Below, Cryptids and Laurel Hightower
Defining a Cryptid
A cryptid is an animal that lacks evidence of existence. This concept attracts skeptics and creatives alike. Seeking answers surrounding these creatures is half the fun, the other half is sharing that experience with the community.
Most famous cryptids will forever live in the shadows. Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and Chupacabra are all cryptids that have not been proven to exist. Some cryptids are discovered to be real, like Hogzilla, a hog who was eight and a half feet long and roughly eight hundred pounds large.
Today we’re here to talk about the Mothman, and see what Laurel Hightower, the author of Below has to say about the cryptids' impact on horror, the horror genre itself, and what goes into writing a novella.
The Mothman, and Below
Orbs of red shine through the trees, and before you can get a good look at what they could be, they vanish into the sky. You know it was large, you know it wasn’t human, you don’t just know these things you feel them. Perhaps your flashlight stops working, or your car dies, either way, there’s an electric surge in the environment making this whole experience even more surreal.
"I was pulling some stuff from John Keel's book [The Mothman Prophecies] (...) His is what is essentially (and I'll take it at face value) a nonfiction account of everything that happened there, and I thought it was so cool because there is so much more to the whole Mothman thing, (...) like the men in black, which I hadn't realized John Keele's also coined the term men in black, and the oddities like electro magnetic bizarreness."
Below is a novel that takes place along the West Virginia mountain range. Addy presses her luck on a cross-state adventure during a snow storm, only to be looped into a series of mysteriously incapacious circumstances. She befriends a truck driver who takes it upon himself to help her along the mountain but incidentally careens off the road himself. Addy subjects herself to internal and external hell to get this stranger out alive.
Supporting a Cause
Laurel Hightower is an interesting author in her own right. The interview flowed naturally despite the two of us being complete strangers. Laurel’s feministic tones may be polarizing to some, which she expressed, but I respect her for embracing that aspect of her storytelling. In my opinion, you can understand why her characters take such stances.
"I said what I wanted to say, and once I get that out there(...) it's in their hands [the reader], it's in their purvey to say and think what they want about it."
Below allowed me to relate to a woman who was struggling to make sense of not only her inner turmoil but the world around her as well. The shift in character has to do with the men in her life, and with that being the case, her frustrations are to be expected.
Films That Left A Lasting Impression
During the interview, we touched on some of our favorite aspects of horror cinema.
Laurel is a big fan of Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg's film Poltergeist.
She went on to point out the love story between the parents in that film, and how unwavering it is. I found her admiration for that love story interesting when compared to Below, where Addy’s lack of assurance, and reciprocated love is what drives her.
Other films discussed for their practical effects were Alien and Aliens, and that brought us back to the increasingly regular question; Does exposing the monster too early hurt a film?
As I come back to this question I can’t help but analyze the way Laurel exposes the cryptid in Below, and how that relates more to Poltergeist than maybe either of us knew before.
This cryptid is capable of so much more than your typical monster, and Laurel uses that to her advantage. Questions are left unanswered, and yet by the end of the book, you understand perfectly how it all comes together.
Get to Know Laurel
"I was a reader before I was a writer."
Laurel Hightower is making herself a known author across smaller publications. Below is published by Perpetual Motion Machine’s imprint Ghoulish.
So far all of Laurel's writing has been published by different publishers. As her fan base grows so do these communities of writers and readers. You can pick up the novella Below through Perpetual Motion Machine.
“Draft a barebones screenplay of what is going on.” (...) “Be prepared and be okay with taking a step back and saying did I start this in the wrong place? Did I start this too far back [from the action or drama]"
When discussing the process behind writing a story of horror or fiction, Laurel offered me some great advice and passed on some advice that she was given. Listen to the interview below to get an idea of the type of author, and person Laurel is.
Laurel plans on attending the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia come September. You’ll also be able to find her at Author-con, hosted by Scares That Care, next year.
Look out for her short story collection Every Woman Knows This which is coming out in early 2023 through Death Knell Press.
This month's post was really a group effort.
I want to thank Pickle for editing the video interview.
My little bro did the Mothman cover image, thank you Jaden!
Laurel sat down with me, a nobody blogger, and we did the thing. I'm always so stoked and surprised that anyone agrees to this. I hope to speak with Laurel again!
And of course, my readers, and now listeners/watchers I hope you guys enjoy what it is I'm trying to do here.