Horror and Me
A Guest Post by Karen
Horror. Why are we so fascinated by it? Maybe you’re not. Maybe you stumbled upon this post by accident, but now you want to know where it goes. What if it goes somewhere dark, scary and dangerous? Will you keep reading? If you will, you’re fascinated by horror. Even if you don’t know it yet. *winks*
Why do we like to be scared? By books, by films – even by experiences? One theory goes that we actually need it. The adrenalin that would have had us running from bears or wolves needs to get used up somehow. This seems a good explanation to me. Some of us climb mountains, go water-skiing, jump out of airplanes. Others just scare ourselves with some horror literature or movies.
For me, I’m also fascinated by the unknown, the unseen, the unexplainable. What made that noise? Probably just the wind. Or the cat. But there’s no wind and the cat is snoring beside me…and then the damn cat wakes up and stares fixedly at something I can’t see. Its eyes appear to follow the something across the room, and then stop at the wall. Then Mr Kitty relaxes and starts washing a paw. And I relax and wonder: was there anything there?
I began writing horror when I was in high school. I can remember writing a vampire story in English class. I got a good mark for it, even though my teacher made it clear that she thought I could do better than write this kind of ‘trashy’ stuff. She said the same when I wrote more romantic stories. I’m not sure what great works of literature she expected to get out of a 14 year old, but there you go. In my teens, I was interested in music, books about horror or sex or ideally both, dancing, and boys. I dabbled with a few more horror short stories over the years, but it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I decided to write again ‘seriously’ and try to get some of my tales out there. Follow the links to The Sirens Call or to my blog if you’d like to read some of them (shameless plug).
I thought I’d give a potted history of the books and films that have inspired me (or scared me – though that’s hard to do, for reasons I will explain). Feel free to let me know your favourites too.
The first proper horror movie I remember watching is John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’. I like to tease my mother about this, because she let me watch it when I was 11 years old. Bad parenting! (Just kidding, mum.) Her defence was that she didn’t realise how scary it would be until we were well into it – and then we were both hooked. It kept me awake for a good few weeks afterwards. Why? Well, it was a brilliant mix of eerie and gruesome – and, without giving things away for those who haven’t seen it, the threat comes from the sea. And I lived by the sea. Imagination working overtime! Then, suddenly, something fell into place. I realised I was being ridiculous, it was a movie, and I’ve never been kept awake by a horror film since. My wuss of a husband, on the other hand…
I’m sure the first horror book I read was something by Stephen King, in my teens. That said, as a child I read ghost stories, stuff with witches…I was always into the spooky. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember which Stephen King novel I read first, but I’ll use the example of ‘It’, because again, it was the only book to give me the heebie-jeebies – though not because of the story, great though that is. It was the cover. The cover (this was in the 80s) had a creepy pair of eyes looking out from a storm drain. I had to turn the book over when I went to bed at night so the eyes weren’t looking at me.
I vaguely remember watching the Hammer House of Horror films on TV as a kid, and loving the gore, but not being frightened by them. Same with Dracula. The next film that could have scared me (had I not been rendered immune by my ‘The Fog’ experience) was ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, which I saw when I was 14. Someone else’s liberal parenting there, not my mum’s. It certainly frightened a few of my friends, and I’m (not) sorry to say I took shameless advantage of this, jumping out from behind things on our walk home in the dark. I’m surprised I had any friends left. Freddy Krueger has to be one of the scariest-looking horror villains ever created, and the fact that you can’t fall asleep or you’re doomed – brilliant.
I discovered Anne Rice in my late teens, and loved the fact that her vampire stories were scary and sensual, a combination I adore to this day. Another favourite is British author Phil Rickman – his stories are generally set on the Welsh/English border and are frightening in an understated way. He entwines myth and legend with villainy of this world, and creates a potent mix.
All these books and movies have inspired my own horror writing somewhere along the way. Even now, I get the thrill of that teenage kid when I watch a good horror flick that makes me jump (no-one notices, because hubby is usually screaming and hiding behind a cushion). I’m very honoured to be featured on Nina’s Women in Horror Month, and I hope you enjoy one or two of my stories. Now I’m off to wander round my favourite graveyard, another wonderful source of inspiration…
Karen Soutar is a blogger, and a writer of short fiction. She loves to write spooky and creepy stories, and occasionally sexy ones. She is also working on her first novel, a tale of witches – and rock stars!
When not writing, Karen is a driver trainer, rock chick, and crazy cat lady. She lives in central Scotland with her husband and four cats.
You can find Karen and her work in the following places:
Blog: Fact and fiction, funny and serious, sexy and scary
Facebook: Karen Soutar
Cu-siege Dubh – Short Story in
The Sirens Call issue 22 – Aug. 2015
“Ow! God dammit!” Sean sucked at his hand where the gorse had scored a thin red line. He didn’t have anything to bind it with. Deciding it would stop bleeding on its own, he surveyed his progress.
The guys were out of sight. He had left them leaning against the tombstones, cracking open their beers. He was already regretting his decision to come along. It was bad enough when he found himself in the graveyard – but he’d heard that the local kids hung out there at night. He’d wanted to fit in. So he’d acted nonchalant; smoked a few cigarettes and laughed at the scary stories they were telling. Then they dared him to climb the Witches’ Craig.
He had tried to laugh it off; make out he had been in lots of spooky places before and he wasn’t impressed with this one. They were having none of it. Jerry had been particularly vocal.
-a short story.
When Lucy storms out of her flat and into the park one night, feeling ill and out of sorts, she doesn’t know that the argument with her flatmates is the least of her worries. Nothing will be the same again…
I dropped to my knees, panting. What the hell was wrong with me? A walk in the park to get rid of my headache and bad temper clearly wasn’t going to work. My bones ached. My skin was too tight, like I had sunburn. I wanted to cry and scream and hit someone. This was more than just PMT. I had run from the house irritable and angry; now I felt ill.
Maybe I should go back. What if it was something serious? I hunted in my pockets for my mobile phone. Damn, I had left it behind. That showed what a state I was in – I was surgically attached to that phone.
Okay, calm down, I admonished myself. I spotted a bench and staggered towards it. God, if anyone saw me they’d believe I was drunk – or high. That would be a reasonable assumption for the presence of a dishevelled young woman in the town park at night. The gates were locked, but I’d always known how to sneak in. Trouble was, so did the underage drinkers and the substance abusers. The police came through and rounded them up every so often. It was a Tuesday night, though, so I was probably safe – from the lawbreakers and the authorities.
I fell over onto the bench and tried to collect my scattered thoughts. Maybe I was coming down with a particularly virulent form of flu?