The “Introduction” that should have been…

Back in August 2012, Witch Hunts co-author Rocky Wood and illustrator Greg Chapman met in Melbourne and hosted a launch of the graphic novel at Notions Unlimited.

Rocky, who was already having difficulty speaking for long periods due to the debilitating affects of Motor Neurone Disease prepared a speech that we feel would have made the perfect Introduction to Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times.

Below is the text of Rocky’s speech, but please also take the time to view the video.

“Thanks everyone for coming. I’m sorry that the impact of Motor Neurone Disease means I can no longer speak publicly, so I get to rest while it is read for me.

Witch Hunts is a book with an interesting start in life. A couple of years ago McFarland (a fine niche publisher in the US, who specialise in non-fiction) and I were talking about a Stephen King book, which ultimately came out last year – Stephen King: A Literary Companion – and won the Bram Stoker Award, so I’m pretty proud of that. McFarland asked me if I would write a graphic novel to which my reply was something like “I don’t write fiction and I can’t draw, so why would you ask me?” They said they liked my factual style and thought there was a niche for fact-based graphic novels.

So, against all my qualms, I talked the fine Maine-based artist Glenn Chadbourne into illustrating a book that re-imagines what happened to the greats of 19th Century horror – Shelley, Poe and Stoker among them, in Horrors, which garnered an award nomination or two. All that proves is that as a writer you can – and should – challenge yourself and I now find myself writing award-nominated fiction after 35 years as a professional non-fiction writer.

When McFarland asked for another graphic novel I wanted very much to promote some Australian talent. Asking around the Australian horror community, one name kept coming up – Greg Chapman and once I saw his work and understood his work ethic, it was an easy choice.

I’m glad Greg can join us today for the signing. You’ll see in the book he’s a fine illustrator with great attention to historic detail, as well as bringing out the true horror that is the awful period in our history when we humiliated, tortured, burned and hanged women – and some men – for reasons that had almost nothing to do with so-called ‘witchcraft’. But of course you will have to read the book to learn all about that.

Greg is also a fine writer – an unusual combination – and his growing body of work promises a very interesting career in horror. He was a joy to work with, nothing was ever too much trouble and if you know Lisa Morton and I we are nothing if not, perfectionists.

A quick note on Lisa; she originally came on board to support me if my health failed and contributed her own take on the witch-hunt phenomenon. Well, she delivered in spades (or is that broom-sticks?). The chapter on King James alone is worth the price of admission.

Lisa is my Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, perhaps the hardest-working colleague I have had in any endeavour and a fine writer – one whose mainstream breakthrough can’t be that far away – not to mention she is the world expert on Halloween.

So again, thank you all for coming, to Chuck for throwing this extravaganza and to Greg for flying all the way from sunny Rockhampton to the depths of a Melbourne winter.”