February is Women in Horror Recognition Month! So my posts this month are going to highlight this topic in some way.
When “Home Coming” was published in Scared Spitless last year, marking my first published piece, most my friends and family weren’t surprised I got my break in horror.
But it took me a long time to try my hand at writing horror. In fact, “Home Coming” and “The River” (which can be found in The Grotesquerie)—both now published stories—were the first two horror story ideas I came up with. The original ideas were much different from and not as complex as the final stories, but they were both my first earnest attempts at horror (I wrote them concurrently).
And that DOES surprise me. My favorite TV show when I was younger was The X-Files. I spent most of my New Year’s Days watching The Twilight Zone marathon (and I still do!). I remember busting my parents’ tattered first-edition Stephen King books out of a box in the garage in middle school (or maybe early high school). My birthday party almost always involves watching horror movies with friends, and Halloween is far and away my favorite holiday. In other words, for as long as I can recall, I’ve been into the creepy and macabre.
Yet it wasn’t until my trusted first readers (whom I’ve mentioned here before) told me they thought I had a knack for writing horror that it even occurred to me to try writing a few specific horror stories. (Their comments were in regard to my novel draft, which has a handful of nightmare sequences but is not a pure horror story.) Once I opened the floodgate, I couldn’t stop coming up with creepy story ideas.
With how well my horror short stories are being received, I find it funny that it didn’t cross my mind earlier to try writing them even though I’ve always loved the genre. But I’m realizing now that my older stories tended to have dark undertones even though they weren’t strictly horror tales.
All the ideas that strike me and stick in my brain tend to ask questions that probe at the shadier areas of humanity and life. To me, that is one of the roots of horror, especially psychological horror, which is what I prefer. But all kinds of horror challenge ideas that we take for granted, our concepts of safety, morality, good, evil, among countless other topics. And that’s what always appeals to me, in any genre.
I don’t plan to be pigeonholed as just a horror writer, but I can’t think of a better way to have gotten my start, and I have no intentions to abandon the genre. I’m learning that I enjoy contributing to genres that have meant so much to me, and I’d like to expand that beyond horror. But I do get a particular thrill out of writing horror; it does seem to come just a little easier to me than any other genre. If I come up with an idea that can take a dark turn, I can almost never resist going in that direction. I expect that’s not likely to change.
I’ve never been asked the precise question in the title of this post, but I’ve thought about it anyway, and my answer is that I don’t have a clear answer. I came to horror writing in a roundabout way despite my long-standing interest in the genre. I have an overactive imagination that likes to search dark corners even if it will be frightened by what it finds. And when I uncover those disturbing things, I like to share them with others.
Other posts in this series: