For the Love of the Novella

by Mark Allan Gunnells

Deviations from the Norm

Deviations from the Norm

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I love the novella format. I think it is the perfect length for many tales. Long enough to really develop the stories and characters, not so long that it wears out its welcome and starts to feel padded. As a reader, I’ve always particularly enjoyed when King puts out novella collections, and I was thrilled when his son Joe Hill followed suit recently.

Now I’m thrilled to offer my own novella collection, DEVIATIONS FROM THE NORM. Thematically, I took three familiar horror tropes (the vampire, the time machine, the deal with the devil) and gave them my own twists, hopefully making them fresh and unexpected.

In this blog, I want to talk specifically about one of the novellas and how it came to be. And that is my vampire novella, “The Unholy Eucharist,” which leads off the collection.

This is the first actual significant work of vampire fiction I’ve had published, which is surprising. To me, if to no one else. In my teens and early 20s, I wrote almost nothing but vampire fiction. It was a bit of an obsession with me, to be honest. By the time I finally started publishing in my 30s, I had moved a bit beyond that. And yet I continued to love vampire fiction, both in literary and cinematic forms. I published books about zombies, werewolves, witches, ghosts…but there came a point when I began to feel the itch to delve back into vampires.

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The true genesis of “The Unholy Eucharist” came when I thought back on an abandoned vampire novel I had started in my early 20s called THE APPRENTICE (long before there was any such show by that name). In that novel, I gave a detailed backstory for the vampire legend, creating my own unique origin story. I kept some of the traditional rules, altered others, and came up with some that were completely unique to my vampires. I had so much fun working with the legend and putting my own stamp on it.

But I abandoned that novel because of aspects to my origin story that didn’t make sense, and I had been unable to come up with explanations that worked and felt plausible within the fictional framework.

However, all these years later I did find solutions to those problems that once seemed insurmountable in my youth. I suddenly saw how I needed to change the story around to make it work. I wasted very little time and dove into the writing of “The Unholy Eucharist.”

What resulted was not a reworking of my earlier novel; that remained abandoned. This was specifically a reworking of my origin story for the vampire legend. It necessitated much more research than I normally do because the story is episodic in nature and takes places in various countries during various past time periods. My research was episodic in nature as well. I’d research the time period for the next section, write it, then research the time period for the section after that one. I actually rather enjoyed it.

And once I was done, I had a novella that I feel is quite different from anything else I’ve published in the past while unquestionably being a Gunnells story. I’m thrilled to finally have my own take on the genre out there and available for readers, and I hope they enjoy it. I suspect I have more stories to tell in this particular world.

Deviations from the Norm is available now in print and digital. Click HERE.

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 Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.


Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California.