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The White Forest: A Chat with Adam McOmber (& Giveaway)

Today we are thrilled to have award-winning author Adam McOmber over to talk about his debut novel, The White Forest. A Victorian era story about three friends torn apart by one’s obsession, one’s secret power, and one’s jealousy, The White Forest is a story of secret societies, unfathomable powers, and higher planes.

Ladies and gents, please give a warm welcome to Adam!

The Book Smugglers: Welcome, Adam, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us! The White Forest is your debut novel, but you are an accomplished author of short fiction. Tell us a bit about the transition from writing short stories to a full length novel – was this a daunting or challenging shift, or no big sweat? Do you feel more comfortable with or prefer writing one format to the other?

Adam: Thank you for having me! As for the differences between writing short fiction and the novel, I think The White Forest really evolved out of the short stories I was working on. I’m not talking about the plot or the characters here, but rather the tone of the novel, as well as some of the ideas that are presented. Short stories were a place for me to experiment, and The White Forest is a culmination of all that thought-work. It was great to have such a large canvas to paint my ideas on. And of course, it was also wonderful to discover my main character, Jane Silverlake. She became this complex and mythic figure who could really hold a big story together. A short story couldn’t have contained her.

The Book Smugglers: The White Forest blends fantasy elements in a gothic Victorian setting, appealing to both genre fiction readers (such as ourselves) and general/literary fiction fans at large. Do you consider yourself a fantasy, mainstream, or literary fiction author (or do you abscond such labels altogether)? And do you read fantasy novels or other works of genre fiction?

Adam: I really don’t make a distinction between genre fiction and literary fiction when I read or write. Though, I’ll admit that most of the so-called “literary” fiction out there today bores me. I don’t really care for traditional realism — those stories that are ostensibly about regular people who you could meet in your every day life. I want stories that transport me completely. I want the fantastic.

I think good writing (be it genre fiction or literary) focuses on strong characters and uses interesting, fresh language. The Victorian’s themselves understood that good writing can have complex characters alongside elements of the supernatural or the mythic. I’m thinking of Dracula or The Turn of the Screw or The Picture of Dorian Gray. Those are some of my favorite works in all of literature, both for their writing and for the supernatural elements in their plots. I’ve tried to make The White Forest read as both a literary novel as well as a page-turner. Books that straddle that line are amazing to me. In terms of contemporary writing that does this, I love works like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Stephen King’s The Stand or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The Book Smugglers: Let’s talk spiritualism, Victorian style. During this particular era, the occult (encompassing mediums, séances, and secret orders) were all the rage with the London elite – a trend you capture in The White Forest. Did you do any research regarding this particular spiritualism craze? What sort of research did you conduct, if any, in writing this novel?

Adam: The White Forest is a highly researched novel, yes. I immersed myself in the Victorian notions of spiritualism by reading widely from nineteenth century fiction and nonfiction. One of my favorite texts for this sort of research — a book that I still return to again and again — is James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which is a wonderful nineteenth century work of comparative mythology that presents all kinds of interesting information about ancient religions, folk rituals and the like. As I was working on The White Forest, I also read countless Victorian ghost stories, everything from M.R. James to Algernon Blackwood. Those stories really helped me get the tone and atmosphere of the piece right.

The Book Smugglers: The White Forest’s heroine, Jane Silverlake, can hear the souls of manmade objects and takes solace from that din in the quiet of nature. There’s a tension in your book between these two concepts – tell us about this struggle between technology and nature, between industrial and scientific progress, and a return to/understanding of the natural world. What role or significance does this tension play in your book?

Adam: Though I currently live in the city of Chicago, my father and grandfather are both farmers. I grew up in the rural countryside of Ohio. The cornfields and isolated farmhouses of my youth are still very much a part of me, and those elements seem at odds with the hustle of city life that currently surrounds me. Jane Silverlake’s Hampstead Heath and the industrialized central-London that she fears are symbolic equivalents of my farm life and my city life. I think that I “feel” the city more having come from the farm. And because I have a generally Gothic temperament, I perceive that both the country setting and the city setting can be dangerous in their own way. The White Forest itself isn’t exactly a place you’d want to go for a pleasant afternoon stroll.

The Book Smugglers: Your five favorite gothic fantasy novels are:

Adam: I’ve mentioned many books that I love already. Here are five that I haven’t talked about yet.

The Dark Tower Series, Stephen King
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore (Technically a graphic novel…but quite amazing).
At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
Drood, Dan Simmons

The Book Smugglers: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read – hence, we have resorted to “smuggling books” home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?

Adam: Most definitely. I’m highly invested in fantastic worlds, so I always try to carry a novel of the fantastic along with me wherever I go. There are places though where I’m not able to smuggle books. I think that’s maybe why I started writing in the first place. You can’t take a book into every situation, but you can carry a story in your head.

Adam McOmber teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. Stories from his collection, This New and Poisonous Air, have been shortlisted for Best American Fantasy and nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in 2012.

You can read more about Adam on his website, or follow him on his blog.

The Giveaway:

We have ONE copy of The White Forest available for giveaway! The contest is open to all, and will run until Sunday September 23 at 12:01am EST. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  • Jamie
    September 13, 2012 at 12:18 am

    My favorite Gothic novel? Hard to say, I’m not usually a big reader of that genre. Does Chime by Franny Billingsley count? If so, then that one. It really struck me.

  • Brandubell
    September 13, 2012 at 1:21 am

    I don’t usually read gothic novels but I loved Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles.The books are YA but the story is amazing!

  • Yiota
    September 13, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Haven’t read many, and that’s a reason i really want to read this book but my favorite one will be Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey.

  • Sara
    September 13, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Probably a Barbara Michaels novel – The Dancing Floor is super gothic with a hint of the paranormal.

