiobooks, therefore it’s impossible that anyone who enjoys audiobooks will dislike audio drama.

I can imagine someone having this reaction, though. Audiobooks do have certain positive qualities that audio drama lacks. This doesn’t mean that I prefer audiobooks, but that I can see reasons for either preference. Personally, I can enjoy both mediums, but I also have problems with both of them. It’s these problems that I’d like to address in this article, as well as explain my “solution”. I put that last word between quotation marks because I am well aware that to some people, my solution will not be experienced as such. If you really love what I call the “dry audiobook” or the “audio movie”, then you may not like my approach. On the other hand, if you love audio but experience the same issues with it that I do, then you may like what I propose.

The Will of the Woods - USB tape version

The Dry Audiobook

Ever since Audible, this medium has become massively popular. It is in fact much more popular than audio drama is. For that reason alone, it cannot simply be discarded as inferior. Many audio drama enthusiasts will feel that fans of audiobooks simply haven’t “discovered” audio drama yet and will cite that as the sole reason why dry audiobooks are still more popular. I personally don’t think so. I think that audiobooks really do have a wider appeal.

When I use the term “dry audiobook”, I mean a novel that’s simply read by one voice. This is what the vast majority of audiobooks are like. Even within this simply defined medium, there are still many different approaches. Some dry audiobooks are read by very neutral narrators. They do this with the intent of “getting out of the picture” so that it’s really the author’s words that draw the listener’s attention, not the performance of the narrator. Other audiobooks go for a very lively performance, where the narrator goes out of his way to use different voice qualities and accents to portray various characters. David Tennant’s performance for the excellent How To Train Your Dragon series is a particularly exciting example of this. Of course, How To Train Your Dragon is a series of children’s books full of comical characters, where exaggerated performances are entirely appropriate. More serious epic fantasy like The Wheel of Time wouldn’t ever work if it were performed in this way. Among audiobook fans, the man who voices Robert Jordan’s enormous series is held in very high regard. His name is Michael Kramer, and he has become somewhat of a staple of epic fantasy audiobooks, having narrated most of Brandon Sanderson’s work as well as newer series such as Circle of Reign and The Licanius Trilogy. Kramer’s performance is soulful but reserved at the same time. He is an excellent narrator with a very recognisable voice. He seems to find a third way between heavily performing (like David Tennant does) and doing a Stephen Hawking impression (which only a minority of audiobook lovers enjoy).

To some, the dry audiobook is the ideal way of experiencing a novel. More than an audio drama, an audiobook is a book. It’s every word the author wrote. Many audiobooks are performed by the authors themselves, which is an even bigger plus, at least if the author has a pleasant voice and is capable of performing his work well. Much as I love Brandon Sanderson’s writing, I wouldn’t want to sit through his massive epics performed in his nasal, high-pitched American twang.

Audiobooks have a wonderful intimacy to them. You feel invited into the story. They speak to us, not just literally, but also on some subconscious level, bringing us back to the oldest form of storytelling around the campfire.

Still, as wonderful as performances like Kramer’s and Tennant’s are, dry audiobooks always remain kind of, well, dry. Listening to a single voice for hours and hours can become a chore, no matter how pleasant that voice is. In fact, voices that are easy on the ears tend to be soft and smooth. As a result, they can lull people to sleep. It’s also easy to get distracted when you’ve been listening to a single voice for many hours.

The audio movie

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have what I call the “audio movie”. This is audio drama at its most dramatic. The creators of these shows eschew narration, opting instead to bring the story to life entirely through acting, sound effects and music. Popular online series such as Edict Zero and We’re Alive are great examples of this, as well as Locke & Key, which was released on Audible and features music by our very own Peter Van Riet! Another great example is Tim Knofler’s wonderful, pulpy World War II epic The Adventures of Captain Hudson (my personal favourite in this genre).

Audio movies go for the immediate experience. Everything in the story is happening right now and we, as the listener, are right there in the thick of it with the characters. When done well, it can be an immersive experience that appeals very strongly to the imagination as well as our thirst for spectacle. Because there is no image, the listeners’ experience of the audio is enhanced and their imagination is kicked into high gear. That in itself is wonderful, of course.

