Today is special for me. My novella, On A Hill, has reached 100 reviews on Amazon in the USA. This blows my mind. For a little self published writer like myself, it's a difficult milestone to imagine. Even for writers with a publishing machine behind them, getting 100 reviews is a big deal, and that doesn't even take into consideration the 60 plus other reviews the book has received in different regions. This has been due to some luck, and a readership which has been amazing to me.
First and foremost, the success of the story comes from the creepypasta community, specifically the readers of creepypasta.com, who embraced an early version of the story which helped to get the word out there. Due to their encouragement I decided to put the story up on Kindle, and have been amazed by the response ever since.
That being said. It does need a second edition. It was the first time I'd self published anything, and was finding my feet at the time as an online writer. The story needs edited, and so there is a second edition on the way, but I thought to celebrate this milestone that it might be fun to discuss the history of the story.
Warning, major spoilers, so please do consider reading the story before continuing.
The Inspiration For the Story
My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, grew up in a town called Kilsyth, in Scotland. I used to stay at her family home regularly, and one day I looked out a window and started thinking about a large solitary hill which I could see. I wondered, what was at the peak? And so I started to think about On A Hill, and develop the story.
By the time I sat down to write it, I had a definite idea of what kind of story it would be. I sometimes already know the plot when I start a story, but without fail, this completely changes as I'm writing, which is what happened with On A Hill. The original story was as follows:
A visitor to a remote village in Scotland strikes up a conversation with a local, regarding an impressive hill which dominates the landscape. Over time, the visitor discovers that the hill has a legend attached to it, that whoever goes up it never appears again. And so, the visitor sets out to disprove the legend. As he nears the peak he begins to go mad seeing horrible hallucinations of a tormented landscape. He manages to stumble back down the hill, theorising that something inside the hill is either cursed or toxic to human beings. The visitor leaves, wiser for the experience as is often the case with these stories.
And so, it was a very different kind of story in the beginning. In fact, there were to be no monsters. It would be a tale of madness and superstition. But as I wrote the story, the plot took me elsewhere, to a cursed land with a terrible history, which manifests an evil itself, and does not allow visitors to leave.
The Laird of Dungorth
What a lot of people don't realise is that On A Hill is in fact a prequel of sorts. Scratch that, it's more of a side story in an ongoing larger story which I've been building for years. A number of poems, short stories and novellas create what I call the Dungorth Mythos. Dungorth is a fictional settlement in Scotland where a number of terrible events took place centuries ago. These events primarily surround The Laird of Dungorth, who controlled the land there and used his people for his own means in the most brutal fashion.
The events which took place in Dungorth have largely been swallowed up by history, but the sinister shadow of the place, and those who did foul deeds there, still have a power, even today. The first story where I explored this is called "Ghast". And yes, that was what led to the birth of Ghastly Tales, but that's another story for another time.
While many of the stories focus on the Laird of Dungorth, a few, including On A Hill, explore the repercussions of his actions. If you've read On A Hill, then you'll know that the people who settled on the hill were refugees, trying to escape the Laird of Dungorth's bloody grip. They succeed, for a time, but find themselves caught under the evil influence of The Father, another religious zealot. What remains unclear is whether he was a good man twisted by an evil which already stalked the hillside, or whether he invoked it himself.
The History of the Hill
I should say before I discuss the history of the hill that I very much believe that your opinion is as valid as mine. As soon as a story is out there, a reader's interpretation may be more accurate than the writers! With that in mind, don't take my opinion of the story as set in stone.
To me, On A Hill explores the misty past of Scotland, just as another story of mine, Off the Beaten Path does. There are gaps in my country's history, entire tribes of people of whom we know little. But isn't it fun to imagine? There are markers left throughout my homeland. Stone pillars, underground constructions, cairns, relics from the thousands of years which people have inhabited these islands. Indeed, the narrator sees some of these stone monoliths himself.
It seems clear to me that the refugees of Dungorth were twisted and claimed by an ancient evil which was already there. Perhaps it was the ancient people's who created or summoned it, but I like to think that those stone markers on the hill were a warning; to ward off fellow travellers, so that they never suffer at the hands of that cursed land.
And Thank You!
I'd like to thank each and every person who has taken the time to read, comment, buy, or review On A Hill. I know some of you have done all of the above, and I am very lucky to have such amazing readers. In any case, I look forward to sharing the second edition (which will be free to those who already bought the story), which should clear up any issues in the manuscript.
I hope you enjoy it, and who knows, perhaps we'll return to the hill together some day, to see what other secrets are hidden there.
~ Michael Whitehouse
Gratuitous plug: Buy the book.
Gratuitous plug: Buy the book.