Hi booknerds! So last month I talked a bit about the inspiration behind my first short horror story, “The Cautionary Tale of Bertrand Allary”, so this month I want to share some behind the scenes information for my second short horror story “The Washerwoman”. This story is very different from my first, as it doesn’t draw from local New Orleans legends, even though I wrote it while still living in the South. For this particular tale, I drew inspiration from one of the faeries that I found in “The Great Encyclopedia of Faeries”. I’ve owned this book forever and it has some absolutely stunning illustrations in it, as well as a plethora of faerie creatures I have never heard of before.
One such Faerie is known as the Washerwoman, or Washerwomen really, as there are usually more than one. You won’t find much on these faeries on the internet, but according to my book, these creatures are kind to the innocent but spiteful toward nighttime offenders—basically people who disturb the peace of the night by trashing nature. They are known to redeem bad deeds through their washing, so if a passerby is say, returning from Church, they may be forced to wash alongside these spirits, but it would not be the end of them. The origins of these Washerwomen can either come from being the opposite side of the good faeries, or they could be faeries that have done terrible spells, but for my tale, I choose the third potential origin: a mother guilty of infanticide. Once someone is lured to these women, and they are not innocent, the only option of breaking the curse is to constantly wring the washing in the opposite direction of the Washerwomen at all times. If the not-so-innocent-victim forgets this, then the shroud they are washing will wrap around their wrists, arms, their whole body, until they are wrung and twisted and are utterly crushed before being drug under water.
I really loved all the tragic elements of the Washerwomen, especially if their origin was of a mother who killed their child. There is so much potential in that as to why they would commit such an act. Also, I loved that these faeries lured people who were not good, who were sinners of some kind, but could redeem themselves if they knew what to do. Reading about these monstrous faeries made me really excited for 1. What lead to a Washerwoman becoming the creature she is and 2. The kind of person she would attract. Would this person be an all-around bad guy who can’t be redeemed? Or would they be sympathetic and you’d want them to remember to wring their hands in the opposite direction of the Washerwomen? There were just so many possibilities!
Of course, such a faerie needed the right setting as well. You aren’t going to find a woman doing her wash in the Los Angeles River luring people who destroy nature at the dead of night, for example. That kind of atmosphere clashed far too much with the vision I had for this particular faerie. Given that places like Ireland and Scotland seem to be the birthplace of so many different kinds of Fae creatures, I felt a pre-industrial Ireland would be the best setting for “The Washerwoman” as it added a bit of believability to the tale and, as I was working on The Monster of Selkirk which draws inspiration from Scotland, writing in a familiar setting with similar dialogue was something I was very comfortable with.
Now that I had the setting and the monster all figured out, I needed to figure out what kind of main character I wanted. Given what the Washerwomen do, I decided I wanted a main character that was just awful—as in you want to see him get what he deserves. It was fun writing a character that is irredeemable, as it was so different from what I’d been doing with The Monster of Selkirk! But I won’t say more than that to avoid spoilers regarding what happens with my Washerwoman and her would-be victim. If you’re intrigued by it though, you can read the whole story in “Running Wild Novella Vol. 2 Part 2”!