In the audio drama circles I visit, this approach to audio storytelling is much preferred over narration. In fact, I think there is almost an atmosphere of phobia when it comes to narration. I notice that a lot of audio drama makers in this area go out of their way to avoid using a narrator whenever possible. I think they see narration as a kind of copout, and direct audio theatre as vastly superior. Personally, I’m inclined to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to love about audio movies. However, just like dry audiobooks, they have certain built-in flaws.


When they have a unity of time and place, audio movies can do their work very well and convey the atmosphere brilliantly. Aural Stage’s Intensive Care is a great example of this. The entire story takes place in a very creepy hospital and the production really makes you feel like you’re there. By the end, you’re relieved to escape from that hellish place and ready to welcome reality once more.

On the other hand, when trying to tell a story that takes place in a number of different locations, audio cinema becomes a lot harder to pull off satisfactorily. NPR’s Star Wars adaptations are often cited as the proof that it can be done, but they don’t really count because they build on the experience of the movies. I don’t think anyone who has never heard of the Star Wars films has ever listened to those audio dramas (if those people even exist in the first place). As a result, these adaptations can get away with not describing what Darth Vader or the Death Star looks like, because the audience already knows. The audio dramas are a wonderful “extended edition” of the movies, but they do not stand on their own as pure audio.

In my view, the directness of audio movies leads to either of two problems:

  1. Confusion
  2. “Auto-narration”

Allow me to explain what I mean by confusion. When nobody describes what’s happening in a scene, it can be very difficult to have any idea of what’s going on. When this happens, I lose interest. Even when the sound design is sublime and the music is great, a big exciting scene falls completely flat when I don’t know what’s going on. This is a very big problem with audio movies for me. During normal dialogue scenes, it flows very well, but as soon as the monsters attack or the car chase begins, I feel like I’m blindly stumbling through the story. Someone may have died during that action scene but I’m only aware of it ten minutes later. People differ, but to me this is the worst thing that can happen in an audio story. I vastly prefer the dryness of an audiobook over this confusion.

To avoid this pitfall, audio movies often go for an approach I call “auto-narration”. This is when the characters themselves describe what they’re seeing or doing. It tends to feel very forced and unrealistic and leads to dialogues like this:

  • A: Look, it’s a monster!
  • B: Yes, I see… It seems to be rather pale, and it has long fangs!
  • A: Indeed, we should probably run.

There are ways to work around this and make the auto-narration sound a bit more natural, but it’s very hard to avoid awful dialogue like this when dealing with audio movies.

Another issue I sometimes have with audio movies is a bit more subjective. While they can be exciting, they can also be a bit exhausting. Even when they manage to avoid both confusion and auto-narration, following a story purely by listening in while the characters talk and act can be a fairly taxing activity. While I appreciate the often scrumptious sound design and varied voice performances, listening to this kind of production demands more of me and often leaves me a bit fatigued.


The Dramatized Audiobook

I have presented the advantages and problems particular to “dry audiobooks” and “audio movies”. Of course, there is a lot in between. My favourite audio dramas are BBC’s The Lord of the Rings and A Wizard of Earthsea and Focus on the Family’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Of course, the source material plays its role in why I love these audio dramas so much, but I also really appreciate them as examples of their medium. All of these productions succeed in bringing characters to life through voice acting and placing listeners in an environment through sound and music. At the same time, their storytelling is very clear and pleasant.

The typical approach these stories take is one where scenes simply play out between actors and sound effects, just like in an audio movie, but a narrator is introduced to connect different scenes to each other and to describe new elements that are introduced. The creators of these stories do their best to use narration to frame scenes and not allow it to interrupt the flow of the ongoing story. This is the approach I used when I wrote The Will of the Woods as well.

I see no real problems with this approach, except that it can still suffer from the pitfalls of the “audio movie” without the bonus of having a continuous, direct experience. On the whole, though, I think it’s a good approach.

