Books

Growth

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Twenty dark tales of psychosocial horror fill the pages of Elin Olausson’s stunningly creepy short story collection debut.  Three sisters live isolated in the wilderness, unbothered, until their world shatters with the arrival of a stranger. A young man revisits the childhood home where his sister danced and his mother died. A woman is promised the house of her dreams and goes mad when she doesn’t get it. Two evil teens stand united against the world, until one of them falls in love. In an abandoned asylum in the desert, a girl chants her own name.

Filled with madness, darkness and the truth of the human condition, Olausson’s stories will leave readers thinking about their own sanity and questioning the motives of those who are closest to them.

Growth is published by Dark Ink Books, 2022.

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Interviews

P.L. McMillan

Ginger Nuts of Horror

Tales From Between

Säffletidningen June 18, 2022 (in Swedish, paywalled)

Readings

Strong Women-Strange Worlds August 5, 2022: ”Rose and Caramel”

Reviews

”Elin Olausson may be a relatively new reverberation in the symphony of dark fiction authors writing today, but she is one on which to keep a close eye. Her stories are on par with those of other powerhouses in contemporary psychological fiction—Iain Reid, Asa Nonami, Alex Michaelides, Gillian Flynn—and saunter with creepiness of the highest caliber. Growth is a collection that is a must-read for anyone who appreciates literary horror, as it’s certain to finish as one of 2022’s best releases in the genre.”
– Rebecca Rowland, Ginger Nuts of Horror and Horror Tree
Read the full review (Ginger Nuts of Horror)
Read the full review (Horror Tree)

”If you are a fan of eerie horror, of Shirley Jackson, of The Haunting of Bly Manor, you will love Growth — I know I did!

Each story revolves around the theme of family — mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters. Some stories, like “Roadkill”, are set in a post-apocalyptic world where nothing is as it once was. Some stories, like “Honey, Silk, Gold” are brutal and disturbing.

All the tales are beautifully written with a sense of decadence, despair, and poetry.

Overall, this was one collection where there wasn’t a story I disliked. Of course, there were many that I enjoyed more than others: “Roadkill”, “Uncle”, “Snow White”, “Mother Spook”, and “Honey, Silk, Gold” — each ones of these was striking in its prose and haunting in its themes.

“Snow White” in particular has a truly eerie setting and cast of characters, along with an ending that still has me wondering (in a good way!) This story in particular reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In the Castle in tone and imagery.

So if you’re a fan of unforgettable, atmospheric horror, this is a must have collection!”
– P.L. McMillan
Read the full review

”I finished reading Elin Olausson’s “Growth” this morning, and now I’m bereft at not having any more stories from it. I liked every one in this collection, and there are so many I actually loved that I won’t list them here. However, a special shoutout goes to the final tale, “Lineage,” because it is such a strong piece to end the book with. These stories are creepy, eerie, extremely unsettling, all offered to the reader quietly in such a way as to render them even more disturbing. Elin Olausson has earned herself another fan—me.”
Amazon reviewer

”There is a strong attention to detail that gives life to each story, and the vivid imagery sometimes made me feel I was right there with the characters. Every story is thought provoking, and I found myself wanting more of each story.
Full of horror, mystery, death and trauma, Growth is perfect for lovers of dark tales.”
– Jane McFarland
Read the full review

”All of these stories were brilliant, mind bending and chilling, and I swear some of the characters are now living rent free in my head. A++++ times a million! I’d recommend them to anyone who loves deeply dark psychological fiction.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Elin Olausson is quickly becoming one of my favorite short story writers. I first discovered her in Shadowy Natures (an anthology edited by Rebecca Rowland) and fell in absolute love with her story ”Uncle.” She’s one of those automatically-read-anything-they-put-out authors so, of course, when I found out she had a collection coming out and she was looking for ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) reviewers, I jumped at the chance.

This collection is fantastic. Almost every story is top-notch Elin Olausson quality stuff. She presents horror in a matter-of-fact way like it isn’t horror at all and, in fact, the reader seems to be the only one with an issue about any of it. Her voice is refreshingly unique.

