Horror authors aren’t real authors. Are they?
By Stuart R Brogan
Having spent the last few years concentrating on my non-fiction, Heathen and Pagan works, it was time to take the tentative, yet exciting steps towards writing my debut horror / thriller. Something I had been eager to do for a very long time.
As I sat in front of my computer, staring blankly at the screen, my head full of sinister plots and monstrous acts, it suddenly occurred to me that not everyone would understand the burning need to write something that contained violence, murder and gore. The fact that I hadn’t read any horror since the early nineties had made me somewhat insular, so in effect, I was weaving my words in a vacuum.
As I began the first chapter I was acutely aware that not everyone would enjoy or endorse such a book. But why? Was it down to personal taste, or something deeper, such as social dogma and genre misconceptions? As the doubt began to merge with my own insecurities, I found myself thinking if the anti-horror squad had a valid point. Is writing horror a sub-standard form of literary prowess or is there an art to creating life and death scenarios with heart stopping protagonists, that make some people scared to read the book alone and others to shy away completely?
I have to admit that my curiosity was running wild, so in a blink of an eye, I found myself surfing the net and absorbing forum after forum, searching for the answers.
The first thing that struck me was the number of experts declaring that writing horror was inferior and that any author who partook in such pursuits was nothing more than an amateur, a second-rate pretender who failed to make the grade at writing more intellectual works. Of course, these paragons of literary excellence conveniently negated to mention the likes of Stephen King or Dean R Koontz, and the swathe of other big name authors plying their, very successful, trade within the genre. As I followed the threads, I couldn’t help but be somewhat dismayed by the lack of respect levied at such authors, in fact I started to get a little wound up.
To attempt to answer such questions, we must first rewind the clock.
Regardless of genre, the publishing world has gone through a seismic and radical change since the 90’s. I can vividly recall reading about big advances, multi book deals and reasonably high sales figures, as well as publishing houses willing to take more risks regarding the books they released. Fast forward to modern times and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the big boys are now playing it safe and that it is now even harder to secure a traditional publishing deal, let alone hit the big time with a best seller.
Could this be due to the rise and ease of self-publishing. or is it cyclic in nature? With this in mind, and faced with a sudden influx of availability, it is obvious that the big boys would want to streamline their assets and only back the books that will guarantee big returns. Obviously, movie tie ins are a sure-fire way to get the cash registers ringing, but was there any specific genre that could deliver when others were found floundering and was there some sort of magic formula?
As with everything, the answer was, timing. As we all know, the publishing world goes through phases or crazes, one week it could be adult erotica (such as Fifty Shades) and next month Young Adult (Twilight). As frustrating and soul destroying as it is, the cold stark truth to having a hugely successful novel is all about having the right product, at the right time, regardless of the quality of such material.
So how does this affect those of us that dwell on the fringes of modern literature? The ones creating nightmares and shining the spotlight on mankind’s darkest fears? The answer may very well be subjective but in my humble opinion, the time of the horror novel will once again rear its ugly and demented head, thus becoming a viable and lucrative product for the masses.
Just take the monumental explosion of horror based fictional programs flooding our television screens; they are without a doubt fuelling the public’s appetite for darker material. One only has to look at the popularity of The Walking Dead or American Horror Story to see what I mean. I wonder if those same doom Sayers berating the genre are eating humble pie now, for someone had to write the episodes and get paid big for doing it!
Between the surge in self-publishing and the publics new found craving for terror, not to mention the readily available technology to promote and sell our wares, is it any wonder that there are more and more authors’ not only releasing their material but releasing horror?
Granted, most could be considered subpar and below the level required by the most ardent fan, but the fact that the genre is growing at an exponential rate is both exciting, and encouraging for authors and fans alike. With the scene once again flourishing it is only a matter of time before the big boys once again see the merit in snapping up the hottest new horror authors and show the world that it cannot only be a money maker, but a genre worthy of praise, not ridicule.
When all is said, and done, there will always be authors who specialise in horror, and fans who demand it. Regardless if they are self-published or backed by some corporate monster. From a personal perspective, my journey writing horror has only just begun and to say I am nervous is an understatement.
As I look around at today’s scene, I am blown away by the talent on offer. Back in the 90’s, if you weren’t signed to a big publishing house, no-one would ever have heard about you. Now, everyone can get their name out there, myself included.
I tried the big boys, in the hopes of scoring that elusive multi book deal but was unsuccessful for the most part. I did get one offer but turned it down due to terms. Some may call me foolish but I dance to no-ones tune but my own. Will that be to my detriment? Only time will tell, but for now I am happy to write and to get my work out there to people who enjoy a good story. Extreme, supernatural, contemporary the list of sub-genre choices is endless, as is the quality of the genre as a whole and those who create it.
So then, are horror writer’s real authors?
Damn right we are, and our time is coming.
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