"Lie down, Gidion, and don't move. I promise it'll be okay." Etta indian-burned his arm positioning it just so. Ever since that snake-eyed Mr. Jericho came to town, Gidion's sister had been acting strange. They used to share all their most cherished secrets with one another, like the driest path to take to the toilet when it rained, or the least painful way to squeeze your big parts into
. Now they shared but a single secret, and that secret was a bad one. Singing Cave
In this collection of award-winning short stories from Carole Lanham, the monsters are looming black beasties that prowl about in the shape of regret, and their teeth are very sharp. Hidden inside the secret-ravaged world of The Whisper Jar, a pair of children embark upon a dangerous friendship formed around a love of reading. A student learns more than she was ever meant to learn in school. A door to a mysterious room unbolts to reveal a terrible truth.
David Niall Wilson of Crossroad Press said of The Whisper Jar, Every now and then, a collection of short stories comes along that not only brings creepiness to new levels, but reaches in a little deeper and leaves something behind. The stories in The Whisper Jar are like that... they stick with you like soft voices in the memory. A great book for a dark and stormy night.
Open The Whisper Jar with great care. You just might find your own secrets hidden in there.
What is a "whisper jar" and how did you arrive at this title for your book?
A whisper jar is a jar used to store one's deepest, darkest secrets and the directions for using one are very easy. Simply remove the lid, unburden your heart by softly whispering your secrets into the mouth of the glass, screw on the top, and move forward with your life, safe in the knowledge that your little black deed has been securely stashed away. Because the stories in this collection all center around characters who are desperately trying to hide something, I invented the whisper jar so they would have a place to squirrel away their crimes. Alas, while a portable receptacle for collecting secrets would seem very handy, no respectable work of dark fiction would ever allow anything the least bit unsavory to remain under lid.
If we take a peek inside The Whisper Jar, what sort of secrets will we find fermenting in there?
The Good Part steps inside the secret world of a brother and sister who give the term "blood-bound" a whole new meaning, while The Forgotten Orphan reveals the truth regarding a much wondered and worried about monster that's locked away at the top of an old orphanage. In Maxwell Treat's Museum of Torture for Young Girls and Boys, the secret revolves around the mysterious consequences of a device called "The Fork in the Road", which happens to be on display in a rather unusual museum created by three enterprising and slightly fishy children. As a whole, The Whisper Jar has been stuffed to the brim with confessions of innocence lost and warnings about the high cost of regret.
Maxwell Treat is an interesting name. Are the names of the characters in your work important?
A character's name provides a beautiful way to set the tone for a story, in my opinion. Naming a woman Marygold in a Victorian piece, for instance, helps establish setting and a feel for the era every time the name appears on a page. I name my characters with almost as much care as I named my kids. We're all intimately familiar with literary monikers that have gone on to embody a wealth of meaning while standing utterly on their own - Huckleberry Finn. Romeo. Lolita. Gandalf... I've sometimes thought about how different many small things in our society would be if Dracula had been given a different name. I'm really glad Bram Stoker gave the count an exotic one and didn't just call him Steve. Think how silly it would sound if kids were flocking to the store every Halloween to buy Steve costumes.
What are the names of some of the other characters in The Whisper Jar and how do these names set the tone for the stories in your book?
In The Blue Word, the characters are all students in a remote mountain school for special children that's being run by French nuns. Everyone is named after a book in the Bible - Corinthians, Philemon, Esther. Discipline and moral conscience are imperative to the survival of the program. The children (who were accepted for enrollment as infants) are given constant daily reminders of their spiritual obligations by way of almost everything, including the names of their friends. It's a post apocalyptic story and the true heritage of Esther, the protagonist, like Esther in the Bible, is not revealed until much later. Also, like Biblical Esther, Esther of the apocalypse is given a chance to save her fellow people.
There is a sweet, slow-witted character named Estrella Calliope June-Bug Padora in the short story,
Hopefully, there isn't a name in the book that doesn't somehow enhance the story in which it appears.
While we're on the subject of names, you're known on the Internet as The Horror Homemaker. Are the stories in The Whisper Jar all horror stories? Some of them sound like fantasy or Sci-Fi.
In all honesty, the stories are a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I tend to like anything that walks a fine line between magic and science because I feel like so many things in life are touched by a mystical, spiritual sort of sparkle. That's the kind of fantasy I'm drawn to. One of the stories, Keepity Keep, is about two brothers who discover and end up fighting over a little fairy-type person named Petaloo. It was originally published in Fantasy Magazine and definitely has a fae slant.
When it comes to horror stories, Twilight Zone is my Twilight of choice. I'm wild about endings that hit me like a punch in the gut. Remorse is more terrifying to me than being bitten by a vampire. That said, I love vampires. I like them best when they prey upon your sense of right and wrong. Mix guilt with a vampire kiss and my heart bleeds. I'm not a lover of gore or hack-n-slay. If I'm cruel to my protagonists (and I am!), I prefer to clout them with irony or break them with a brutal case of forbidden love.
Is the book available in paperback?
Soon! It will joining the ebook version on Amazon sometime in the next several weeks.
Last but not least, do you keep a jar around the house for your secrets? If so, what kinds of things do you whisper inside it?
I keep a jar around my neck, actually. It's teeny tiny but it holds a lot. If I'm in Walmart and feeling angry with the slow progress of the check-out line, I can whisper all the curses I want in there and still look like a very nice person. As for the really big secrets I drop in my jar, they are mostly boring ones involving parental guilt over not helping my child enough with a homework assignment, or, helping my child too much with a homework assignment. I'm afraid I'm forced to make up the exciting stuff. That's why I became a writer. Along with a giveaway of my book, I would like to give away some convenient, ready-to-wear whisper jar necklaces, great for easy storage of all your most terrible and not so terrible secrets.
Carole Lanham's publishing history includes twenty-four short stories, one novella, first prize in two national writing contests, and several awards, the entire lot of which would never have been possible without the loving support and help of her wonderful husband and two children. She lives in the
area with her little jar of secrets and a rather sprawling collection of aprons. The Whisper Jar is her first full length book. If interested, please visit her at: carolelanham.com and horrorhomemaker.com St. Louis
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