  • Lobo
    September 13, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I like the classic gothic tales: Jane Eyre, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Rebecca as a more recent one I loved The Thirteenth Tale

  • Nikki Egerton
    September 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

    My favourite Gothic novel is probably Jane Eyre. I loved that book when I was a girl, so much so that I refuse to watch any adaptations of it because I don’t want it ruined for me!

  • Laura Kay
    September 13, 2012 at 5:04 am

    My favorite Gothic novel is Dracula. Kinda old school, but loved it. I’ve read it twice. I’m also a huge Edgar Allen Poe fan!

  • Matthew
    September 13, 2012 at 5:26 am

    I think I’d have to go with “the Haunting of Hill House” as well — I loved main character and the unreliable narrator aspect (which is so often a terrible tactic, but exectued so well here!).

  • Kaethe
    September 13, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I’m going to go with The Woman in White as my favorite newish gothic fantasy, with The Body Snatchers as my favorite old-school.

  • Michael B
    September 13, 2012 at 7:06 am

    My favorite would have to be Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

  • Amanda Allen
    September 13, 2012 at 7:10 am

    My fave is Frankenstein. I was surprised when I read it by how much I actually liked it. Lovely..

  • Su
    September 13, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I have to go with Jane Eyre, though I have a huge soft spot for Victoria Holt’s novels. They were perfect reading during my angsty teen years. 😀

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • RED
    September 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I haven’t really read much Gothic fantasy. Though I had a certain fondness for Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables” when I studied it in school. Knowing my love of Sarah Rees Brennan, however, I’m pretty sure “Unspoken” is going to be my newest favourite Gothic fantasy.

  • Gerd D.
    September 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I’d say Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.
    I enjoyed that one a lot.

  • draconismoi
    September 13, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Gothic fantasy, gothic fantasy….I am having trouble pulling up an example. Frankenstein was gothic science fiction, Dracula gothic horror. What is the defining line?

    I really loved Franny Billingsly’s Chime….but is that gothic fantasy? Gothic YA, gothic folk tale revision? Is it even really gothic?

    Gah! Too many thoughts too early in the morning.

  • Erika
    September 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I think this is a new genre for me…I can’t think of any at the moment.

  • Sheila
    September 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Gothic novels are my favorite genre, and I love everything from classics, like Jane Eyre, to the more modern ones, like Barbara Michaels and Victoria Holt. I guess my favorite is The Thirteenth Tale or Houses of Stone. Or The Haunting of Hill House. I’ll stop now before I keep rambling on. 🙂

  • Stephanie
    September 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I feel like gothic fantasy is a hard thing to define, it’s shifting, but the favorite that comes to mind is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

  • Lisa (starmetal oak)
    September 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Honestly, I don’t have a favorite because I’ve only started reading gothic/horror now. Ask me again in a couple years 🙂

  • Yuko86
    September 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Without any doubt at all Dracula by Bram Stoker: I love it!

  • Fiery Na
    September 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    A recent favorite is The Taker by Alma Katsu.

  • Szappanbubi
    September 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I like Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern !

  • Ariana
    September 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I guess my favorite gothic novel of late was Drood by Dan Simmons. The use of the unreliable narrator was excellent: this one should set the new high standard.

  • scribe
    September 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Chime!!1 love love!!!

  • Christina K.
    September 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Definitely Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin. It’s a Poe retelling and it’s awesome:)

    Thank you:)

  • erinf1
    September 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    thanks for a great post! Congrats to Adam on the new release! I haven’t read a lot of gothic fantasy but I do love one of the classics… Jane Eyre.

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    September 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I havent really read gothic fantasy but I would like to. I am always open to new genres to read.

  • Heidi
    September 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I love love love The Picture of Dorian Grey (in case it wasn’t obvious I’m a Wilde fan). 😛

    Thanks for hosting! I’ve been falling increasingly in love with Gothic fantasy over the past couple of years, and this sounds lovely.

  • Hannah H.
    September 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    It’s not my favorite yet, but I am so excited to read Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. This is gothic week at la Casa de las Smugglers, is it not?

  • Kate & Zena
    September 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I love A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

  • Bee
    September 14, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I’ve only read a few in this genre, but my favorite has to be The Nigh Circus by Erin Morgenstern, assuming it counts as a Gothic Fantasy Novel…

  • Stacy
    September 14, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I like Beautiful Creatures.

  • kara-karina
    September 14, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I really enjoyed Incarnation by Emma Cornwall, which I’ve read few weeks ago. Exquisitely written.

  • Julie Witt
    September 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I just recently re-read Dracula so I would have to say that one!!

  • Mary Preston
    September 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I don’t know that I have a favorite Gothic Fantasy novel. Not a genre I read a lot of. JANE EYRE comes to mind, but it’s not fantasy as such.

  • Molly F.
    September 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    My favorite gothic fantasy novel is either Dracula or The Night Circus.

  • Ileana A.
    September 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. My favorite is “The Tell-Tale Heart” Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Serena
    September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    For classics, I loved Rebecca. For newer books, The Historian was amazing.

  • Dovile
    September 18, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I really liked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, even if the ending was somewhat disappointing.

  • jeffrey Miller
    September 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    The Monk by Matthew Lewis written in 1796!!

  • Mieneke van der Salm (@Pallekenl)
    September 19, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I’m more of a classics girl Gothic-wise, so Jane Eyre, Dorian Gray… but my favourite is not a Charlotte Bronte novel, but an Anne Bronte one. It’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall!

  • Debora B
    September 20, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I am a huge fan of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova *-*

  • Eman A.
    September 21, 2012 at 5:29 am

    My favorite Gothic novel is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

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