A land of nightmares lurks unseen in the Swiss Alps. In her debut novel, author Rosie Cranie-Higgs will take you on a creepy, atmospheric journey through the realm of Whiteland. Below, she shares more on the folkloric inspirations, creatures, characters, writing style, and what’s next in the series.
“takes readers down a terror-filled rabbit hole in the Swiss Alps. This powerful series launch will haunt readers well after they’re done reading.”— Publishers Weekly
‘You’re only going to get burned.’
‘Monsters,’ she calls into the night. ‘And girls who go looking for them.’
In a lonely Swiss mountain village, Kira’s holiday erupts. It’s winter, it’s eerie, and out in the woods something imbeds its claws into her sister.
When Romy returns, she’s different. She’s violent, inhuman, and by rights, should be dead. Even though things aren’t normal, all their parents care about is that she’s still alive.
In the otherworldly forest, Kira starts to pry, but secrets like to be kept. With the help of Callum, a sarcastic Scotsman, Kira stumbles upon the folkloric world of Whiteland, eating all she knows.
If Kira runs away, she’ll be safe. If she doesn’t, her family might not survive. In the end, there’s no mercy in revenge.
Blending Scandinavian folklore with dark fairy tales, this creepy and atmospheric debut novel by Rosie Cranie-Higgs will take you on a psychological joyride down a rabbit hole into a terror-filled realm known only as Whiteland.
- The concept of Whiteland came from Scandinavian folklore. Can you tell us more about the original folklore that inspired it?
I googled changelings and never looked back. It was a rabbit hole of all kinds of Russian folklore, which led me to Swedish tales about elf dances (prime inspiration for the first chapter!), which then had me stumbling upon Kay Nielsen’s artwork. I was absolutely entranced by his illustrations for East of the Sun and West of the Moon, particularly those of a girl lost in the forest and riding a polar bear through moonlit ice plains. I read the tales that went alongside the illustrations, and The Three Princesses of Whiteland really stuck with me, for its imagery of following lost friends and family impossible distances through impossible worlds.
- When did you first come up with the idea for the series, and what was the writing process like?
I first came up with the idea when I was at university, all of a sudden in a Blockbuster after seeing the word “changeling” somewhere…which shows how long ago it was! The book itself took about six months to write, with a lot of input from friends and family on characters–Erik was my mum’s creation, and my dad even has a cameo. I spent a lot of long summer days with a notebook, sharing a carafe of wine with family, writing nonstop toward the end. I was definitely shaking when I wrote the last words, as the whole process was so immersive and all-consuming!
- There are many odd and wonderful creatures in Whiteland. One of the main creatures is the huldra. Can you give us some insight to them? No spoilers please.
I’ve taken a lot of liberties with the huldra (to say what is very spoilery!), but the basic story is that they are beautiful, forest-dwelling women, cursed with a tail and the need to seduce human men, lure them away into the trees, and kill them. Some stories say they seduce and marry the men to gain humanity, and some say that, once they’ve done that, if they ever feel anger, they turn straight back into the monsters with tails they were before. Either way, they’re ethereal, irresistible, waifish, and once they look you in the eyes, you’re lost.
- What was your favorite creature to write about? The oddest?
The oddest is definitely the bishop-fish, but my favourite is the Hyrcinian birds. I’ve written and rewritten that scene so many times and love it every time. It’s one of my favourites to picture as a movie because of the colours, the atmosphere, and the sense of wild but beautiful magic. Also, I did take inspiration for them from a German folktale that I could never find again, so they hold a mystery for me, as well!
- The characters are interesting, and we especially love Callum! Introduce the readers to them and give us a brief overview.
Kira is the main character and the most bull-headed one I’ve ever written. She barely ever considers her own safety, especially when people she loves are at risk, and will do anything and everything for them. She loves painting, owns far too many checked shirts, and always has to have the last word.
Romy is Kira’s younger sister, and while they think they’re entirely different, they both have a love of the wild and a need to wander. Romy is impulsive and self-destructive, with such a hatred for being trapped inside that she kicks off the story of Whiteland all on her own.
Callum is a sarcastic Scottish man who loves to say he’s hard-done-to. He’s protective to a fault and doesn’t stand for anything less than the truth. His major conflict is probably hating snow but still teaching winter sports in the mountains, as his whole life philosophy centres around not letting the bad overwhelm the good. Fittingly, he’s a philosophy student.
- Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Callum. His humour and way of speaking are based on my whole family’s British-banter dynamic, so I absolutely loved writing everything that comes out of his mouth. Also, when I was writing Whiteland, he was definitely my ideal man…which is something I never expected to admit!
- The humorous moments between Kira and Callum and their banter help to balance this creepy and atmospheric tale! Was this intentional? Did you enjoy writing these departures from the suspense of the story?
I loved writing their interactions, yes! Even in the last revisions of Whiteland, I’d still find myself laughing at the banter I wrote. Whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know, but it’s happened many times–I think because I really did base a lot of it on my own family. I did it to make the horror of the story a little less intense, particularly when I knew what was coming next, and also because I think it’s important to not let darkness overwhelm you. Whichever characters I write, it’s a persistent thing that they have to have some light relief, or their world just might get far too dark…at least, the world I make for them.
- Do you feel Kira’s persistent nature is a good or bad quality to have in Whiteland?
She’s amazingly stubborn, and it gets her into trouble, but it also pushes her on. Her persistence means she carries on through everything I throw at her, even if it annoys people (Callum) and makes it hard for others to keep their secrets out of sight. Most of Whiteland wouldn’t have happen if she wasn’t so stubborn!
“…an incredible and immensely fascinating novel that draws on Norwegian and Scandinavian folklore to create an illusory, darkly fantastical and dreamlike tale that is highly unique in its narration and genre…morbidly delightful!”— Kaitlyn Sutey, Muskoka Style Magazine
- Your writing has a beautiful and atmospheric quality to it that really transports the reader into the world of Whiteland. Did any authors or books inspire your writing?
I slipped into the writing style of Whiteland through studying Victorian gothic literature as a teenager. Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker really influenced me back then, with the ghosts and slow-burn scares, as did Christina Rossett’s Goblin Market later on. Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter made me really want to, and really try to, give readers the sense of being so immersed in a story that it shocks them and frightens them wherever they are, which this beautifully written, simply put book did to me on a morning commuter train in the Swiss mountains.
- The slow build in your book reminds us of Asian horror. Are you a fan of this genre? Any favorite books or movies?
I love Asian horror! My favourite film so far is The Wailing, which is the kind of thing I watch when I’m doing revisions of my writing, and which probably explains the similarity in genres. Eerie is what I watched most recently, with the exact kind of shock factor and sense of terrifying things lurking in the dark that I love to write.
- What’s next in the series?
I can’t say much about the next book, Karliquai, without giving even the very beginning away, but there are more worlds, more creatures, and the mind-bending horror levels up in the extreme. Karliquai is the darkest book in the series, and the one I love to come back to again and again. The Chlause are my favourite kind of evil to write about, and I can’t wait for readers to see their madness. Sorry, Switzerland, for taking one of your folk traditions and twisting it this way!
About the Author:
Rosie Cranie-Higgs is an English writer obsessed with folklore, wine, bullfinches, and the magical worlds inside her head. She pines for mountains and snow, loves true crime, and coffee. She likes to write about darkness and ghosts.
She plans to visit all major cities and try their food. She grew up across Europe, and now lives in Lally, Switzerland, the alpine village where her debut horror novel, Whiteland, is set. Other books in the series include Karliquai, releasing 2021 and Memento Mori, releasing 2022.
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