The Master of Horror, Stephen King, once said he was: The Big Mac and fries of literature. Having just had my first novel Gape published then, I suppose I must be the day-old sandwich stuck at the back of a fridge in the rear of a gas station of literature. The fridge would probably have a broken light, a faulty thermostat and would be the home to several families of flies.
If this sounds insecure, then it probably is. I’m told it’s an affliction that affects all writers to some degree. But there’s also an underlying issue; despite its popularity, the literary establishment doesn’t take horror as a genre very seriously.
When was the last time you saw a horror novel nominated for a mainstream award or receive a recommendation on daytime TV?
I’m only posing this question as someone who has recently been asked a lot about his work and has on several occasions been met with a slight look of doubt or even disdain about my chosen genre. Most think it’s a great thing to have persevered far enough to finish a novel, but for some the interest quickly fades once I say it’s horror or dark fiction that I’ve been writing.
To a great degree, this reaction doesn’t really matter. I think that outsiders are drawn both to read and to write horror. We simply couldn’t write romances or suburban dramas even if we tried to. We are drawn to the tenebrous and the uncomfortable; we enjoy squirming and making others squirm at where our imaginations take us.
Another literary hero of mine, Clive Barker, once observed: Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red. This clever pun can be taken in several ways, but I’ve always seen it in terms of everyone having a primal fascination for that which can only be glimpsed at for fear of drinking in the full horror of what is around us. The TV news holds far more gore, dehumanisation and evil than anything which might be found in vampire fiction. Even most families have far more skeletons in the closet than are to be found in any gothic novel.
We mainly choose to ignore these things though – or we have just become too desensitised by the unremitting terror of it all. Instead, we choose to take quick peeks at the horrific and the dreadful. And, if it all becomes too much, we can always close the book, switch off the Kindle, or eject the DVD.
Despite the seemingly low regard for our craft, it’s something that will always be in demand because people just can’t help themselves. They need regular confrontations with painful reality, even if it is in allegorical form. We feel more alive when confronted with our demise.
Although I probably veer too far into the realms of fantasy and humour to be considered a mainstream horror writer, I’m proud that people might now stumble across my work when looking for other genre writers. It may not win any awards, but it’s there contributing to a genre that I grew up reading and watching and that I’m still passionately in love with.
Perhaps some of us are just more comfortable keeping our eyes open and adjusting to the darkness around us?
When Rose woke up in her favourite shop doorway, she was resigned to yet another day of hunger, struggle and abuse. This was life on the streets after all.
What she wasn’t prepared for was a visit from a demon, an invitation back to his temporally insubstantial sanctuary, and forced to take sides in a battle involving most of the denizens of hell. Oh, and a boat trip down the river Thames.
After a disappointing start to the day, things were about to get a bit more interesting…