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The Horror Writer in Me

When people ask me if I like roller coasters I tend to say “no.” Although technically that is not true. You see, I actually LOVE roller coasters. What I hate are drops. But most roller coasters boast big drops, so I stay clear.

I told people for years that I don’t like horror for a similar reason. I grew up on old black and white horror movies like DraculaFrankenstein, and Swamp Thing. My Saturday mornings were spent in front of the TV watching “Creature Feature,” a local show hosted by “Dr. Paul Bearer.” And then one day, at around the age of fourteen, someone invited me to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. My young mind made this association: What I’ve been watching was not actually horror. THIS is horror. I do NOT like horror.

Yet, looking back on the list of films that have been my faves over the years, I see titles like Bram Stoker’s DraculaInterview With a VampireAlien(s), The CrowPet SemataryMiseryThe Sixth Sense, and Silence of the Lambs. What I like is scarycreepy, and psychologically intrusive. I just don’t like deranged and disfigured psycho-killers bent on mass murder and dismemberment. I want movies with a certain level of intelligence–not just bloodfests meant to gross out the viewer or inspire cries of, “Cool! I didn’t know your skull made THAT sound when it’s hit with one of those…”

So, horror, I do like. Slasher movies, no. But for a long time I saw the two as inseparable, like roller coasters and big drops.

Still, when I started writing I never envisioned myself a horror writer. Actually, I probably would have laughed at you if you’d told me I’d be writing horror stories. My novel, Finding Angel, was the only thing I worked on for months when I first began writing. It is fantasy. Middle Grade fantasy. And I had every intention of writing nothing but fantasy at the time.

But then I saw this cool story call-out for an anthology with a vampire-like character. It intrigued me, and I started working on a short story. I never did submit it to the anthology for which I wrote it, but I sent it to several other places, with it labelled as “dark fantasy.” It was accepted by The Absent Willow Review–and published as “horror.”

Hm. I had written a horror story.

Before long, other story ideas came to me, and I realized as I wrote them that many were technically horror as well. As of today, I’ve sold a total of ten short horror stories and am in the process of outlining another one.

I am a horror writer.

It’s taken time for me to become comfortable with saying that. At first, I even thought I should be writing horror under a pen name. I mean, what would my family think? And can a Christian get away with writing scary, creepy, and psychologically intrusive? Won’t people expect all my stuff to be like that and avoid my fantasy writing?

The answer to what my family thinks has been pretty much either,  “We’re not surprised,” or, “We’re pretending we don’t know.” I didn’t tell anyone at first, other than my husband…who honestly is as clueless about fiction as I am about cars, which makes us even. But he did read that first horror story and has been nagging me to write a book based on it. The only other family member I know of who has actually read my horror writing is my mom, who snuck behind my back and read my online horror stories. She said she loved them.

The answer to whether a Christian can get away with writing horror is a resounding, “Yes!” I’m finding more and more Christian horror writers as time goes by. Some are Christian writers who write horror for secular markets. And some are writers of “Christian horror”–a genre that is still in its infancy. Either way, Christian and horror seem to go together just fine for many of us.

Finally, do others expect all my writing to be like my horror writing? So far it hasn’t been an issue. Not that I know of. I remember some of my early blog readers, who had discovered me because of my fantasy writing, commenting about how much they loved that first horror story. And none of them has left my side yet.

So while I’ll never give up my fantasy writing, I’m holding on to my horror writing, too. As long as I leave out the big drops I can ride any ride I want.

About Kat Heckenbach

Kat grew up in the small town of Riverview, Florida, where she spent most of her time either drawing or sitting in her "reading tree" with her nose buried in a fantasy novel...except for the hours pretending her back yard was an enchanted forest that could only be reached through the secret passage in her closet... She never could give up on the idea that maybe she really was magic, mistakenly placed in a world not her own...but as the years passed, and no elves or fairies carted her away...she realized she was just going to have to create the life of her fantasies. She shares that life with her husband and two homeschooling kids. Kat is a graduate of the University of Tampa, Magna Cum Laude, B.S. in Biology. She spent several years teaching, but never in a traditional classroom--everything from Art to Algebra II. Her writing spans the gamut from inspirational personal essays to dark and disturbing fantasy and horror, with over forty short fiction and nonfiction credits to her name.

10 comments on “The Horror Writer in Me

  1. I have Dr. Lecter on speed dial. 🙂

    • LOL. You know, my husband and I have gotten some of the strangest looks when we tell people our first date was spent watching Silence of the Lambs….

  2. Beware… she’s out to convert us all.

    I’m the type who stayed very clear of anything with even a hint of “horror”. I’ve tried a few but let’s just say I’m rather prone to graphic nightmares. My Husband avoids the genre, too.

    I will say that I ah… appreciated the twisted nature of 6th Sense. I also saw another Horror/thriller show that the storyline and other questions in it intrigued me but I hated the show.

    Images from The Shinning still haunt me sometimes. I remember one night sneaking downstairs for something to eat after bedtime and my Mom caught me. I should have known I was in real trouble when she was happy I was still up. “Come watch this show with me!” I was absolutely clueless and agreed. Granted I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to watch the show alone either, but still don’t know what prompted her to what to see The Hand that Rocks the Cradle…

    I mean, seriously, this is the same woman who went to Phantom of the Opera with me for my birthday and afterwards declared that it had been created by a demented mind.

    You’re just lucky, Kat. You happened to catch me on a quirky day with your invitation. If the idea for the Bridge to Paradise hadn’t of sparked so easily (complete with ending), …

    • Well, Ren, I believe it was a total God thing on Bridge to Paradise. 😀

      I literally had nightmares for a month after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street. It was Horrible. And as much as I loved The Sixth Sense, I made the mistake of watching it at night when my husband was out of town.

  3. So where could one find some of this horror writing of yours? I would like to see what I think.

    • Thanks, Writerly. You can go to my personal blog at http://kat-findingangel.blogspot.com/ and there are links in the sidebar. Willing Blood, A Day Better Spent, Frog Face, and Fire Wall are horror. Like Stink on a Dog is creepy but more humor. And I’ve got several that are in print anthologies.

  4. My Dearest Kat,

    I had to give up horror movies, they give me horrible nightmares. When I was a kid I loved the good old horror shows, frankenstein, Dracula, “It”, the thing and such but I grew up in a big family and there were always plenty of us in the room watching. As I got older I realized that I was actually a coward. LOL.I don’t know if it was because they started getting so graphic or what but I just about came out of my skin watching night of the living dead.

    • Ew…night of the living dead. That’s not my kind of thing, either. I like more psychological creepy, not monster creepy. Except vampires. Just not sparkly ones :).

  5. […] The Horror Writer in Me (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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