Virginia Festival of the Book — Tales that Keep You Up at Night

What scares you? Chances are, it’s the same thing that scares your favorite author. Three Virginia horror writers discussed that — and much more — in the Christian Inspiration area of the Charlottesville Barnes & Noble.

For Beth Massie, who’s been writing for decades, she was “creeped out” by a lot of things as a child (including an older sister’s efforts to scare her as a youngster). Now, she writes for a number of reasons, including an opportunity to “delve into human emotion down to the bone” and the “rush” of being scared, as well as her sensitivity to everything around her.

She added, “There are lots of things in the world that bother me. The things that haunt me in real life give me the seeds for my stories: racism, homophobia…. If it’s well done, it does not desensitize. It sensitizes.”

“You’re probably weirder than you look,” Justin Evans has been told. After hearing someone talk about the truly frightening ending of A Good and Happy Child — and how, the night after his wife read multiple iterations of it, she woke up screaming — I can only imagine what scares him.

He tried writing a spy novel, which fell flat. Even he recognized it: the lack of interest in the subject. Instead, he turned to what did interest him, spending long hours on Lexis-Nexus after work reading about demonic possessions and exorcisms described by Jesuit priests. He admitted, “It came out horror because it was the only way it could be expressed.”

Mindy Klasky was enamored by The Lord of the Rings in seventh grade and write a sequel in iambic heptameter that involved a character that was uncannily similar to herself. That alone scares everyone, including Klasky as an adult.

Years later, during a particularly trying law school class, she wrote another fantasy story about a teenage girl — which, in her own words, was grim. The stories continued on a progressively grimmer path as her main character grew up. After a while, she needed something more fun — and began a series about an unsuspecting librarian who discovers she is a witch. Now she can’t really define what she writes and she finds herself in many camps: fantasy, paranormal, romance, science fiction…. “Genres are getting more blurred,” she noted wryly.

After reading about Queen Betsy and some of the steamiest S-E-X in fiction, I’m sure fantasy is standing on its head with many new genre-bending authors. It’s a thrilling thought and, unlike these authors, not in the least bit frightening.

For those of us who love the rush of being frightened by what we read, these authors prove there's much to be gained from good horror literature.

1 comment:

Carole said...

It really struck me at a couple of the sessions we attended that authors became fascinated with horror after being scared witless by their older sisters! Who knew we had that kind of power?