Writing Horror: Channeling the negative
Writing about dark subjects is something a lot of people ask me about. I have had conversations with other people who are just baffled at how dark some of my work is. How did you come up with that? What made you even think about something like that? Why do you write about such dark things? Why do you write about scary things? Can't you write about puppies, bunnies and flowers for once?
Of course, I have had an interest in dark things since I was a kid. I tell people the movie and book Jaws was an early influence on me. But how early? How about kindergarten? How about me staring at the cover of that book, with the giant shark, mouth open, headed for the unsuspecting girl swimming across the top over and over again? Watching shows on TV with sharks and shark attacks.
I got into horror pretty early. As soon as I could, I read as many scary books made for kids as I could find. I'd get them out of the library. Then, in 4th grade, I read Cujo because my dad had borrowed it and left it on the kitchen table. There were lots of things in it I didn't understand, but I watched it.
By then, I had already seen Jaws and read it. I had also seen Jaws 2 and Alien. I had watched Halloween, The Thing. I had watched older horror movies like the kaiju films from Japan. My Bloody Valentine, The Boogeyman, Friday the 13th, Happy Birthday to Me. I saw them all. All before I was in junior high.
So, for me, the dark side has always been fascinating. I don't think that makes me morose. I think it gives me a thrill. Just like some people like roller coasters or jumping out planes, my thrill comes from being scared and knowing it's fiction. The world of fiction pushes back the horrors of the real world.
I say all this to get to why I write horror. I write it, first, because it is what interests me. As I have said before, I told the friend who asked I could only write about those fuzzy things if the bunnies and puppies were rabid and the flowers poisonous. This is true, but there's more.
2018 has been a ... rough...year. I mean, a bad one. It started in February. There were some personal things involving jobs and the lack thereof. Then, at the same time, my dad's illness took a turn for the worst and there was a point in the last week of February where we thought hew as a goner. He somehow pulled through, but it only lasted until June. Dad passed away right at the end of June.
For much of it, I floundered. I had to take on extra freelance work. Some of it was hard work and then one of the clients tried to take the money he had paid me back. I had to file appeals (I won) and it took weeks. I had to fight with the invoicing company. The job search took a long time and then came Dad's death.
I tried to start a few things. I managed to write a true-crime thing for Kindle. My wife and I wrote a book about how authors can use SEO to optimize their websites. I have been sending off a book I wrote last year to publishers and agents. I started the third installment of the Elementals book. I started another one. All of them sort of stalled.
Then, when dad passed, the job search ended, things finally eased up. Now, I am writing two novels - one of them a crime thriller with a nasty twist and one a demented, utterly sick, supernatural thing that is one of the darkest things I have ever written. In my imagination, the crime story is sort of pristine and shiny. The horror novel is gooey and oozing with sores.
So - why? Why so dark? Well, I think the scariest and most horrific and graphic book I have ever written has been me purging myself of the negativity of 2018. Just channeling the sadness, frustration, anger, depression, darkness of the year into one story. And, man, is it a doozy. It starts dark and then manages to get darker.
I don't even plan on trying to find a publisher or agent with the novel REUNION. I just think it's too out there, too dark, too disturbing for standard publishers. I mean, I think Storyland was the darkest thing I wrote until now, but was a pretty standard psychological thriller and publishers ran. I can't even imagine what REUNION will make them do.
That's what writing horror does. It helps me purge. Helps me get the bad stuff out. I bet there are other horror authors who feel the same way. It's why we write about the dark stuff. Why we create killers and monsters and kill of countless characters.
Why write horror? Because I need to. Because I must
My latest book is coming October 23, 2018. When the Night Comes Out is a collection of terrifying horror short stories and one novella. You can pre-order it for Kindle today!