The fun of the Racing the Clock Thriller StoryBundle and new attention to Until Death (and the upcoming sequel) has me thinking about where the whole thing started. It’s the most clear example of how my stories are influenced and even wholly inspired by my surroundings, so I dug back into my photos from our two trips to Transylvania to have a look.
If you’ve read Until Death, I hope you’ve already seen several of these locations in your mind. If not, come along with me on a quick tour of Transylvania, a few locations in Bucharest, and a side trip to Prague and Budapest!
The first writing assignment during our horror writing workshop way back in July of 2015 was to write a scene based on our surroundings there a few miles from Bran Castle. A few of us had already been there for several days, touring Bucharest and the Romanian countryside, and all the stray dogs and the lingering signs of the USSR and Communism were very much on my mind. So I jumped right in with a character named Leo, standing on one of the balconies at our inn, listening to the dogs bark. That assignment turned into the opening of Until Death, almost word for word.
Our tour of the massive parliament building in Bucharest made the devastation of the final years of Soviet rule in general and Ceaușescu’s rule in particular painfully clear. We learned about how the resources of the whole country were exploited for construction of the parliament building, and how many neighborhoods were destroyed in Bucharest. Sadly that included turning many pet dogs loose as well as crippling the economy.
The grandeur of one of the largest buildings in the world that was built to impress during the waning days of Soviet excess certainly took on a somber tone once we understood the true cost.
We also were lucky enough to get to return to Transylvania the next year for another fantastic workshop, and we took the opportunity to visit Prague, Czech Republic, and Budapest, Hungary, on the way. That really helped me get another setting vital to the end of Until Death, and changed my ideas of where the sequel would start. The trip to Budapest also inspired more then one story of its own!
The USSR played a huge role in Until Death, not only with the aftermath in Romania in general, but with a character or two working as part of the Party itself. Our tour of the Museum of Communism in Prague gave a lighthearted and very informative overview, and the appropriately named House of Terror in Budapest showed the far more serious side and the lasting effect on people’s lives.
When I started that first assignment focusing on our setting, I had no intention of writing a novel. But that incredible location and the way we were able to immerse ourselves in a culture and way of life while learning the history took over. I’ve tried to take the lessons from that experience of an entirely unexpected novel and let my travels work their way into my stories.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this extremely quick tour of the way Until Death took shape in the writing engine inside my head. I enjoyed it enough that I’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future! To make sure you don’t miss any, be the first to hear news of the upcoming sequel, and to get more exclusive backstory and photos (along with adorable pet photos), join us in The Confidential Adventure Club. Hope to see you there!
The giant red countdown clock is ticking on the Racing the Clock StoryBundle, with a great price for Until Death and nine other fast-paced reads perfect to get you through the end of summer. I have a post with a lot more information, including the great charity AbleGamers.
Check it out before time runs out!