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by Mark Towse
Nana typically is a term of endearment for “grandmother,” often associated with kindly old ladies that dote on their grandchildren and are fond of baking cookies, pies, and other goodies for their loved ones. The nana that this story centers around is not much different, albeit a bit stricter in her ways, but she loves her grandson Ollie and simply dotes on his father. There is nothing that she would not do for them, for as long as she can, such as is often the case with any good parent.
Ollie’s Nana, Ivy, lives in Newhaven Crescent. It is a quiet little street full of elderly folk that Ivy knows well. Alex, the neighborhood paperboy, does find them a little creepy, as kids often do. Growing old can often be unkind and as far as he can tell, it has been unusually unkind to the citizens living in Newhaven Crescent. There is Joan, who is plagued by bladder issues and a weird lump growing from her scalp. She is friendly but Alex finds her quite hideous. Harry, the old pervy man next door, never fails to display inappropriate behavior for a man of his age, and honestly, Alex’s age too. Janet is a large woman, with a very generous bosom, where Alex invariably finds himself snuggled into as she wraps him up in her giant hugs as soon as he she sees him. She means well, but she also gives the paperboy the creeps.
Newhaven is full of such old folks, each one kindly, but creepy, each one aging in horrific ways that Alex would rather not know about. Each one dying to be who they once were, free of disease, free of pus-filled boils, and warts and painful lesions. Free from the curse of old age and no one is more motivated than Ivy to spend as much time as possible with her son and grandson.
Ivy is Alex’s favorite citizen on the block, she is the most kind, always keeps a respectable distance and often leaves him a fresh baked cherry pie on the porch. It is his favorite stop on his paper route and today is no different, or is it? It is a special day for the citizens of Newhaven and Ivy has baked lots of pies today, including one for her favorite grandson, Ollie, who is coming by any minute. There is lots to do and preparations to be made. Today is an incredibly special day indeed.
This novella was so well-written I could see each character as described, with all their grossness and glory. I could almost smell them, but thankfully not. There is a seriously creepy undertone throughout the story and the desperation of the old people was palpable. Towse did an excellent job of weaving the very real heartache and pain of growing old into each one of these characters and the motivation for the climax of the story becomes plain to see as it unfolds. There is a lot going on within such a short amount of time but Towse keeps the story together and moving at a nice pace with little confusion or loose ends. The chilling conclusion is nothing short of incredible and as unpredictable as it gets. I loved everything about Nana, and I look forward to much more by this author.
Five stars for me. Click the link below to buy it on Amazon.
Meet Mark Towse
Author of "Nana"
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
Honestly, the thought never seriously crossed my mind until a couple of years ago, shortly after my forty-fifth birthday. At school, my English teacher always said I could be getting A's if I put the effort in, but I never really took the feedback on board. Mathematics was my go-to subject. It came easy to me, and I liked the guarantee of a solution. I needed that certainty in my life back then.
But the teacher's words stayed with me, buried in my subconscious. Over time, the voice in my head got gradually louder each year. One day, with a bit of encouragement from my wife, Stephanie, I decided to hell with it and to give writing a shot. Wow, what therapy. If only I'd have known!
My first sale was a flash piece called 'Hugh's Friend.' I got seventy-five dollars for it, but it might as well have been gold bullion. I was hooked.
Why did you choose to write horror?
I honestly think it chose me. I never felt a compulsion to read anything but horror. With my first ever library card, I hired 'Cujo' and digested each glorious page as quickly as possible. I still remember quite vividly that period of discovery; the smell of the book, clothes wafting on the washing line, my open window letting in the summer breeze, and carrying the sound of laughter and screaming from kids playing outside. My mum kept hassling me to go out for fresh air, but there'd be no shifting me. The following week I came home with a bagful of King. Fresh air could wait.
Do you only write horror stories or do you cross-over into other genre’s?
I'm drawn towards horror, but I've also written a couple of sci-fi stories. One won a competition, so that was cool. A recent story I'm excited about combines sci-fi and horror, and hopefully, that sees daylight (fresh air). I've written a children's story, too. It was purchased and published, although it did have a demon in it.
What was your idea or original concept for “Nana”?
It wasn't really a concept as such, just more of a notion that took flight.