Recently, I have also discovered Graphic Audio. When you go to their website, please ignore the horrible artwork they have for their productions. This is an amazing company that does spectacular sound design and uses that quality to bring audiobooks to life. Different characters are performed by different actors, but what you’re hearing is still very much an audiobook, using a narrator as the main voice throughout the story. When I discovered this approach, I fell in love with it. I adopted it myself for Witch Hunter, calling it “dramatized audiobook”. It’s a lively experience, full of exciting things to listen to, but it’s also carried by the narrator.

Witch Hunter Audiobook on TapeYou see, there are certain things only a narrator can do, like introducing background elements from fantasy lore without it being jarring. Representing the inner thoughts and feelings of a particular character can also only be done fluently in either a novel or an audiobook. I know that pure audio dramas have experimented with this by using an acoustic effect to differentiate between a character’s spoken words and its thoughts. In my opinion, that works well in comedy but nowhere else.

Finally, I simply love narrators. Like I described earlier, there is nothing quite like being told a story the way humans have done for thousands of years.

In my opinion, the Dramatized Audiobook is the “solution” to the problems of the dry audiobook and the audio movie. Of course, I realise this is a subjective opinion. If you prefer your audiobooks to be more intimate, without pointless noise in the background, I completely understand. If you prefer your audio drama to be one fluent, direct experience, immersing you right in the thick of it, I can appreciate that as well. It’s just that for me, the Dramatized Audiobook fixes what I dislike about the other categories of audio storytelling, and it will probably be the way Audio Epics goes forward from now on.

Apr 29

The Audio Epics approach: Part Two – The Writing Thing

Last time I explored my approach to the beginnings of a story, emphasising that I wasn’t trying to be didactic about it but simply establishing the way my mind works. In today’s instalment, I will cover my (very simple) philosophy on writing.


Ignore the snobs

I have no hard and fast rules to writing, no real do’s or don’ts to convey. In fact, whenever I hear some self-proclaimed writing expert say what you should always do or never do, I tend to automatically tune them out. I just have a very low tolerance for smugness and arrogance and that’s what these usually sound like. That’s why I really enjoyed Write About Dragons, a course in writing fantasy by one of the best writers in the genre, Brandon Sanderson. As you can see when you click the link, you can find all of it on Youtube. Brandon doesn’t spout off pretentiously about anything and he doesn’t look down on anyone. Instead, he gives sound advice that comes from years of experience and proven success.
I followed a course in writing screenplays once. What I remember most from that class is the professor emphasising how hard it is to write a good screenplay, how everyone who thinks they can do it actually sucks, and how you better listen to what he had to say if you ever wanted to have the tiniest chance of actually finishing anything halfway decent in your lifetime. Guess how many great screenplays that professor had written in his lifetime? That’s right, zero. On a tangent, I have very little respect for what the academic world has to say about almost anything, including creative endeavours.
Nobody will ever do anything if you instil a “can’t do” attitude in them.  I also don’t like it when people throw around phrases like “bad writing” and “atrocious dialogue” without backing up what they actually mean by that. The very term “writing” has become loaded with pretentiousness. As a result of that, beginning writers feel very insecure and unworthy. And that’s too bad because I think writing fantasy and science fiction stories should be fun to do. I know that fun is an F-word to some people because it seems to take away from the artistic value of the work. I don’t think it does. If anything, it adds value.
I’ve been reading a lot of “nobody said being a writer was going to be fun” and similar sentiments recently. No, I think writing should be fun, especially at first. When you’re just starting out, you want to feel that kick of creating your own worlds and characters. That’s a wonderful experience. Maybe your writings won’t be particularly good at first, but that’s okay. The important thing is that you’re using your imagination, honing your skills and actually doing something rather than just talking about it.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I know this excitement fades and after a while, it becomes all about working. And that’s fine, because by that time, you will have developed skill as a writer and you can start being serious about it. But even then, if you can keep the experience pleasant for yourself, I think the writing will only be better for that. For me, the biggest skill I still haven’t developed is discipline. But still, despite my lack of discipline and concentration, I have managed to plod on and release The Will of the Woods and Witch Hunter. Before those two (which you can now find online), there were a whole bunch of other stories that I wrote, most of which reached an audience of about ten people – but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I made them and I loved making them.
Even though I said I have no hard and fast rules, I do have one message to convey, and it’s so basic I shouldn’t have to point it out, really. Children know this so well, but adults seem to forget it: write what you feel like without any pretension. Don’t be worried about being too cliché or having two-dimensional villains or anything like that.
When people analyse big-budget movies to complain about their lack of character development, there is some merit to that, because these movies are made by professionals who should be able to craft a good story. But there is never a reason to nit-pick a young amateur’s first attempts at sculpting a story.
That being said, every writer has points that need improvement, and every genre has its typical pitfalls. When it comes to fantasy, many beginning writers have a hard time conveying the needed information that is part of their unique world-building without dumping massive amounts of history and lore on the audience. Another problem with fantasy is that it can be hard to avoid certain clichés, like the prophecy of the chosen one and a dark lord for an antagonist.
To overcome these challenges, the best idea is to simply sit down and write. Make mistakes, fall into traps, use clichés, just write. In time, you’ll find your own way of dealing with them, but you simply can’t learn just by listening to people’s opinions.