I would be remiss not to mention my favorites of this collection:

”Roadkill” – Such beautifully written lines here, too many to mention
”The Courthouse” – Wow. Just the depth of emotion and story that she can pack into such a short form is astonishing.
”Uncle” – Still one of my favorite short stories of all time.
”Honey, Silk, Gold” – Jesus….this one is disturbing. And I loved every bit of it.
”Chalk” – Still love this one
”The Ice” – Such a gorgeous fairy-tale quality with a haze of wicked sisters and magic.
”Seventh Floor” – Reads as a fever dream
”Lineage” – Riveting.”
Goodreads reviewer

”This book is masterfully crafted. Each story feels like its own distinct world and yet it weaves into a beautiful tapestry that showcases all beauty and horrors that come from within a family dynamic. Mother Spook and Honey, Silk, Gold were amongst my favorites. The prose is elegant yet never feels indulgent. It’s accessible and yet sophisticated, a very tough line to balance. If this is the start of Elin’s work, we have a lot of good scares and deep introspection ahead of us.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Tales to chill you to the core.”
Goodreads reviewer

”A really good collection of psychological horror tales. Bit of something for everyone in here – some creepy, some disturbing, some brutal.
The writing in each story is of a high standard which really helps which it comes to collections.
Definitely one for horror fans to check out.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Twenty twisty tales.

Elin’s collection is a triumph. Twenty very different stories but with themes of family (sometimes not in the conventional sense), regret and attempts at redemption all underpinning each tale.

The writing is sometimes moody, sometimes dark but always empathetic and spot on.

Looking forward to reading longer work.”
Goodreads reviewer

”I loved this collection of incredibly dark and disturbing stories.
Set in the cold Scandi countries it gives even more chill to the proceedings.
What I loved about them is that they were all really assured stories; no bad story in the collection. You got the sense throughout of real loneliness / being alone and only having yourself to look out for you.
All the stories had wonderfully macabre endings and no one was spared.
A writer who I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Elin Olausson has written some of the most deeply unsettling horror stories in this fantastic collection. The short stories are brimming with malevolence, foul stench of death, blood soaked couches, witches, convoluted friendships, deranged family members, and monstrosities thriving within dilapidated communities or pristine suburbia.

A palpable sense of loneliness and fractured personhood seeps through every story. So often we want stories to console us “yes bad things, situations, and people exist in the world but everything is going to be okay.” Reality is starkly different. I love this collection because it forces us to truly look at our world in all its bleak and venomous ugliness. In short, the kids are definitely not alright….

**************
Brief thoughts as I read each story:

Roadkill: consuming & isolating power of grief and the past.

The Courthouse: How to make space for oneself whilst confronting childhood trauma?

Uncle: predatory men, motels, and peaches.

Snow White: diabolic nature of female friendship and beauty.

Honey, Silk, Gold: This story is unnerving from beginning to end. One of my favorites in the collection!

Mother Spook: a witch in the woods granting insidious favors! What more can you ask for..

Teeth: Be careful what you wish for…

Chalk: Well, I am never letting anyone rent a room at my place! The Author is flexing her writing muscles with this story. Brilliant.

Laurent: broken families, woods, and darkness.

Razor, Knife: convoluted young love, death lists, and graveyards.

Swan Song: “living things can be bad too” line will haunt me! Such a powerful story about isolation and feeling helpless.

The Moor: power of superstitions.

Rose and Caramel: Talk about codependency and twisted friendships!

The Ice: Revenge is best served COLD.

Fur: A whip smart tale about toxic relationships.

Slither: “Out of the fire and into the frying pan”

Chatterbox: The mine did it…

Howl: two things you can never escape your responsibilities and your demons.

Seventh Floor: broken birds and asylums.

Lineage: This story was positively diabolical. Family is everything after all…

***************
Take your time savor these tales & definitely read/share at the next summer bonfire. 5/5 stars!!”
Goodreads reviewer

”Each lean, punchy line of Elin Olausson’s surreal horror stories in ”Growth” enthralls you into following characters through some small, homey corner of a broken world. Before you know it, you’re neck-deep in tension, dread, and blood, and loving it. Fans of Kelly Link and Lisa Tuttle seeking a darker roast to fill their mug, take note.

