Two years ago, I had a miscarriage. That same autumn, my father’s health took a turn for the worse, and over that winter and spring, he deteriorated until he finally passed away in June of last year. Over that time, especially when I came home from the hospital after losing the baby and found myself dealing with depression, I wrote.
It wasn’t a planned out story. There was no outline, nothing specific I had in mind. I simply put words down on the page, as fast as my fingers could type them, as if the thoughts were bleeding out of me faster than I could staunch the wound.
And what came out was not something I had tackled before. My previous stories were… cleaner. This one was definitely more mature. It was darker, more “rough” as one friend put it (though not rough in writing style, she pointed out, but rough as in subject matter), and something I had to think about whether or not I would ever publish.
But I did want to publish it. It was something I had created, something I had finished, and yet for a while I toyed with the idea about whether or not I should put it out under a pen name. That lasted for almost a year. I created my pen name, I began various social media accounts under the name, and then… I realized it didn’t feel right.
I wrote this story, and even though it was something that readers of my previous works might not expect from me or even like, it was still a part of me. It came out of me when I was in a dark, dismal time in my life, and the story very much reflects that. But I’ve been told there is hope in the story as well, and the promise of a happy ending.
So here I am, with a new book up for pre-order, and still dealing with a bit of shyness about putting myself out there, or rather putting myself out there with my name on this book. This is not a clean story. This is not YA. It is dark and sexy and maybe even a little bit scary. It is called The Crimson Gown, and I am its author.
Here is an excerpt from The Crimson Gown:
The air pushed through the interstices of the old house, seeming even colder than when Lydia had still been beneath the burnished blue of the winter sky. She clutched her shawl around her shoulders and ducked through the low doorway, the strike of her heels on the bare floor sounding too loud to her own ears.
Before her, only a few paces ahead, the housekeeper—an older woman who introduced herself as a Mrs. Latimer—drifted on silent feet, only the swish of skirts and the rattle of keys at her waist marking her progress from one room to the next.
“The rugs will all need a good beating,” the woman said, her voice hard, as if she were a mouthpiece for the very bricks and beams that made up the walls surrounding them. “And the draperies need to be washed, some of them mended…” Her words trailed away as they passed into yet another room, all dark wood and darker furnishings, the walls bearing streaks of soot from untended candles and lamps left to burn with wicks untrimmed.
Lydia’s eyes drifted towards the artwork that decorated the walls, the frames thick with dust, some bearing the remains of tattered cobwebs that drifted softly, their ragged tendrils caught by an unseen draft. The canvases were nearly as dark as the panelling behind them, but what could be seen of the images portrayed in the muted shades of paints and charcoals was nothing that could be described as entertaining to the eye.
Grotesque beings gazed out at her, yellowed eyes gleaming, teeth bared, malformed bodies writhing. They were scenes she remembered from her childhood, evenings spent learning her letters over the family Bible. Too well she recalled that good book, filled with etchings meant to remind her of the sin that she nurtured inside her heart, of monsters and demons waiting to tear the flesh from her still quaking limbs should she stray too far from the righteous path.
She turned away quickly, blinking as she allowed the stentorian voice of the housekeeper to draw her attention back from the darkness of her own thoughts and memories.
“What was your name?” the housekeeper asked, her eyebrows lifting with the impatience of one repeating a question for the second or perhaps third time.
“Lydia, ma’am.” She allowed her head to dip in a deferential manner, though she suspected her height would count against her in this instance. The housekeeper was a short thing—broad across the shoulders, yes—but still so near to the floor that she gave off the unnerving appearance of having only recently sprung out of it. Lydia, on the other hand, was tall. Too tall, her father had often taken to reminding her. As tall as a man, and yet her twenty-four years had still not allowed her enough time to grow accustomed to the length of her offensive limbs.
“Well then, Lydia,” Mrs. Latimer pronounced, as if even her name were repugnant to her. “You will remember to keep your place while you are here. I’ve no knowledge of what you’ve learned from labouring at your father’s inn, but to work in a grand house such as Mowbray Hall? You must remain invisible.” Here, the old woman’s grey eyes surveyed Lydia’s tall frame. “Or as invisible as one such as you can manage.”
Another nod, this one tinged less with deference than with the inability to gaze upon the housekeeper’s disapproving expression. It was work, Lydia reminded herself. Work for which she would earn actual pay, unlike her long days at The Lamb’s Head, where the never-ending drudgery was gifted with nothing more than a few cold meals and a colder bed once the inn’s guests had received their proper attention.
“Come.” Mrs. Latimer gestured before turning away. The woman’s hurried, silent steps led her back towards where the tour had begun, in the kitchens. “I’ll show you where you can keep your things, and then I’ll set you to work.”
If you’re on Wattpad, you can read it here: https://www.wattpad.com/story/83933563-the-crimson-gown
If you’re interested in nabbing a copy of your own (it releases November 22nd!), you can go here: https://www.amazon.com/Crimson-Gown-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B01MG6TVN6