Infodumps and clichés

Nevertheless, I’ll explain how I deal with these typical fantasy challenges.
I used to be really bad with infodumps. Maybe some readers remember the final two episodes of The Witch Hunter Chronicles before I completely rewrote the story. That old version really suffered from infodump syndrome. Near the climax of the story, the heroes discovered who the main antagonist of the story really was. Said bad guy then launched into an epic monologue, explaining every minute detail of his plan and his motivation. This is not only a cliché, it’s also plainly annoying because the story stops dead in its tracks just when it was about to get exciting. In the new version, I changed lots of things, but most noticeably, I completely rewrote the ending. Intrigue, backstory and revelations are now sprinkled throughout the story in small doses, leaving the listener hungry for more information while moving along the plot. It was only through practice and self-critiquing that I finally managed to get this right, not by reading books about “how to deliver a good plot”.
When it comes to the other problem of fantasy clichés, my solution is to be aware of them, but not worry about them too much. When authors try too hard to avoid the clichés of their genre, that tends to come across as forced. Very often, the anti-cliché quickly turns into a real cliché, just like the anti-hero has now become a cliché. Most people (including myself) prefer the older clichés, because at least they have a certain charm to them. Recent clichés annoy everyone except those who haven’t picked up on them yet. One way I try to deal with prophecies, chosen ones and dark lords in fantasy is not by subverting them, but by making them less obvious or putting them less front-and-centre.
If you haven’t read or listened to Witch Hunter, the next paragraph will contain some spoilers. I don’t like spoiling anything, especially my own work, but I need to in order to explain what I mean.
I don’t think that Witch Hunter comes across as a cliché fantasy story. Nevertheless, if you look under the hood, many of the genre clichés are absolutely there. In fact, the three I have mentioned before are absolutely present: a prophecy, a chosen one and a dark lord. However, they are not the first things you think about when you think about Witch Hunter. That’s because I purposely moved those elements to the background, even though they are absolutely crucial to the mechanics of the plot. All of those classic fantasy tropes appear towards the end of the story, by which time the audience should be invested in the characters and their fate, and they won’t be thinking “oh no, this is going to be another boring story about a prophecy and a chosen one”. If I had introduced these elements from the beginning, that would have been the reaction of most seasoned fantasy fans. In addition, I made the characters and the plot structure a bit different from what usually accompanies stories about prophecies, chosen ones and dark lords. By telling the story from the viewpoint of a seasoned, older hero whose job is to protect and support the chosen one, I’ve tried to draw the attention away from the “chosen one” narrative and instead focus on other aspects of the story.
Spoilers over.
I don’t mind using those clichés. I like them. They are good, solid foundations for fantasy storytelling. They’ve just become a little stale nowadays and need to be treated with a bit more sophistication and finesse than they used to. This is in my opinion a much better way of dealing with clichés than just throwing them away and making an inherently hopeless attempt at writing fantasy in a vacuum. We are all children of Tolkien, who was himself a child of the ancient Germanic myth-makers. There is nothing wrong with that. We don’t need to disown out parents to avoid flat-out copying them.
This concludes what I have to say about writing for the moment. Next time, I’ll take on another hot topic in the audio drama community: narration, or “audiobooks versus audio drama”.

