Dayton writer publishes captivating horror novella
By Tim Anderl
In 2008 a challenge from a friend inspired K.W. (Kathleen) Taylor to put pen to paper and by October 2011, Taylor’s first horror novella, “We Shadows Have Offended,” was reaching Barnes and Noble store shelves and Amazon’s electronic book shop.
“The prompt was supposed to be centered around the word ‘shame.’ I remember just typing out the phrase ‘The beginning of shame’ at the top of a document, and I kept that the working title long after the story meandered into directions,” said Taylor.
The primary plot of “We Shadows Have Offended” follows the story of four boys who witnessed a neighbor appear to turn into a demon. The consequences of resulting events challenge and haunt the boys into adulthood. Taking cues from horror-fiction godfathers like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, Taylor’s characters witness unspeakable horror and grapple with their own humanity to the novella’s climactic, twist ending.
Taylor’s passion for writing began at an early age when as a child she wrote her first short stories. By the time she was studying creative writing in high school and college, Taylor was confident that she’d like to pursue a professional writing career
“After being in the workforce a few years, I took one long vacation where I did almost nothing else but write short stories. That’s when I really knew this was my main love,” Taylor said. “I quit my job to get a master’s in English, and I haven’t looked back since.”
A longtime resident of Dayton, Taylor set “We Shadows Have Offended” in the Midwest, although the era in which the story takes place is a bit more ambiguous – set anywhere from the 1940s to ‘60s.
“Some of the characters are from Ohio, and that’s partly because I know Ohio like the back of my hand,” she said. “But some of the characters are from outside Chicago, and that’s due to some of the historical unrest going on (during the mid 1900s when events of the novel take place).
“There were race riots. There were struggles between different socioeconomic groups. There were issues with corruption and immigration. Everything about the time and place are uncomfortable,” Taylor explained. “The Midwest is even today this almost grey area where red states and blue states coexist, where it’s kind of a microcosm of the entire country.
And so ultimately, the fact that it takes place in this grey zone in an undefined era … the point is, evil can happen any time, any place. We’re always at the precipice of disaster, really.”
Though the novella wasn’t Taylor’s first rodeo – she’s previously published several pieces of shorter fiction in Quarterlife Quarterly, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Iron Bound, Theory Train and Aoife’s Kiss Magazine — when Taylor completed the novella she anticipated disaster in finding a company interested in publishing it due primarily to the story’s word count.
“It’s a strange length,” Taylor said. “A lot of traditional publishers won’t touch it unless you have a collection of several (stories) that they can package into a book. The novella is too long for magazine publication, but usually too short for traditional publication by itself.”
While she initially collected rejection letters in her pursuit of publishing “We Shadows Have Offended,” she stumbled upon her eventual publisher, Etopia Press, while researching markets willing to take novellas.
“The fact that they’re primarily an e-book publisher was interesting; I’d never really considered that for longer works before, so I took a chance,” said Taylor.
While on vacation at the “happiest place on earth,” Disney World, Taylor received the news that Etopia was interested in the story. “It was sort of surreal to get such good news like that! Etopia’s editors have been fabulous to work with, so the whole experience has been like a dream,” she said.
Currently working as a lecturer in the Wright State University English Department faculty, Taylor uses her own experience as encouragement for students who are also budding writers.
“I took a lot of courses in college and grad school in both literature and creative writing. A lot of writers only take the writing courses, and I think that’s a bit of a mistake,” Taylor explained. “It always baffles me when students tell me they love to write but not to read!
“If you’re not naturally a reader, you need to develop those literary criticism muscles if you want to actually be a good writer,” she said. “It’s kind of like only doing abstract painting without knowing how to draw and paint realistically. Young writers need to learn from the masters and grasp the basic literary conventions before they break those rules they’ve learned and observed.”
When Taylor isn’t sharing advice with students, she may be seeking it from her husband, who is also a writer.
“He’s tremendously supportive. And yes, he’s a writer, but he’s also a very voracious reader, almost more than anything else. This is always helpful when I want another pair of eyes on my work,” Taylor said. “I fear we’re a little too enamored of each other’s works to be super objective, so I run things by my writers’ group, too.”
Though Taylor isn’t sure where “We Shadows Have Offended” will lead her, her experience as a former television writer for the Dayton City Paper’s predecessor publication, Impact Weekly, leaves her with fingers crossed that the work may see adaptation to the screen someday.
“I’m a huge TV and movie nerd. But I’ve also never tried my hand at screenwriting,” Taylor said. “I’d enjoy seeing what a director’s imagination could do with casting and evoking a certain atmosphere. I’d find the whole process fascinating.”
For more information about “We Shadows Have Offended,” visit www.facebook.com/kwtaylorwriter.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.