My horror novel The Thing in the Woods would not exist if, one night when I was home from the University of Georgia sometime in 2006 or 2007, I hadn’t decided to swing by the East Cobb Borders. There I found a manual for the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu. Although I’m not a gamer I do appreciate the back-stories many games have and I am a big Lovecraft fan. I gave it a read and one of the possible scenarios was the suburbanization of the rural desolation where, in Lovecraft’s work, very bad things went down. The phrase “supernatural Love Canal,” a reference to the building of a planned community and in particular two schools atop an abandoned toxic-waste dump, came up.
That seemed like a good idea for a story, so I started developing one. Although my memory for the details is getting a little fuzzy I’d started writing it in May 2007, soon after I began work for The Griffin Daily News. It started out as a short story, but the tale grew in the telling. What ultimately became a novel is set in the fictional town of Edington, GA, located in the southern rim of Metro Atlanta. Although Griffin, McDonough, and Lovejoy are referenced as being separate towns located nearby, many details from those places made it into Thing. Edington has a Best Buy like McDonough, there’s a long north-south road with car dealerships on the northern end and middle-class neighborhoods located south of the main drag like in Griffin, and the Edington library resembles Griffin’s Flint River Regional Library. A Griffin official introduced me to the term “pipe farm” (an unfinished neighborhood with foundations and plumbing but no actual houses), something that was quite common during the Great Recession. Although I never saw a pipe farm in Griffin, I did see one while biking on the Forsyth County Greenway, and that imagery appeared in Thing as well.
The Thing in the Woods fell by the wayside as I focused on other projects and it sat dormant for years. However, when I was in graduate school at Georgia State University, I sat down and binge-wrote, at one point writing 4,000 words in a single day, and got that sucker done. I finished the first draft in very late 2013, with a writing-group meeting to discuss the finished product delayed by the big snowstorms that afflicted Atlanta in early 2014 and caused me to miss at least one or two classes at GSU. I was at the very tail end of working on my masters when I went to the 2015 World Horror Conference in Atlanta to pitch it to publishers, although I didn’t submit it to Digital Fiction Publishing, which ultimately published it, until sometime later.
So The Thing in the Woods began in college and finished in college, with my planned sequel The Atlanta Incursion taking place around Georgia State for good measure. One of my two undergraduate degrees is in history, as is my masters, and history plays a big deal in the story, so it’s appropriate.