Today is September 1st and it’s feeling like a mammoth occasion because Spring is here. You know; all the birds buzzing around, and bees lapping up honey in our blossomed white tree in the backyard. It has a nice fresh feeling about it even though we are still in lockdown and the days of the week are blurring, morphing into each other.
For some time now I have contemplated the writing of horror and what is unique to this particular sub-genre of speculative fiction. My written horror micro-fiction usually has irony or humour ingrained in it. I can’t write it too sublimely gruesome as my preferences lay with fantasy, sci-fi or the paranormal. So I asked three writers, who I know especially through Black Hare Press, their own slant on it. Here’s what they had to say. Thanks to Hari Navarro based in Italy, Dawn De Braal from the US and Jasmine Jarvis from Australia. Their links are also below as they are all worth following up on social media, especially if you are a horror story fan. Each one has their own talent, uniqueness and appeal.
What is it about writing horror that appeals to you?
Hari: To me it’s a very honest genre. Whereas other tropes might allude to the dark things that prod us to do and think the way that we do, horror is a far more direct examination. I know certain victims of violence find solace in extreme forms of horror. It affords chance to safely peer through the eyes of our daemons and ponder just what makes them tick.
Dawn: I love psychological horror over blood and guts, plots that twist in the end unexpectedly. Horror gives you freedom, a “no holds barred” liberty that is invigorating.
Jasmine: In my teens I was heavily into reading horror, but it never truly sunk in just how scary it could actually be until my epiphany one night in September 1997. I was going through my Anne Rice phase and was eyeballs deep in her vampire series. Up until this moment I was like “meh! Bitey monsters, no biggie!” (thanks Hollywood!) but that night after reading a few chapters of The Vampire Lestat, I stopped and actually thought about it. About being hunted by a creature that was strong, fast, driven by hunger and volatile. How would I, a then 15 year old be able to escape a vampire? Then I began to think just how horrible living forever would actually be. The more I thought about it I realised that immortality was a frightening concept too.
So I mulled over this epiphany in my room in the dead of a hot and steamy Townsville night. Outside I could hear the fruit bats fighting in my neighbours mango tree. The realisation of just how scary these things (vampires, not fruit bats) could be was sinking in, but not enough to deter me from leaving my room to go to the bathroom. Unbeknownst to me, my mum, who was tired of constantly fighting to get me to not read at night, had heard me get up and she snuck into my bedroom where she hid behind the door and waited for my return. I walked back into my room, still occupied by the thoughts of vampires, when I closed the door and my mum lunged at me, hissing and gurgling. Her frizzy blonde hair sticking out in all directions, the sliver of streetlight that came in through the crack of my blinds made her look absolutely terrifying. I dropped on the spot, screaming and boxing the air – if I was going to die, I would do so fighting.
So fear. Fear is what appeals to me about writing horror stories.
What has been your best horror story/drabble and why?
Hari: “Pieces of Grace”, a short I based on the video for Slipknots – Vermilion Pt. 2. It involves the body of a beautiful woman who mysteriously appears from the sky and unconsciously floats the earth swirling and dancing upon the breeze. Initial fascination is replaced with greed as mankind literally tears her apart for souvenirs.
Dawn: Usually it’s the latest baby I gave birth too. One of my favorites is “Prelude to Murder,” a story about a young woman who leaves her alcoholic mother days before her 21st birthday, and hitchhikes from Illinois to Florida with a man she doesn’t know after meeting him at a truck stop.
Jasmine: My favourite drabble is one I wrote last year – The Tech Age Apocalypse (in Black Hare Press Apocalypse anthology) – because now it is even more terrifying given what is going on at the moment with the pandemic.
Which writers have inspired your writing horror & why?
Hari: I recently discovered Lucas Mangum via his book “Saint Sadist”. Not strictly horror though certainly horrific in theme it taught me to be indelibly true to my ideas.
Dawn: I grew up on Steven King and Dean Koontz. I was always amazed at how well they could tell a story, and scare you with words, not violence.
Jasmine: When I was in high school, I was an avid reader of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Christopher Pike. I was sixteen when I got my hands on a copy of the true account that The Exorcist was based on. Now that book kept me awake all night! Anything paranormal and I am like a moth to a flame! Now I mainly read autobiographies, history, crime (currently re-reading The Complete and Essential Jack the Ripper by Paul Begg and John Bennett), political, environmental and social science books. My fiction collection is across multiple genres. Basically I am happy to read anything I can get my hands on. I love reading, I love stories. I draw my inspiration for my horror stories from what is around me. My upcoming story The Rise of the Great Old One came about while listening to clips of unexplained underwater sounds with my kids one afternoon. We then began to talk about Cthulhu and what if the creatures Lovecraft wrote about in his stories actually exist here and now; and that he saw them and knew we were going to be wiped out, but instead of saying outright “hey guys, don’t want to alarm you but have you seen these monsters? Like, the person standing next to you, the one with fish eyes, yeah that is one of Cthulhu’s buddies. Oh, and by the way, we are doomed!” (which would have seen him locked up in an institution). He instead tried to impart these warnings of our demise at the hands (tentacles) of these monsters in his stories, and we lapped it up as fiction. From that, my story took shape. I have always had an active imagination, and the authors of the stories I read in my teens I think have had the biggest influence and have set the foundation for my horror writing today.
Dawn de Braal
POETS – I’m over the moon about acceptance of my poem ‘Ask Your Mum’ to the Penned in the City’s charity chapbook, NATION. My first ever poem to get published and for a really good cause too. Thanks to Jesu Estrada and Ximena Escobar. Boom! That requires as much celebration as this Melbourne lockdown can provide.
A new forthcoming book from Sweetycat Press with stories from a range of emerging and otherwise writers’ journey to their current spot in the literary scheme of things. This looks to be an insightful, interesting and popular read. A big shout-out to author and publisher Steve Carr for providing the opportunity. 📚Hoping to send mine before tomorrow. 🔴
And just for some ambience my friend Patricia in Tahiti took these wonderful tropical beach photos. The doggos look a bit anxious, but the water is totally chilled. 💜
This is a submission call for speculative poetry from the new Paper Djinn Press from Umair and Shawn. Love the cover and hoping to be part of this.