Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite
‘Behind the Scenes’ – Part Four
KILLER CREATURES DOWN UNDER: HORROR STORIES WITH BITE, conceived and edited by award-winning author and anthology editor Deborah Sheldon, will be released worldwide by IFWG Publishing Australia on 15 May 2023. From creepy-crawlies to crocodiles, you’ll have plenty to fear in this anthology penned by Australian authors. Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite offers disturbing tales that range from the action-packed and visceral, through the historical and futuristic, to the phantasmagorical and supernatural.
In this four-part series exclusive to Ginger Nuts of Horror, the contributors have agreed to pull aside the curtain and reveal the inspiration behind their nightmarish tales.
PART FOUR includes insights from writers Geraldine Borella, Jason Fischer, Tim Borella, H.K. Stubbs, and Matt Tighe.
Geraldine Borella on “No Frills Holiday”
With no shortage of deadly Australian animals to pick from, I decided to enter a piece into IFWG Publishing’s Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite. After working with editor Deb Sheldon before on Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, for which she won the 2021 Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work, I was keen to work with her again.
The hardest part was deciding which killer creature to write about. Once I’d done that, I spent time researching the animal, watching YouTube videos and reading up on its behavioural characteristics. Then, I worked on story structure, theme and setting. My story idea called for a tense build-up to climax, which I hoped would thematically represent the nature of the animal I’d picked.
At the same time, I wanted to explore the roles of predator and prey. Who is predator? Who is prey? Do they know they’re being preyed upon? Have their own decisions placed them in the unenviable position of becoming prey? Could they have safeguarded themselves somehow? Do they perhaps see themselves as the predator, only to find out they’ve become the prey? These are the sorts of questions I hoped my reader might ponder over after reading my piece.
To build up the tension, I placed my main character in an alien environment where they’d come to question every decision they’d made up until that particular point in time. To achieve that I used my own experience as a twenty-something-year-old backpacker (sadly far too many years ago now) mining the unnerving feeling of finding myself in a place where I didn’t know the language, customs or laws. Once there, I dialled up the temperature, (metaphorically and literally), added a touch of claustrophobia, and raised the humidity in an effort to get things really cracking.
If you’d like to know more about my writing, feel free to go to my website: https://geraldineborella.com/ Facebook: @geraldineb4 or Twitter: @GeraldineBorel2
Jason Fischer on “Milk & Honey”
This has long been one of my favourite stories, originally written for Ticonderoga Publication’s Ecopunk! anthology, and now reprinted in the deliciously titled Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite. It is an intersection of many things I love, and I have cheerfully dished up a bizarre alternate-history Australia with a beastie that I am particularly fond of.
Interestingly enough, the creature I have used in my story is somewhat benign in and of itself, but what it represents, ah, that is the danger, one that leads to death and destruction! Now, we are not supposed to speak about the specific creatures we have used in our stories, but what I can say is this: I have taken one of my favourite megafauna species and simply run wild with it.
I’ve long been known for my love of Aussie and quasi-Aussie settings, and when I submitted to this anthology, I wanted to use one of my creatures – my infamous undead camels, my murderous super-kangaroos with fangs, or perhaps my dropbears. Sadly, none met the brief – they had to be Aussie and they had to be real.
I do like a challenge, and was endlessly pleased when the particular beastie in “Milk & Honey” got over the line. As for my alternative history? I give you a near-future tale, where climate change has caused coastal floods and an inland sea, but of course people continue on, clinging to the rest of the land like the cockroaches they are. Go back in time, and here’s the additional tweak – World War 1 never happened. A homeland for displaced Jewish people has been established in the Kimberley, as almost happened in our history. An infamous family follows the Diaspora to our sunburnt continent, with world-changing consequences…
Some stories are hard to write, but in one of those rare moments of the stars lining up correctly this story honestly fell out of my head – that is when you know you are having fun!
Tim Borella on “Nineteen Hours on Deep Creek Station”
Writing’s been an ongoing joy and compulsion in my life, but I was also lucky enough to work for years in another field that was a passion from childhood – flying. It doesn’t always filter into my stories, but when the opportunity arises, I’m always keen to slip aspects of aviation in. Knowing the jargon is handy, as well as what is and isn’t feasible for aeroplanes and helicopters, something I’ve seen amusingly misinterpreted at times.
One great benefit of an airborne career is having been gifted opportunities to see much of Australia, and various other countries, from perspectives many others never get the chance to experience; at high and low levels, and in the case of helicopters, in some weird and wonderful holes in the bush. It all hides in the back of my brain somewhere, ready to pop out when the time’s right.
A less palatable and publicised flipside of flying, particularly in single-engine machines as I mostly have, is that some places that are incredibly beautiful from above can quickly turn into death traps if you happen to end up in them unexpectedly – think the Snowy Mountains in winter; the dry outback in summer; the cold waters of Bass Strait; rainforest so dense it can swallow you with barely a trace.
This aspect was part of the inspiration for “Nineteen Hours on Deep Creek Station”. We used to joke about aiming to forced land near a pub, but if you end up somewhere less hospitable, perhaps in habitats of creatures higher than you on the food chain, look out!
Another thing feeding into this story was the dynastic lines of succession still strong in some rural areas of our wide country. It would be a rare family where petty jealousies don’t play a part in relationships, and if control of multi-million-dollar properties is part of the equation, tension is likely to run high at times. Strong-willed characters and strange happenings abound away from the big cities, where nobody’s looking over your shoulder. Dubious decisions by one of my story’s main characters have some very drastic consequences, which I very much hope you’ll enjoy reading about.
