A year ago, Felix Blackwell, an Orange County native who now lives in Santa Rosa, was perusing the NoSleep forum on Reddit, a place for authors to share original horror stories with its 11 million readers. He was supposed to be working on research, but the stories demanded his attention. After a while, Blackwell, 29, felt compelled to join in the fun. He started a story that was fictionally based on his fiancée’s sleep disorder, and posted the first chapter. The rest is, as we say, history.
With a wide range of writers telling stories on the forum, it would be easy for Blackwell to get lost in the crowd. However, there was something different about the story he was telling. This first segment to his horror series quickly took off, attracting more attention than usual among Reddit users.
“The response was overwhelming,” Blackwell said. He continued to write more chapters for the story, and his audience continued to grow. The series became the most popular story on NoSleep, gaining so much traction that story and media outlets picked it up, some even reporting it as “true.” Even YouTubers got in on the series, narrating it to their audience and leading more readers to Blackwell’s story on the Reddit forum.
Then the phone calls started. Directors, producers and talent agents began contacting Blackwell, offering him deals in hopes he’d sign.
“I eventually signed a film deal with South Wind Pictures, an independent production company whose artistic style I admired,” he said. They adapted the story into a screenplay, and allowed Blackwell a great amount of creative control — something that’s rare when an author signs over film rights. Film production is still in process, and a release date isn’t available yet.
Even while working with the film company, the story still wasn’t a novel. Rabid fans on NoSleep kept hounding Blackwell to publish the story as a book, and even urged him to crowdfund the project. So Blackwell did, using Kickstarter to raise funds to publish the book and hire an artist.
“We ended up raising double my funding goal,” Blackwell said, an amount that allowed him to produce and publish his novel, “Stolen Tongues.” The book hit bookshelves mid-June, and is already climbing the charts at online retailers.
So, about the inspiration for the story…
“ ‘Stolen Tongues,’ at its core, was inspired by my fiancée’s unusual sleep disorder,” Blackwell said. “She experiences night terrors and nightmares, she sleep talks, sleepwalks and often wakes up screaming or interacts with people I cannot see. Since I’m a light sleeper, I bear witness to virtually all of her nocturnal activity. One night, while listening to her holding a one-sided conversation in her sleep, I asked myself, ‘What if someone were actually standing outside the window, whispering back?’
Thus, a story was born.
Here’s the synopsis of “Stolen Tongues”:
A romantic cabin getaway doesn’t go exactly as planned. High up on the windswept cliffs of Pale Peak, Faye and Felix celebrate their new engagement.
But soon, a chorus of ghastly noises erupts from the nearby woods: the screams of animals, the cries of children and the mad babble of a hundred mournful voices. A dark figure looms near the windows in the dead of night, whispering to Faye. As the weather turns deadly, Felix discovers that his terrified fiancée isn’t just mumbling in her sleep — she’s whispering back.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Chardonnays that deliver
Chappellet, 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.1% alcohol, $35. ★★★★
This is a concentrated and complex chardonnay with a silky texture. It’s got notes of lemon curd, brioche and ripe apple, and yet it’s balanced. Lingering finish. Impressive.
Landmark Vineyards, 2016 Damaris Reserve, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14.3%, $35. ★★★★: This chardonnay is a standout because of its layered flavors buoyed by bright acidity. It has notes of pear, brioche and honeysuckle, with bright minerality. Finishes crisp.
Gary Farrell, 2015 Olivet Lane, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.6%, $45. ★★★★: A tasty, full-bodied chardonnay with notes of apple, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Nice length.
Robert Mondavi Winery, 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.5%, $24. ★★★★: A lovely chardonnay with notes of ripe apple, pear and lemon. Lightly toasted. Full-bodied, yet balanced. Well crafted.
La Crema, 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 13.5%, $23. ★★★1/2: A smart chardonnay with bright fruit and layered flavors. Notes of apple, lemon and mineral, with a hint of caramel on the finish. A steal for the price.