Apr 01


The adventures of Ludlov are not over!

Audio Epics is proud to announce the thrilling sequel to WITCH HUNTER…

switch blunder

In this 50-hour audio adventure, Ludlov the Witch Hunter is captured by aliens from the distant planet of Xormor VII. Aboard their vessel, Ludlov finds two switches. In an attempt to escape, he pushes one of them, only to find out it was the wrong one.

Sucked into the void of space, Ludlov at last lands on the planet Erps-Kwerps, a world without witches or magic of any kind. In fact everything is quite normal and boring there.

Out of witches to hunt, Ludlov is now forced to take up a new career as a janitor.

Will Ludlov defeat the final evil of the dirty floors?

Find out in SWITCH BLUNDER, the new adventure from Audio Epics!

Mar 14

Witch Hunter Special Edition Hard Copy Available Now!

Like The Will of the Woods, our epic 13-hour gothic fantasy extravaganza Witch Hunter is now available in a very unique format!

This may look like a cassette tape, but it’s not. It is in fact a USB flashdrive cleverly disguised as a tape!

On it you will find the entire story plus a whole bunch of extra material, such as the map of Sevenpeaks, a number of wallpapers and illustrations, the updated original music score and even a “behind the story” feature.

If you are a fan of Witch Hunter, this is truly the ultimate edition and it’s available now from Audiobooksontape.com!

Witch Hunter Audiobook on Tape

Mar 10

Episode Two is out!

The second chapter in the epic gothic fantasy known as Witch Hunter!

In the aftermath of the great fire, Ludlov visits the mayor to tell him of Adomir’s fate. Meanwhile, Samina is locked up in the dungeons, arrested for unauthorised magical healing…

We’re also announcing a very special edition of Witch Hunter, which you can find HERE.
You can also still find us on www.audio-epics.com and on Facebook.

Witch Hunter is now also on the Stitcher Radio App so you can find us there as well.

Thursday will be our weekly release day from now on.

Mar 05

The Witch Hunter Podcast

The first episode of the podcast is out!

We’ve’ decided to turn Witch Hunter into a podcast! Every week a new episode will be released online!

The first episode is out right now, covering the entire first chapter of the epic dark fantasy adventure.

About the Witch Hunter Podcast

This podcast is an episodic “dramatized audiobook”. That’s a term we came up with to describe an audiobook that comes to life with music, sound effects and the voices of a varied cast.

In a dark renaissance fantasy world, we meet Ludlov, a fierce and devoted Witch Hunter, driven by vengeance. In this first episode of the saga, Ludlov is forced to make his way to the great city of Sevenpeaks when he receives news that the evil cult of the Black Sickle have a plan to murder the Witch Hunter’s beloved mentor…

Every week the podcast will bring a new chapter in the epic saga of Ludlov, the WITCH HUNTER.

Witch Hunter is written by Domien De Groot.
The music is composed by Peter Van Riet.

Cast & Crew


  • Domien De Groot (Narrator, Ludlov,…)
  • Eline Hoskens (Samina)
  • Aron Bohdanowicz (Death, Vathek)
  • Featuring cameos by Ilias Vertenten & Jeroen Hendrickx


  • Peter Van Riet

Sound mixing & postproduction:

  • Domien De Groot


If you like Witch Hunter, you can find the novel on Amazon (e-book and hard copy).

If you want to listen to the entire audiobook in one go, you can purchase the download on Bandcamp.

Be sure to visit our website www.audio-epics.com !


Mar 01

The Audio Epics approach: Part One – It all began with an image

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups about audio drama. There is a lot of discussion in these places about the nature of audio drama, how to write them, how to produce them, what good voice acting is, etcetera. It can get quite philosophical at times. The online audio drama community is very passionate as well as very supportive and welcoming to newcomers. Everyone involved knows that we’re a niche of a niche and we’re not in competition with each other. There is a genuine effort to support one another so as to bring the medium into the spotlight. As Matthew McLean, host of the excellent Audio Drama Production Podcast put it, “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

I have some good friends in this community, and I sometimes follow their discussions on audio drama, which can get quite deep and technical, even philosophical. Now, I said “follow”, not “participate”. Once in a while I’ll comment just to show I’m still there, but on the whole, I’m more of a lurker. I notice that very often I just don’t have an opinion on these things. I just have a way of working that I like, which produces the stories that I like. If other people like them as well, then my work is done.

