Sunday, 18 March 2012

Am I really a horror writer?

Since the beginning of January, I have posted a Friday Flash for each week of 2012, which is a total of eleven stories. However, of those eleven, only three have been non-horror related (one fantasy comedy, one slice of life, and one historical). The other eight have encompassed zombies, mummies, vampires, Gothic horror, evil puppets and as-yet-unnamed creatures who wear human skins. Is anyone else as surprised by that as me?

Back in the day, I called myself a horror writer. We're talking back when I was about sixteen and didn't know any better. I read Stephen King and Clive Barker, and I wanted to write like that too. Problem was, I didn't really enjoy writing "gore". It just didn't seem to work for me very well. I stuck to my "weird fantasy" stories, writing about games of chess between celestial beings, or jewellery boxes that turned their contents into gold, and eventually put out my Checkmate & Other Stories collection, composed of those stories I'd had published online. Definitely not 'slice of life' or realistic, but not really horror either.

So time went by, and I branched out. I wrote historical stories, and ventured into steampunk, and wound up writing a pulp Western last year. I'm damned proud of The Guns of Retribution, but there's always been a little tug back towards my roots - to the extent that its sequel, To Kill A Dead Man, sees Grey O'Donnell pitted against villains of a more supernatural nature. I hardly think it's a surprise that I'd find myself back within the horror genre, considering I spend my spare time hunting ghosts, and studying haunted house films for my PhD - and that's when I'm not reading about the psychological theories that underpin the horror genre as a whole. My life is pretty well steeped in Bizarro at the moment.

Or is it something deeper? I like to think my "craft" has improved since those first stories were published back in 2008, and I'm in a better place to write horror stories that get under the skin. Perhaps spending so long writing weekly flashes, and working on longer stories or novels, has honed my idea-generating skills to the point that I feel I'm better able to work with horror. Maybe my experiences with strange events, and my research into them, has given me better insights into what ideas will work, and what won't. Or maybe the stressful nature of my life at the moment means that the stress has to come out somewhere - and it's choosing to birth weird ideas from my imagination.

Either way, I want to ask a question. My work seems to fall into two major categories, and then a whole bunch of little ones beyond that. So what would people rather see from me - horror stories, or my historical tales?

11 comments:

Clive Martyn said...

Surely you can carry on doing both? Either in your own name or choose one you love (and are proud to be associated with) and publish the rest under a pen name. There is no reason to box yourself into a niche :) All my finished novels are horror but I started out writing fantasy and I still enjoy penning sci-fi occasionally. Whatever you do I am sure you'll do it well :)

Tony Noland said...

This is a question I ask myself all the time... what kind of a writer am I?

Icy Sedgwick said...

Well the funny thing is, I can technically do them at the same time (with historical horrors) and I'm happy to continue to write both, but I was just canvassing opinion as to what people might prefer to read.

Katherine Hajer said...

Oh good, it's not just me. Thank you for writing this.

In the last couple of years I've come to believe that genre is more for marketers and agents and less for writers (except when we need to present ourselves to said marketers & agents, or act as one for ourselves). I've read tweets from agents complaining a writer works in a genre they haven't "read widely in", and it always makes me want to say, "but what if that's because they read widely *across* genres?"

Horror, especially, seems due for a splitting-up into different genres. I propose "supernatural" and "gore". I can watch/read supernatural and sometimes write it, but I don't do gore at all.

Having said all that, really I prefer to read whatever you come up with. Out of curiosity, did you categorise your last Friday Flash as horror or science fiction? (I know I could look it up on the collector, but you may have counted differently for your tallies.) I thought of it as SF, but I could see it being classified as horror as well. Again, it comes down to marketing and I suppose intent.

It's interesting that you mentioned King and Barker, because they are also writers whose work can be classified as horror, fantasy, or SF, depending on who's reading it, what strikes their fancy, and which story it is.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I tend to split horror into 'supernatural' and 'gore' too, although naturally there is some cross-over depending on the content. I categorised my last flash as horror, but I suppose it could just as easily be science fiction - they're genres that play well together. That's something else I get confused with - some genres work well with almost anything (like horror, or even the Western) but yet you're still expected to choose one or the other. It makes no sense.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Honestly, you shouldn't feel cornered into a genre. Write what you feel most strongly about and if you do that, no matter what comes out onto the page will be gold.

nmhoneybee said...

I say write more of what you enjoy and are most passionate about. If you enjoy both genres, then write both, you will appeal to more readers that way.

Larry Kollar said...

I'm with Cathy: write what comes. Genre pigeonholes are for trad-pubbed writers. :-) As for what you write, I'd drift toward calling it paranormal more than straight horror, although you've written stories that are definitely on one side or the other.

Anyway, I'd prefer horror to historical. I think. Gimme historical with some twist of the weird though, and I'll read it!

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm really glad people have been replying! I think I'll continue to write whatever pops into my head but if it turns out to be weird...well then, you'll know what it says about me!

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Definitely write whatever you like.

For me, one point in favor of historical is that I see less of it.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Does it matter? I've written satire, horror, thriller, and am currently classified as urban fantasy. I think the time for being boxed-in has come to an end. Look at how many authors are crossing over to YA. You go where your mind and the money takes you. xx

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