Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guest Blogger Jack Wallen: A peek into the brain of a horror writer

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Guest Blogger Jack Wallen
  A peek into the brain of a horror writer
     Thanks for visiting my Romance Blog! Today we are going to discuss Corsets: Love 'em or hate 'em?.......wait.....what is that noise?   Did you hear that?     Sounds like the neighbors cat.   I'll be right back.......(noise in the background)...earth shattering scream.....RUN!!!!!!

There are dark inklings that spark across the synapses of my mind on an hourly basis. At any given moment something will leap out of the dark recesses of that mind to inspire some new horrific happening to be placed on paper. Characters lives are changed, made nightmarish, or snuffed out. How? Why? What’s wrong with you? Are questions I am frequently asked (most often in jest) …
Such is the life of the horror writer.

In every genre of literature, each writer possesses a different skill set. The romance writer knows well the matters of the heart. The parody writer sees everything through the eyes of the funny bone. The historical fiction writer sees the past as a new portal into the future. The horror writer? Well, the horror writer is always and forever looking for new ways to kill, maim, frighten, horrify, and generally make the skin of the reader crawl away from their unsuspecting brain.

But even beyond the un-pedestrian kills and frights, the single most important aspect of being a writer of horror is having a fresh take on the genre. Why?

It’s all been done.

Every possible way to kill the human being has been explored. Every demon unearthed, every vampire sparkled and hunked up. Now, the challenge is to take all of those existing elements and make it new.

Free at Amazon
I knew, when I first started writing I Zombie I (now FREE on Amazon.com) I couldn’t simply rehash what had already been created in the world of zombies. Something new had to be given to the readers. Being a big fan of the genre, I knew one thing that had been avoided by so many writers was the why and the how.

ñ  Why did the virus hit?
ñ  How did it feel to transform into one of the undead?

Answering those questions helped my I Zombie trilogy have a fresh take on the genre. But just two rarely answered questions aren’t enough, in the realm of horror, to give a story enough life to make the readers want to partake. I still had to dig deep to make this story visceral … something to make the reader, at times, get a bit squeamish.

What I had to do was dig deep into the muck and mire of death and fear. To do that I needed to make a fairly implausible situation seem plausible. Instead of going all out post-apocalyptica, I opted to create a situation that could, with just a few stretches of a few imaginations, be possible. Make the reader wonder if what they were reading could possibly happen – make them worry, make them think, make them feel just a bit less safe in their too-comfortable lives.

What I find most interesting about being a horror writer is how we (the horror writers) take a slice out of every day life and find the horrific within. You see an autumn-colored tree and instead of seeing the beauty in the colors, we see the twisted roots ready to open up and swallow the souls of the children playing around its trunk. Instead of seeing the charm and sweetness of the aging senior citizen, we see the possessed crone with milkshake-white eyes ready to curse anyone who crosses their path. In short – we tear down the walls of normalcy, peel back the skin of sanity, and revel in the things most deem not safe for work or bedtime.

But look through the glass too darkly and you lose your audience. Oh there are writers for that genre – Splatter Punk (as some call it). One of my favorite being the masterful Edward Lee. But the general public doesn’t have the stomach for such shenanigans. So instead, the horror writer must wrap fear up in a blanket of safe harbor so the fear is brought to light to serve the story – not vice versa (with a nod to my mother, whose name is Versa.) So instead of the I Zombie trilogy being about the depths and depravity of human entrails, it’s about the muck and mire of human relationship and how surrounding chaos can serve to make that bond stronger. Well, that and how corrupt power can so easily lead to a pandemic of undead proportions.

Where are the fans?

One issue found with being a horror writer is finding fans. Horror fans are a rabid bunch. They adore their idols (Clive Barker, in my eyes, can do no wrong.) And when a horror fan finds an author they like, they’ll stick with them through thick and then. So as a horror writer, I must make sure I speak to those fans and treat them as they would treat me – as something unique, something special. Fellow travelers looking for a morsel to take them to new worlds of fright. Like-minded readers hoping to happen across that new bad guy to rival Pinhead, Captain Howdy, or Hannibal Lecter. And, of course, we writers of the horrific certainly hope to pen those evil-doers.

But how? How do we craft fear? For myself it’s all about opposites. What part of the human body do we cherish the most and what would be the least likely way to rid a man or woman of that bit? Who would be the archetype we’d most likely trust – who could do the most damage. William Peter Blaty did this to perfection by having a twelve year old be the target of possession. Children – they are the beings most often thought of as innocent, but also most often used to induce a sense of dread – the fear of losing them to evil (whether that be their seduction to evil or evil itself taking them from us.) Kill such innocence and you take your readers down very dark paths.

Opposites. Finding beauty in horror and horror in beauty. Removing the veneer to find maggots infesting the meat. Allowing a relationship develop between a beautiful woman and a man who is slowly turning into one of the undead (that’d be I Zombie I). I spend much of my time finding new ways to turn the mundane into something wrong enough to send chills through the skin and bones of the reader.

And just as much as anything else, I am a huge fan of the genre. I read and watch as much horror as I can. I long for the next fright, the next jump, the next shock and I hope that I can deliver those same goods to my readers. After all, without readers, writers are nothing more than ego-centric humans with strange messianic complexes in need of serious therapy.
Or are we? Bwahaha!

NEWS: Look out for My Zombie My to arrive at the end of September, 2011!

Thank you Jack for stopping in and sharing a bit of your mind, by the way the cat was delicious! I'm grabbing up a copy of Shero: Transgender Superhero
A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!  

Want more? Here’s more:

Follow Jack on Twitter: @jlwallen

Jack’s Books

I Zombie I

A Blade Away