What lurks beneath the bed?
Hi folks, well apparently February is Women in Horror Month, a little something that’s now in its 7th year! I only discovered it this year, however, so I’m hoping to share the love a little further by telling you fine folks about it.
There are events running all over the world for it. You can find out if there is anything happening near you here. You may find that some of your favourite authors are offering promotions this month, myself included. If you haven’t yet picked up your FREE copy of Seeds of Autumn you can do so here. And if you’ve devoured that and are hungry for more, then the second book in the series, Ghosts of Winter, is currently available from Amazon at just 99p (or 99 cents for the Americans).
I’ve always considered Echoes of the Past to be more in the thriller, or dark fantasy genres than horror, but there is no denying that there are some horror elements in my writing. I owe much of my desire to become a writer to role models such as Stephen King, whose work haunted my dreams when I was far too young to be reading The Stand, or It. I began reading horror with the Point Horror books as a pre-teen and after slashing my way through dozens of them (big thanks to my mum for always saying yes when we were in Waterstones!) I very quickly graduated to the “grown up” authors.
I remember many a girly sleepover involving films such as Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Interview with a Vampire. Films like The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange, not to mention David Lynch’s seminal masterpiece, Twin Peaks, are what led me to study Film & TV for my degree. The thrill of being scared, those goosebumps, the shiver up the spine, the feeling of someone watching from the shadows, those sensations stay with you. For those of you who have already read my books, one of my favourite characters to write is The-Knight-of-Shadowed-Fear. All of those spine-tingling memories of watching or reading inappropriately frightening material late at night in the dark are called upon to write his scenes.
As this is WOMEN in horror month, I have to give a shout out to all of the scream queens; the young women who gave their lives in the slasher movies, but especially the survivors. The women strong enough to unmask the murderer, stave off the nightmares, and outrun the maniacs.
Oh and then there are the wonderful evil women in horror. Let’s face it, some of the scariest antagonists have been women. The mother, Margaret White, in Stephen King’s Carrie; another King classic: Misery (Kathy Bates still rocking it in horror to this day in the disturbing TV series, American Horror Story); and on that note, Jessica Lange’s characters in AHS have been stunning.
Coming up with female creators of horror is harder. I don’t know if it’s that there simply aren’t that many who are successful, or if I’ve been out of the horror loop for a while and missed some. There hasn’t been a female writer as prominent as Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, well, since Mary Shelley! Where are the female writers and directors? To her credit, Gale Anne Hurd is freaking awesome. She’s a producer who has been behind some of my all time favourite horror (and cross genre action-thriller) productions, such as Aliens, Terminator, and of course, The Walking Dead. It wouldn’t be right for me to omit mention of what has to be the best contemporary offering on the horror table. The mid-season premier airs in the UK on Monday night and I am gripping the edge of my seat in anticipation already.
Please comment below with your favourite examples of women in horror!
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The title of this post refers to the dubious US military tactic of imposing “this overwhelming level of Shock and Awe against an adversary on an immediate or sufficiently timely basis to paralyze its will to carry on”, in other words, bomb the shit out of the enemy until they’re too scared to fight. Nice.
Well, in a way, and to a lesser extent, really good horror and action fiction do this too. The audience is constantly afraid for the wellbeing of the heroes, never sure who is going to survive and who isn’t, and character losses feel almost as devastating as if they were real friends. The balance has to be right though, there has to be hope too, a reason to keep reading or watching. We don’t want to paralyse our audience and have them give up on our stories because they are too bleak.
I’m writing this in the wake of the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, season 5. Don’t worry, no spoilers. This is my absolute favourite show on TV at the moment, but I have to confess, I nearly gave up on it in season 3. It was just too depressing, with not quite enough hope. I stuck with it though, and I’m glad I did. Season 5 has been similar and before the latest episode I was willing for something to go right for our protagonists for once. But the show is predictably grim, and I had little hope of things turning out well. The post credits sequence of the latest episode gave me what I felt was lacking in series 3… hope, a reason to keep watching, despite how devastated I felt as the credits rolled.
I strive for that level of connection with my readers, to move them. Echoes of the Past is undoubtedly a dark series, my characters go through hell, and hopefully take the reader with them. I want my readers to feel as though no character is safe from harm, they are fallible people with weaknesses, and live lives that are truly dangerous. When they go into battle against mighty demons, I want my readers to be afraid that someone might not come out of it alive.
Perhaps the master, or demon, of this sort of writing is George R. R. Martin. When you read A Song of Ice and Fire you know that even the mightiest hero is not safe, not immune to the force of the plot. This is a risk, of course, leading readers to form attachments to characters and then mercilessly killing them off, often in quite senseless ways. Readers, or viewers, may never forgive you, but for the ones that do, or who stick with your story regardless, it makes for true immersion and a wonderful experience.
If I can one day stir my readers to reactions like those watching or reading GRRM’s infamous “Red Wedding” scene for the first time, I will be a very happy author 😉
I love to hear from you. What book, film or TV show has the sort of hold on you that you have literally cried at a pivotal moment in the story?
If you’d like to see if my writing measures up, then grab your free copy of the first book in the Echoes of the Past series here.
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