I’ve received several reviews concerning my need to label myself a horror writer. In fact, I just found another one today. I figured I’d touch upon that subject and try to give people a little understanding.
I started out as a straightforward horror scribe. Anyone who has read my short story collections will see where my journey started. Those tales were my attempts at scaring people. Since I was a kid, I’ve had an undying affection for the horror genre: slasher films, monster movies, dark plots, buckets of blood. That’s just me. It’s who I am. I’m a fanboy. But, some of my favorite scary movies have nothing to do with horror. The kid-snatching candyman in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is still one of the most terrifying characters I have ever come across, as is Nurse Rachet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When I started my longer-form works, I wanted to do more than just scare people. I wanted to create characters that would stay with you, the type of players you could care about so that when the bad things happened you had more than just a singular response of horror.
To this day, I market my debut novel, Bay’s End, as a work of horror. I’ve heard from several reviewers that the book is so much more than that, and I appreciate their kind words, but, in the end, that novel scares the hell out of me. It’s horrific. Sure there’s the coming-of-age aspect, the message of friendship, and the trappings of first love, but the overall theme of the story is human evil. Imagine how readers would respond if I’d labeled that book Young Adult or Literary Fiction only for them to get to the trials Candy goes through. Not to mention all the language in the story. Part of my reasoning for marketing the book as horror is a stopgap measure for those who’d find the scene toward the end of the book too much to handle. By saying it’s a horror novel, I hope to keep people that might be overtly offended by it’s content away from the book.
The pivotal scenes in my books are horrifying. I touch upon some rather taboo subjects. I try to stay as far back during these scenes as I can, to tell them sideways, if you will, but some need a close up look for them to work, as with Hope for the Wicked. If you haven’t read that Larry Laughlin novella, I’m going to warn you now, Bay’s End is all unicorns and rainbows in comparison. I have my reasons for writing about such vile happenings, but I can’t tell you here, as they are mostly spoilers.
Later this year, you guys will get a chance to read my first real “commercial horror novel.” Life After Dane isn’t the darkness thing I’ve ever written, but the title character gets under your skin. Aside from rewrites and edits, I finished working on Dane back in October of 2012, but Dane Peters still haunts me, no pun intended. If I’ve done my job right, horror fans and literary types both will find something of interest within Dane’s story.
In the end, I write about these things to vanquish my own inner demons. I’m a visual guy, and once I see something I can’t unsee until I write it out. Trust me, I’m just as appalled at some of my content as you are. Thank you for letting me share my nightmares with you.