In Cradle Lake, Ronald Malfi describes a suburban paradise where a lake with healing powers also hides dark secrets.
The title Cradle Lake has ironic overtones of nurturing. Why choose a title that downplays the horrific aspect of the book?
Parenthood is the greatest irony. I wanted to reflect that theme in the behavior of the lake—how it helps some and harms others. When I first came up with the concept for this book, my wife was pregnant with our first child, and I would lie awake in bed trying not to worry about all the things I was worried about. When you have children, you realize you’ve suddenly become a secondary character in the story of your own life. Being a dad is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m equally thrilled and terrified about all that lies ahead. This is, at its heart, a book about the two most horrific fears that I, as a father, could imagine.
Why did you send your protagonist, Alan, to a Cherokee reservation to receive a warning about the lake?
The practical reason was that I needed someone who understood the power and the history of the lake to explain it. I should point out that the legend behind the lake is a real Cherokee legend and not one I made up for the novel, although I took liberties with it. I liked the way the legend talks about constant abuse of the lake’s powers having soured it, turning it into something darker. This seemed to echo the theme of parenthood—or, if you prefer, of stewardship in general—and how there is great responsibility for holding such stewardship, whether it is over land or people.
What attracts you to writing horror?
Some horror authors, I think, would tell you that horror fiction provides an escape from the real-life horrors of the world—that it serves as a pressure valve of sorts, allowing us to lose ourselves in the enjoyment of being frightened without having to face real-life consequences. After all, it’s fun to be scared. But I also think horror fiction can be used as a mirror that we use to examine our own fears, and perhaps address them in an allegorical sense, allowing us to begin to understand them. Horror fiction, for me, is very personal fiction—it touches the core of the author’s fears and allows the author to examine those terrible things out in the open and in broad daylight. And, of course, if it’s done well, the stories will relate to readers who also wish to examine those same self-contained fears. Though I had a wonderful childhood, I can recall being afraid of nearly everything when I was very little. I have no idea why this was the case—perhaps I just always thought about the darker side of things—but it’s no real surprise that, as an adult, those childhood fears have manifested in my fiction. It’s funny, but it seems horror authors are always asked to defend their genre when, to me, it seems the most natural genre in all of literature.