There are twenty stories in total, my favorites include ”The Moor”, which is mostly about being a little sister to older sisters, but with cairns, knives, and blood, ”Chatterbox”, a story mostly as told by an eight-year-old at the counter of a diner, and my favorite ”The Ice” which is a timeless tale of a little girl trying to smuggle a kitten into her room against her guardian’s wishes. Of course, there’s the matters of her new room, the boy who delivers the groceries, and her dreams, but you’ll just have to enjoy those for yourself. My other standout, ”Razor, Knife” is as rich as a too-ripe Macintosh. It’s dark, surreal, and romantic. Take a bite.

Set aside a weekend, put the kettle on, leave the lights lit (or don’t), and read some well-crafted weird horror.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Growth is a collection of 20 stories, and as such, each person will like some more than others.

What impressed me the most about Olausson’s stories was the consistency in the hopelessness. Each story is different from the others, but the overall atmosphere of gloom lasted throughout.

Go into this book knowing that you will be unsettled. Each story has this ambiguous ending and overall ”moment snapshot” quality. As that was how I felt reading the book, I will try to explain it in words others will hopefully understand – It felt that each story started at the right moment in time, you don’t get a backstory, nor do you need to. It is much about the moment in time and how it affects the characters. Just like it starts, it ends. After each ominous story, I wanted to know more so I could find closure and not feel uneasy, but at the same time, I was happy Ollausson deprived her audience of any sort of hope. I am still thinking about this book, especially ”Mother Spook” and ”Razor, Knife.” Growth is a haunting book in all the right ways.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Stories in ”Growth” center mainly on family, relationship, and dark desires. The author has a unique voice and style. (…) [A]n impressive body of work.”
Goodreads reviewer

”Jag är ordentligt hårdhudad och det krävs en del för att lyckas få mina nackhår att resa sig. Jag föredrar skräck på engelska eftersom språket har ett mycket större utbud av fängslande ord.

Med det sagt vill jag inleda med en stor eloge till författaren för Olaussons berättarröst är något i en helt egen klass. Bara språket i sig, hur författaren hanterar det, leder till att stämningen jag vill åt inom skräckgenren maxas.

Att inkludera barn som ett obehagsverktyg är något vi ser överallt i både film och böcker och oftast kan jag känna att det blir urvattnat att låta barn få vara ‘det läskiga’. Men även här har författaren lyckats med det omöjliga.

Barn är i stor fokus i Growth, men barnen har en ton och ett intellekt som sticker ut. Deras sätt att reflektera över saker är iskallt, deras röster blir hjärtskärande och obehagligt närvarande och det gör boken väldigt unik.

Jag kommer på mig själv att hålla andan, att pulsen stiger, vid nåt tillfälle tappade jag hakan och vid ett annat fick en karaktärs resonerande mig att le för det var så vackert i all absurditet.

Det jag uppskattar mest är de många filmiska ögonblicksmomenten och att författaren har en suggestiv stämning likt ingen annan skräckförfattare jag läst. Jag stannar upp flera gånger och beundrar citat. Jag har plockat några. Spana in detta:

Death can be hard but it’s sometimes easy, too. Like putting your shoes on or swinging a lantern.

When I carved the cross, I realized that I didn’t know her first name. The carving was too time-consuming, anyway, so in the end I went with MOTHER.

When he slept, his lashes fluttered against his tanned skin. I was certain that he was the sort of boy who had dreams.

Gillar du skräck är Growth boken för dig!”
forfattare.jessicat

”Growth är en novellsamling på engelska fylld med 20 stycken psykologiska skräcknoveller med det mänskliga psyket i fokus och det vansinne som får plats att husera i det. Tycker att samtliga noveller innehöll en mycket god kvalitet och jag fick många favoriter. Boken är såväl spännande som skräckinjagande och jag tycker om författarens historieuppbyggnad, ni vet när handlingen kommer krypandes in under huden. Ett fåtal av novellerna var något magstarka, tänk er Mats Strandbergs böcker så har ni något att jämföra med. Det här är inte skräck med spöken och övriga övernaturligheter utan istället så är skräcken uppbyggd inom karaktärerna och helt ärligt så skulle jag inte vilja möta någon utav dom. En häftig och annorlunda läsupplevelse överlag som väcker ett intresse för Elin Olaussons övriga utgivningar.”
Jennys bibliotek