You can find your way to more of my stories and other information by visiting my Author website – https://tim-borella-author.mailchimpsites.com/ – or searching for Tim Borella – Author on Facebook. Thanks!
H.K. Stubbs on “Boyfriend Material”
Australia’s scary wildlife is one of the best things about our country, not least because of the dissonance between how it is perceived and what it’s actually like when you’re out amongst it.
When writing a story leveraging the reputation of our wildlife, I wanted to be careful, because I love Australian animals so much. But our natural spaces (and species) are in danger of being loved to death, with some hikers treating the environment with carelessness or disrespect, leaving rubbish behind, taking shortcuts which create erosion, and taking dogs into conservation areas. I find so many bits of rubber or plastic that have fallen off shoes.
Maybe that scary reputation can be used to keep people away! Though I don’t think that’s the answer. People need to be engaged with nature to protect it; but they have to be respectful and careful not to harm it.
My story in Killer Creatures Down Under is about a creature that I LOVE. Most people hate them, but I think they’re great. And the meatiest part of the story really is based on a true event recounted to me by a fellow bushwalker. If you’d like to know what the true kernel of the story is, or have a guess at it after you’ve read the story, get in touch through my website at https://helenstubbs.wordpress.com.
Otherwise just enjoy this amazing anthology put together by fantastic editor Deborah Sheldon, and published by wonderful publisher IFWG. Visit and protect our beautiful natural spaces, home to our native creatures and those of us who are desperate to escape urban spaces. And also, think about how we can make nearby places more hospitable for wildlife, with native plants and clean water. Sign petitions, advocate – donate to conservation foundations if you can – so Aussie wildlife is around forever.
Matt Tighe on “There are Things on Me”
Having been included in Deborah and IFWG Australia’s 2021 award-winning anthology Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, I was more than keen to submit something for Killer Creatures Down Under. Shall I say desperate, perhaps? Perhaps. I had no idea of what to write though, beyond this odd re-occurring scene I had been picturing in which someone was driving down a long country driveway, concerned as they saw the state of the house they were about to visit. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it was not ‘concern’ this person was feeling so much as it was guilt.
Guilt drives so many decisions, it seems, and family-related guilt has its own unique and pervasive flavour. It is something we all know about, have all experienced, and I think I can safely say that actions that come from such a place never seem to make things better.
Anyway, that helped me work out who was driving down the driveway, and who they were visiting. For the creature side of things, I wanted something that reflected that family guilt – something that creeps, that is insidious, and mostly, something that doesn’t seem like much of a threat until it is too late.
On one level, “There are Things on Me” is a straight up creature creep-out story. But I also wanted it to be a story about that guilt, and isolation, and family – about how those things can be so invasive, and how they can eat away at you.
DEBORAH SHELDON is a multi-award-winning author, anthology editor, script editor and medical writer from Melbourne, Australia. She writes across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Latest titles include the anthology Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite, novelette The Again-Walkers, collection Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories, and novella Man-Beast.
Award-nominated titles include Body Farm Z, Contrition, Devil Dragon, Thylacines, and Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories. Her collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Collected Work’ Award, was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award, and long-listed for a Bram Stoker.
She has won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award twice: for Midnight Echo 14 and for the anthology she conceived and edited, Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. Her short fiction has appeared in respected magazines, podcasts and ‘best of’ anthologies, been translated, and garnered numerous award nominations.
Other credits include TV scripts such as NEIGHBOURS, feature articles, non-fiction books (Reed Books, Random House), play scripts, and award-winning medical writing. Visit Deb at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com
IFWG PUBLISHING AUSTRALIA and its sister-imprint, IFWG Publishing International, are based in Queensland Australia and has been operating for 12 years. They specialise in speculative fiction for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers, with a strong leaning toward horror and dark fantasy. Both imprints are distributed through Chicago-based IPG, world-wide, including their Spanish language titles. The Australian website:
BLURB: KILLER CREATURES DOWN UNDER: HORROR STORIES WITH BITE
Australia: the land where everything wants to kill you. A continent filled with some of the deadliest animals in the world.
From creepy-crawlies to crocodiles, you’ll have plenty to fear in this anthology penned by Australian authors. Killer Creatures Down Under: Horror Stories with Bite offers disturbing tales that range from the action-packed and visceral, through the historical and futuristic, to the phantasmagorical and supernatural.
Prepare to confront your animal phobias… And perhaps develop some new ones.
Featuring work by:
Geraldine Borella – Tim Borella – Renee De Visser – Anthony Ferguson – Jason Fischer – Fox Claret Hill – Robert Mammone – Ben Matthews – J.M. Merryt – Helena O’Connor – Steven Paulsen – Antoinette Rydyr – Deborah Sheldon – Charles Spiteri – H.K. Stubbs – Matt Tighe – Keith Williams – Pauline Yates
Curated by Deborah Sheldon, editor of the multi-award-winning and multi-award-nominated anthology, Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies.
URLS: KILLER CREATURES DOWN UNDER: HORROR STORIES WITH BITE
Book Depository (free postage worldwide) – https://www.bookdepository.com/Killer-Creatures-Down-Under-Deborah-Sheldon/9781922856241