We get to promote and talk horror mostly with people in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., but every once in a while we get lucky and find horror in a new place. This time the horror comes from author Jelena Hrvoj, who is from Croatia. What’s horror like in Croatia? Let Jelena tell you about the horror scene in Croatia, her books, recently getting published on Amazon, and more…
-PH: Please start by telling us a little about yourself.
-Jelena: My name is Jelena Hrvoj. I’m 31 and come from Croatia. Who am I? By trade a graphic designer, but the line of passion/work I found myself in is writing and everything that has to do with it. In the past four years I have published four books in Croatian and one in English I’m working for three online magazines “Kvaka”,”Amazonke” and “Knjizevni klub”(Readers Club). On the more private note, I am living with my father, boyfriend, four cats, and a senior weirdo dog.
-PH: How did you come to love horror?
-Jelena: As a kid, I was actually afraid of everything although I had a pretty dark mind. My mom died when I was just two years old, so death wasn’t an unknown term in my life. I became fascinated with everything associated with it and once I hit puberty, metal music, books and movies became a huge part of my life. Let’s paint it in the shortest way possible: when it was bedtime, my dad read E.A.Poe to me (my wish) instead of Cinderella (although that one in original can also be classified as genuine gore).
-PH: What’s the horror scene like in Croatia?
-Jelena: We are a small country but have a pretty active literary scene. Unfortunately, as for the horror goes I could name five horror writers top who are actually active. It is a complicated story, but I’ll try to write the short version. As our economic situation is pretty bad, publishers mostly focus on “sure deals” and they are translations (all genres). Than we have few of the lucky local writers who get published, but they are mostly linked in a way and it all functions via nepotism (they mostly publish social drama). Finally, there is a small amount of writers who worked their way up. Horror genre is included in that last section I described. Maybe it will change one day, but for now our horror scene balances between upstream and mainstream.
-PH: You’ve been busy writing several books in the past few years. Can you tell us a little about your first book, and your experience writing it?
-Jelena: My first published book is called Shtorka (original title Štorka). This book changed my life. I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s true. It wasn’t the first book I have written but there is a sentence I told myself before publishing I won’t forget. I said, ”Jelena, this one will either be a bestseller or they will lock you up in a nut house because of it.” As I love diving through life head first, it wasn’t a hard choice to decide which one of my books to publish first. As I am here writing this, guess what option prevailed. 😉 By now we are close to 1200 paperbacks sold (that is huge for a country small as ours); because of it I have been accepted into the Croatian Literary Society; had, and still have, great book tours etc. In addition, it also has a published sequel called Shtorka Manifest and I’m currently turning it into a trilogy. So there’s a happy news for all Shtorka lovers out there.
-PH: Are your books a certain type of horror, or are they all different?
-Jelena: They are, well, a bit of everything squished into one. Although they are presented as horror and psychological thriller, they all have elements of every possible genre (except romance). My books are based on human psyche and all its darkness. Stories revolve around people I don’t know directly, but we all heard of them. Also, I just love playing with my readers emotions so I often write about anti-heroes; these types of characters you should hate, but end up loving them because they are terminating something more evil than themselves.
-PH: Promoting and selling books can be hard around here. Is it any easier in Croatia?
-Jelena: I think it is the same everywhere equally. But as long as you work hard, it will pay out eventually. The problem here is (I believe it is the same outside Croatia too) in the fact that everyone these days considers themselves a writer. It seems like it has become popular to call yourself a writer. But, sorry for being harsh, a huge number of these so-called writers don’t know how to write a good story. It is hard to stand out in the crowd and actually gain the trust of readers. As I said earlier, if you work hard enough, you will get there.
-PH: How have your books been received over there so far?
-Jelena: So far, fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised that even the professional critics accepted my books and (bragging a bit) they have also been suggested as a “fantastic read for summer” in our main newspaper last year. As for my readers, they are such a great bunch of people I can’t even begin to describe.
-PH: ‘Shtorka,’ is now published in English on Amazon. Please tell us what it’s about and what the title means?
-Jelena: Let’s begin with the title. Shtorka is actually a mythological creature from our local folklore. What is she? Something evil, but with unknown appearance. It was used as a tool to scare mischievous children. So, if someone was misbehaving and going to places they could get hurt, older people would say Shtorka will get them. For me as a kid, Shtorka was living in the attic. So, now that you know that, let’s move on to the story. I wanted to introduce Shtorka to the rest of Croatia and, as it turned out, the rest of the world, as this particular myth is on the break of extinction. The classic story of Shtorka wouldn’t be so interesting in these modern times, so I have transformed it into the voice of schizophrenia that lives in the head of the main protagonist Era. In the book, Shtorka is an unseen voice that lives inside of her head and forces her to kill everyone who had wronged the society. Besides Era, there are two more characters and their separate stories that merge into one in the end. Viktor, the wealthy young man struggling with his past and the murder he never got punished for; and Marcela, a doctor seeking revenge for the death of her husband and son. I could go on for days talking about this story, but don’t want to let out any spoilers. 😉
-PH: Are you worried that some parts will be lost in translation or are you happy with the way it came out?
-Jelena: Actually no. It is written in a way that anyone anywhere can relate to the environment, psychological profiles of people and there is no determined time period the story is going through. The only small part that could be weird is the way Shtorka communicates with Era because her speech is archaic, I could say Shakespearean.
-PH: Is there something more you can tell us about your main character, Era Torin that’s not mentioned in the book’s description?
-Jelena: Era is an anti-hero. A serial killer you will end up loving and feeling sorry for. She is all of us who want to protect the innocent and for all who feel different than the rest.
-PH: Do you have any future plans to bring your other books to Amazon?
-Jelena: Sure I do, but I can’t say anything about that just yet. 😉
-PH: Here’s your chance to promote anything we haven’t talk about. Let us know something more about your book, other stories, the online magazines you work for, or anything else you would like to mention.
Jelena answers questions about her book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz1VBHZorbs&t=256s
We would like to thank Jelena for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully this gave you a glimpse of what horror is like in a different part of the world. We hope that you’ll take a deeper dive into Croatian horror, and check out ‘Shtorka’ on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Jelena on the social media links above!