I didn’t plan to write a horror novel. Not at first. Although the elements were there from the start.
The genesis of The Cabin Sessions began in 2012, during a period of my life in which I attended an open mic every Wednesday night without fail. The open mic was held in a log cabin up in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, Australia. I was living with the host, Scottish troubadour and gifted songwriter, Alex Legg. Every Wednesday, I would help him carry in the gear. I drank the rider. At the end of the night, making sure I didn’t stagger, I would help pack up.
That year, I was writing short stories in between being Alex’s groupie. I had yet to write my first novel, probably because I was having too much fun going to his gigs. I knew all his songs inside out and loved every single one of them. Naturally.
One night, on the way back down the mountain to our home, I had the idea that an open mic would make a good setting for a novel. Alex enthused straight away. The next day we sat in a cafe in Sassafras and cooked up the story. This is where we sat.
Together we came up with a bunch of characters, including his doppelgänger, Benny Muir, who appears in my short story, ‘All Because of You’, named after one of his songs.
Alex supplied me with tips and quips and odd insights that could only come from an open mic host. With a notebook full of jottings, I figured out a plot and set to work.
Three chapters of composing later and our relationship came to an abrupt end. My creative spark for the story was gone and I shelved the project.
Two years went by and my life changed dramatically. I moved interstate. I wrote like fury and as 2014 neared its end, I had my first novel on submission, another serialised on my blog, and my third in the making.
That December, I received news that Alex had passed away. It was a huge shock for everyone. He was loved and appreciated by so many. He nurtured many a talent and was hugely supportive of local musicians. A foundation has been formed to keep his legacy alive. The Alex Legg Memorial Foundation
It was early 2015 and I felt compelled to preserve his memory. I toyed with writing a memoir of those two beautiful years we shared, a memoir I had conceived when we were still together, one filled with anecdotes from all his friends past and present, but I soon decided the emotion involved would be too intense.
In the process of reminiscing those precious years I had with Alex, I re-read my old notes and chapters of The Cabin Sessions. For me, it was like gazing at old photos. I couldn’t listen to his music. It made me well up too much. So I buried myself in our ideas.
Then, something astonishing happened. I realised Alex’s passing had liberated my story. I made a critical creative decision, and it was as though I had Alex’s permission to do it. I won’t say what it is. After that, things moved fast. In days I was hacking into those early chapters, revising the characters and tightening the plot. There were times I felt Alex was right there with me, urging me on.
The setting for The Cabin Sessions is a version of Warburton, in the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne. It was there, in a cafe that we first met. Our meeting was powerful. Alex even wrote a song about it.
The Cabin Sessions is my way of paying respects to Alex Legg and the two transformative years I spent with him. Even if my offering is grotesque, absurd, hard-hitting, at times deeply confronting and there is not a skerrick of romance to be found. I honestly believe Alex would not have had it any other way.
I am hugely grateful to HellBound Books for believing in this story. HellBound are based in Texas, USA. That feels fitting somehow.
A book launch of The Cabin Sessions is scheduled for December at Leggacy Sessions, the open mic run by the Alex Legg Memorial Foundation every Wednesday night at Oscar’s Alehouse, Belgrave.