Hello Horror Fans!
This one is just for you. For your entertainment today I have a guest post by author Kevin Wallis. He talks about a question that has plagued horror writers since they were invented: Why do you write that stuff, anyway? Without further babbling on my part, here’s Kevin:
Why do you write horror?
I can imagine this is the question writers of horror fiction hear more than any other; I know I have heard it countless times since I first started publishing stories a few years ago. The scene usually unfolds like this:
“So, you’re a writer, huh?” they ask.
“Yep,” I say.
“Cool. What do you write?”
“Mostly horror stories.”
“Uh . . .” as they fiddle with their hair. “Um . . .” as they check their watch and suddenly remember they have to get their teeth cleaned in 10 minutes. “That’s . . . neat.” And they run from the Satanic deviant before I can eat their faces off.
Give me a break.
But truth be told, I have tried to develop a plausible, easy-to-explain answer to the question, with a bunch of monosyllabic words and crayon diagrams for my Inquisitors, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my answer can be summed up in 3 words.
There. That’s it. I honestly don’t know. I just like the stuff, and have since I was a kid. I vividly remember watching cartoons one night with my brother and sister, then sneaking off to my mother’s room when I found out a Dracula movie was on. When all my elementary school peers were raiding the library for Amelia Bedilia and Clifford the Big Red Dog, I was scouring the aisles for the latest in ghost stories aimed at kids. I read my first Stephen King story when I was ten (“Mom, what’s a cock?” “It’s a rooster, Kevin. Go to bed.”) In my ninth grade art class, my teacher held me after school one day to ask if everything was okay at home.
“Sure,” I said. “Why?”
“Well, Kevin, all your projects are, uh, um . . .” She pointed to my work. My drawing on perspective showed a brick hallway littered with severed extremities and shrieking skulls. My clay statue was a black-fleshed, green-veined demon hand holding an eyeball in a pool of blood (the eyeball was removable so you could store rubber bands and paper clips inside the palm of the hand. How cool is that.)
“I just think it’s kinda cool,” I said.
My teacher checked her watch.
So it’s always been a part of me, ingrained, inherent, inexplicable. Not everyone can understand it, and I’m okay with that. I don’t get how some folks can eat cottage cheese, but I let them eat that crap in peace. If I were to grill them about it, they would probably respond with the same three words: I don’t know. I will never understand why people think Fergie is hot, but I would never call her a she-male to her face. After reading my collection, a friend of mine asked me recently, “Why do you waste your talent on stories about monsters and murder?” My preconceived three-word answer didn’t seem appropriate then. I’m wasting my talent because you don’t enjoy horror? I suddenly found a two-word reply on my lips.
The bottom line is that everyone likes different things, and judgment should be saved for the French.
I once heard horror writers defined as “the psychiatrists of the literate,” and I believe that’s pretty accurate. We open the door that everybody has in the blackest shadows of their minds and let the monsters out. We force people to confront the side of themselves they don’t flaunt at work or church, that face they wear when staring at themselves in the mirror at midnight, and allow them the freedom and the permission to deal with that darkness as they see fit. Everybody has it in them. Horror writers simply choose to take the mask off.
I read everything: mysteries, historical fiction and nonfiction, biographies of politicians and sports legends, sword-and-sorcery, hardcore science fiction, satire, westerns; you name it, I’ve read it. And I’ve discovered that the best fiction in any genre asks the reader to question themselves, to wonder “What would I do?” when the book is closed, and horror fiction does this more efficiently and honestly than most.
In short, I enjoy scaring people. I enjoy being scared. By facing my fears through the written word or on a television screen, I hope to be better prepared if the horror ever turns real, and my fears manifest before my eyes. So, yes, few things excite me more than renting a demented movie or starting a new horror novel, turning off all the lights, nursing a six-pack for the following 90 minutes, and crawling into bed with my heart pounding and gut churning. I usually end up staring at the ceiling for the next hour while my irritated wife mutters stuff like, “Why do you watch that shit?” My reply?
Buy Kevin’s horror story collection here: Beneath the Surface of Things
His collection just reached the top of my reading queue, so you can expect a review next week sometime. You can see what else he has going on at Bards and Sages Publishing.