I was helping my son out on his first day of delivering papers. One particular street had an odd vibe, with several strange ornaments in the gardens, gargoyles with twisted faces, their wotsits exposed. There were lots of gnomes with angry faces, too. Curtains twitched frantically until some of them finally came out to say hello. It was interesting to observe my son's reaction to these elderly folks who just wanted a bit of company. He acted as though they were aliens with plans of abduction. I wanted to explore that divide, perceived or not, further emphasizing such idiosyncrasies to the nth degree. We are all still kids, trapped within the limitations of our bodies.
How is your relationship or your memories of your own Nana? Were you close?
Certainly very limited. I think I was about eleven or twelve when she died. One of few recollections is the damp biscuits, flat soda, and her noxious farts in front of the fire. She was a gun on a bicycle, too; her little legs would go like the clappers.
What would she think of this book or has she read it?
I have no clue, to be honest. If she had my mum's sense of humour, she would have dug it.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
The bulk of my stories are centred in real-life with a sprinkle of speculative stuff along the way. My day job requires me to travel around a lot, often to the strangest of locations, and some of the clients I meet along the way are odd to say the least. Ideas tend to originate from such locations and clients, and as a 'pantster,' the tales then weave themselves.
Name your top 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why?
I am going to stay faithful to King. My favourite novel is the collaboration with Peter Straub, 'The Talisman.' Again, I read this in my younger years, and it just blew me away—just one hell of a journey that helped me escape an unimpressive youth.
I grew up reading a lot of James Herbert, too. My favourite piece was ‘The Fog’, closely followed by ‘The Rats.’ Herbert could create a gnarly, chilling tone that stuck around long after finishing the book.
Jack Ketchum's 'Off Season' is terrific. This was my first venture into slightly more brutal works, and I was hooked after that.
Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead?
I have to say King. He kept me going through quite a lonely childhood, kept me dreaming.
What was your earliest experience with horror? Movie, book, a real-life moment or nightmare?
It comes back to the elderly again, funny enough. On a rare night out, my parents left me with the next-door neighbours. They were Dutch. They let me have a small glass of liquor; I can't recall the name of it now, but I remember it tasting like rust. We played pool without a cue. It was an odd little game, where you had to flick a disc at another disc to knock it in one of the four corner pockets. Alan, my opponent, had a dribble of saliva on his chin throughout the entire game. Only when he won did he slake his hand across to collect it. I remember Psycho was on TV, and they let me watch it.
It was them that gave me the nightmares, though.
What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
Being able to write this stuff and for it not only be acceptable but also to get paid for it!
What is your favorite Horror movie and why?
That’s an impossible question.
One I’ve watched a few times recently is The Ritual (written by Adam Nevill). Something about the relationship between the lads and the visuals just makes it of enormous appeal to me. From start to finish, the tension doesn’t leave the screen. I love the overall thread of the story, too. This is the type of tale I aspire to write, something based in reality that doesn’t rely heavily on the monster to create the foreboding.
On a different note, Creepshow hit me hard as a kid, too. For days after watching, I would wake up in a cold sweat, holding my chest, thinking cockroaches were going to explode from my belly.
What would you most like your fans to know about you?
Tough question. I’ve put on 4 kg since starting writing, so please buy my book so I can continue to feed my ever-increasing appetite. The more exciting a scene is, the more I eat. Please feed me.
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
I want my kids to be proud, to know that I followed my dreams and worked my ass off, gave it my best shot.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
I’ve just finished a novella called ‘Gone to the Dogs.’ I have to say, I believe this to be one of the best things I’ve written to date, and I can’t wait to see it out there. After writing five novellas during the lockdown period, I’ve reverted to shorts for a while. I’m currently finishing up one called ‘Case Study’ that delivers the biggest slice of karma yet.
I was born in Hull, England. Currently, I reside in a quiet little town surrounded by water, called Clifton Springs, about an hour outside of Melbourne, Australia.
I have a degree in mathematics but no formal qualifications in English.
I left it very late to begin this journey, penning my first story since primary school at the ripe old age of 45. Since then, I’ve been published in the likes of Flash Fiction Magazine, The Dread Machine, Cosmic Horror, Suspense Magazine, ParABnormal, and Raconteur. My work has also appeared on The No Sleep Podcast, The Grey Rooms, and many other excellent productions.
My first collection, ‘Face the Music,’ was released by All Things That Matter Press and is available via Amazon, Dymocks, B&N, etc.
My debut novella from D&T Publishing, ‘Nana, is out now and available via Amazon and Godless.
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