Why do I like horror? There’s a question to get creative juices flowing (well, mine, anyway).
Why do I like horror? I don’t know why, I just do.
I like the thrill of terror as something scares the living daylights out of me. I like the way my pulse races and adrenalin floods my system but I also like the satisfying and very real safety net of knowing it’s all fiction, made up for entertainment, and as soon as it becomes too much, I can put my hands over my eyes and stop watching or close the book and stop reading. I also like the idea that my stories can inspire the same feelings in other people, my readers. Yes, I like that very much.
As a kid we used to make up stories that scared us. When the nights drew in around this time of year, not too late and not too cold or wet but dark, it had to be dark. We’d sit on doorsteps and make up stories. There was a large field next to my friend’s house and that gave us a creepy setting for the storytelling. My main problem was that my house was the furthest away but because I was the tomboy, the bravest, most daring of us all and the most reckless, it didn’t seem to matter that as one by one the group went back to the safety of their homes and I was left to walk the last few yards on my own. Of course I had to maintain that fearless facade in front of everyone because that was all I had. I wasn’t one of the cool kids who everyone wanted to hang out with, I didn’t have the best toys or the most fashionable clothes – all I had was my ‘image’ and my bravado. So, I had to tell the scariest story and I had to be the bravest when getting the rest of the kids back to their houses, even if I was frightened to go in by the back door because there was a bigger, darker field at the back of our house.
I grew up in the 70s and I remember one horrible event from back then. The Black Panther was loose. He had kidnapped Lesley Whittle and her body was discovered in a drainage shaft. The summer that he was on the run, we were mostly playing in drainage systems that ran under the M1 motorway near to us. We’d scare each other silly with stories of discovering the Black Panther in our ‘playground’. I had a macabre imagination – I still do. The Black Panther was caught that December, a few miles from where we lived. Not that he’d have been interested in a handful of kids from a council estate. Our parents wouldn’t have been able to raise £50 let alone £50,000!
My mind is a fabulous place, a terrifying playground filled with dark and dreadful things that have yet to make their way into my books – but I’m sure they will at some point. I was ‘advised’ to calm my scary stories down when the younger kids were about because I scared them too much. Yeah, that was me, the weirdo with the over-active imagination, the dark side that could find the cruel and vicious nature in most things. Cats are cruel when they play with their prey but it’s their nature, it’s not deliberate. A cat hones its skill on the half-maimed mouse, bird or vole. It will bring a young mouse to its kittens – or its human – to help teach them how to hunt. That’s not cruelty, that’s nature, teaching the next generation how to survive.
One of my childhood pets came home limping. He allowed me to look at his leg. Someone had wrapped an elastic band around it and it was biting into his leg. It would have cut off the blood supply and he’d have lost the leg if I hadn’t spotted it. Another cat didn’t do that to him; that was the vile and deliberate act of a human. Cats aren’t cruel, humans are cruel.
Humans seek out ways to hurt other humans, by their deeds and their words. Kids in the playground: One kid wears glasses so she’s a ‘specky-four-eyes’. Another kid has a speech impediment so he’ll be labelled ‘st-st-st-stuttering-Stanley’ (remember, Sixth Sense?) Another kid has ginger hair and if she doesn’t have a means of answering back and making her tormentors look silly, she’s going to have a hellish time at school.
Then what happens if kids are left to their own devices? Lord of the Flies paints a pretty grim picture and that book fascinated me at school.
Spooky places fascinate me. Haunted houses, derelict buildings, castles, ancient manor houses, caves and forests; I’m drawn to those places but my imagination is such that I couldn’t stay in any of them alone. My mind betrays me, it ‘sees’ things, hears things and it makes up all kinds of terrible possibilities.
So I channel those horrors and terrors. I put them in situations where there’s danger and strife but I make the story someone else’s predicament.
I try to make the people and situations in my stories as real as I can. Obviously that’s not always possible but if there’s a little something real in there then it adds weight and credibility.
I put my friends in my stories (yes, they know) and I also put people I’ve met, worked with and had other ‘encounters’ with in my stories. Of course any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
I like to play with situations and ‘what if’ moments. Deadlier started out with such a ‘what if’ moment.
“What if there was someone leaping from rooftop to rooftop, silhouetted by that gorgeous full moon?” I asked Loretta, receptionist at The Late Lounge, the nightclub we were working at in Mansfield, North Notthinghamshire back in 1999.
“Oooh, you mean a vampire?” she said.
I looked back at her over my shoulder and grinned. “No, vampires have been done to death, I think werewolf.”
I went home early the next morning with my head filled with werewolves leaping across buildings in a small mining town in the midlands, England and I started writing the very next day.
So, why do I like horror? Because natural justice can be served in a way that satisfies the bloodthirsty, morbid and twisted mind by methods that convention, society and the law of the land frowns upon. I can wreak havoc upon the nasty, the sly and the cruel people I’ve met – yes, there are a number of those. The bullies, freaks and throwbacks get their come-uppance without me getting arrested. But I think most of all it satisfies something in me that nothing else I’ve tried comes close to. The voices in my head are quietened, they are calmed and they are sated by the way I portray them. My imagination has found a way out of the confines of my head and it seems at peace when my stories are read. It’s almost like they can go to other heads and other imaginations to play and that makes them happy.
So, if any of my stories play on your mind for longer than usual, I apologise. The dark thing that nags at me to write them all out and release them into the world is happy and I can’t do anything about that, at least they’re allowing me some peace for the moment but they’ll be back, they don’t leave me alone for long...
The fleeting shadow that passed you on the darkened streets that you thought was a stray dog?
The person behind you that you thought was coincidentally going the same way that you were?
The feeling you got that there was something behind you that you thought was your imagination?
The glint you thought was the lights on a car passing the house?
The caller that hung up as soon as you answered the phone you thought was a wrong number?
The movement you saw from the corner of your eye you thought was your imagination?
The flicker of a shadow you thought was the wind blowing the branches of the tree?
That noise you thought was the central heating switching on?
The sound you thought was the cat bumping against something?
The shadow was someone checking you out.
The person was seeing where you live.
The feeling was instinct, you should have taken notice.
The glint was light reflecting off a knife.
The caller was making certain you were alone.
The movement was the knife being raised to cut the phone line.
The flicker was someone in the garden.
The noise was someone forcing the window.
The sound was someone on your stairs.
Are you scared yet?
Wow! Thanks Michelle! I don't know if that was my imagination or not but there is a noise on my stairs!!!
Michelle is giving away a set of 6 short stories of her YA book, Dusty the Demon Hunter, so if you'd like to win these for your kindle or e-book, please leave a comment on the blog and tell us why YOU like ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night!