Our book, The Night Visitors, is a horror novella told through an exchange of emails between two women who are investigating an unsolved murder. Gradually, the effects of their mutual obsession evolve into hallucinatory madness and the supernatural begins to intrude on their correspondence. There were two of us writing, and we each composed one side of the exchange, sending the emails to each other “in character”, then swapping sides after the first draft to edit. We like to think it was the joint folly of the writing process – a kind of spontaneous mutual insanity – that spawned a tale of possession, telepathy and bloodshed.
A correspondence may well sound like a rather fiddly and antiquated way of telling a story, but the disorientating subjectivity of the epistolary form earns its postmodern credentials: chronology is derailed and the reader is required to figure out what is going on based on differing, at times contradictory, accounts. The illusion of a “found” correspondence can conjure or critique realism, adding another layer of uncanniness and doubt, which is always handy when writing a tale involving the natural subject matter of the epistolary: the gothic. In epistolary fiction, the reader becomes a character, implicated by the act of reading: once a letter (or an email) is opened, it becomes the illicit property of its prying audience, the burden of its contents passed on like a curse.
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