In this article, I’m going to delve a little deeper into what exactly my way of working is. It is not didactic in any way. I don’t believe what works for me works for everyone. I don’t think what I do is how audio storytelling should be done. There is no wrong way to create audio as long as someone gets something positive out of it. What I will describe is just the way I do it and enjoy doing it, and who knows, it might work for you.

Today, I’m going to focus on writing, but in future instalments, I will discuss my approach to sound and voice acting as well.


Obviously, the very first step is writing. I’ve actually been writing audio drama since I was fourteen years old (not that I would want to show you those original scripts). My stories used to be in Dutch (my mother tongue) for the longest time, so they will not appear on the Audio Epics site. Also, they are clearly the work of a teenager who is trying to make his own Star Wars while struggling to find his own voice. Nevertheless, I never wrote as much as during that period and I look back to those all-nighters very fondly. While there are many things I used to do as a writer that I wouldn’t do anymore today, there are some key concepts that have remained and that I will hold onto.

First of all, my stories have always started from an image and a feeling. I often hear how some writers start their stories from a concept or an idea, for example “What if vampires were out in the open, just like normal people?” or a mixing of two old ideas like Pride & Prejudice mixed with zombies. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this approach but I’m a very different kind of guy. I always start from the setting, from the atmosphere. Atmosphere is one of the main reasons why I enjoy stories and why I enjoy writing them. It’s sort of my thing.

Sleepy Hollow

When I wrote my first English audio drama Darkshire, I was really inspired by Tim Burton’s movie Sleepy Hollow. I loved those dark, misty woods, the gothic atmosphere, and so on. I wanted to tell my own story in a similar atmosphere, but I needed characters and a plot (pesky things!). So I started listening to the music for Sleepy Hollow as well as a lot of other Victorian gothic movie soundtracks like Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and so on. Listening to that music started generating images in my mind. I could see a large mansion in the middle of the woods, with a huge roaring hearth in the library. I could see an old man sitting in his chair there, drinking wine. There was a diamond-shaped black mark around one of his eyes. He was utterly alone in his opulent house in the middle of the dark woods. Then I saw a black carriage passing through the forest under the full moon, and wolves running after it. I saw a tiny hovel between the nightly trees, with cosy yellow light shining behind the windows. I saw a ballroom in the glory days of the Russian nobility. All of these images came together in a jumble, but they were images that appealed to me on some level I cannot explain. I picked the elements I liked best and came up with a general “feel” of the story. The tone was set. From there on, it wasn’t so hard to develop the characters, because they began to grow naturally out of these images and feelings. It’s always good to have very opposed characters. Out of that, conflict inevitably comes, and conflict means story.

Mr Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia

I found out C.S. Lewis worked the same way when he wrote the Narnia stories. It’s pretty well known that the first story (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) began with the image of a faun in the snow, near a lamppost in the middle of the woods. A peculiar image indeed, but a very striking one for the imagination. It became iconic. Lewis also said that he had been dreaming a lot about lions around that period. The great lion Aslan became the very core of his seven-book series. What struck me most was when I read some notes that Lewis had scribbled down in preparation of writing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a book in the Narnia series that is all about seafaring adventure. Lewis had written down some plot points and then added “To be a very green and pearly story”.

That little phrase really struck a chord with me, because I could recognise that way of thinking so well. When I started writing Witch Hunter, I wanted it to be a dark, brown and fiery story. I wanted people to smell burning wood when they listened to it. I could see its colours and its textures. Everything else came out of that. It’s very intuitive. I’m not very interested in the rules of storytelling. You figure out what works and what doesn’t as you write more, but what you need first of all, is a sense of identity to your story. What is the overarching feeling that you get from the story? That is what people remember afterwards.

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