Quad-Cities Author Paul Ferguson Blurs Lines To Create Occult Historical Fiction
Welcome to a world of historical fact seen through the warped glass of hypnotic fiction, a place where imagination blurs with reality and local folklore acts as the seed to a blooming universe of oddity and the occult.
Welcome to the imagination of local author Paul Ferguson.
Ferguson’s fertile mind is apparent in his fourth novel, “Watershed (Vishnu Springs Volume One),” which is steeped in regional history and inspired by the works of masters of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
“Obviously there’s a lot of Lovecraft in there,” Ferguson said. “I encountered his work in junior high and continued to read him, Poe, Hawthorne, all the classics, then started reading Stephen King and others and they’ve all influenced me along the way.”
The influences of literature and history run deep in Ferguson’s life and work. In addition to his literary path, he’s a credentialed historian, teaching history at St. Ambrose University and working as an archivist for the U.S. Army at the Rock Island Arsenal.
“I come at it from the point of both a novelist and a natural historian,” Ferguson said. “It’s historical fiction with a supernatural element. I take real events and real people and tell a story behind the scenes with that supernatural element.”
Set in central Illinois in the 1880s, “Watershed” is a coming-of-age adventure, following the life of a young servant boy who experiences incredible and sometimes otherworldly things. It is the first book in a trilogy set in and near the now defunct town of Vishnu Springs, Illinois.
“It’s just outside of Macomb, where I was at school at WIU, I was always interested in it and started researching it,” Ferguson said.
“I wanted to tell the rise and fall of Vishnu Springs.
“One thing I like to write about is that we’re the sum of our experiences, and I create characters whose experiences set them up for a fall when they encounter something totally against what they believe,” Ferguson said. “I like writing about the helplessness of the people at the time, especially when they seem so certain of things. I like the aspect of putting civilization in its place.”
Ferguson’s books, including “Watershed,” are available at local stores and online here.
Ferguson is working on a number of other literary projects, most of them involving unorthodox and paranormal twists in historical timelines, including a return to Vishnu Springs for future volumes.
“I feel like I’m sort of creating a genre here, that’s different from anything else,” Ferguson said. “(The future projects) feel really incredible, I’m really excited about them. The books really almost feel like they’re writing themselves at this point.”
Which is certainly a Lovecraftian statement in and of itself.