Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nonsense creatures aren't scary

On the eve of Xmas Carol's publication, I'd like to re-post something I wrote last year. It's about the origin of the book.

I've always loved horror novels. I spent my entire life with my nose buried in a book (including during school hours) and half the time it was a horror novel. So when it came time to write one, I was certainly well-versed. Should be easy, right?

But then the obvious problem hit me: I've grown up and picked up some knowledge along the way. There are no witches, goblins, ghosts, gods or any other sorts of supernatural creatures. People don't come back from the dead, flesh-eating zombies are absurd, and not one single person on Earth needs an exorcism. I can't be frightened by nonsense. I'm all growed up.  If I included a monster in a book, it would have to be a real one.

To me, horror has to seem real to be frightening. The reader must accept the premise of the story for it to be effective. And while sizable American audiences seem happy to immerse themselves in any ludicrous idea at all, that's not the road I want to travel as a writer. No wizards, spells, demons or gods will find their way into my books.

In truth, even after these considerations, a large part of me wanted to write a ghost story. I'd been raised on them; they called to me. I even considered suspending my judgment, holding my nose and writing one for posterity. That salty, ramshackle beachfront mansion wanted me to write about it. It was so hard to resist. Couldn't I please write one? Please!? 

But I couldn't because there's no there there and that's an insurmountable problem. Still, I couldn't let go. But how could I possibly write a ghost story if ghosts don't exist? I refused to relinquish the idea; I gnawed at it for weeks. There must be a way, I thought.

Finally, I asked myself a question: What is like a ghost?  And therein lies the tale of Xmas Carol.