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 Dracula, Frankenstein, 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 Dracula, Interview With a Vampire, Alien(s), The Crow, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Sixth Sense, and Silence of the Lambs. What I like is scary, creepy, 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.