GUEST POST: Paul Flewitt

Horror Writers, Halloween, & Why We Do It

Happy Halloween, folks! This is our time of year, right?

Well, unless we live Halloween all year round. I guess many of us do, and just welcome people to the party when the festive period rolls around. It’s a thing. We’re the weirdos, right?

Halloween is the period when blogs everywhere want to talk to the horror writers, whether they generally cover horror or not. I guess they have to wheel out the macabre ones when the nights get dark and the ghosts come out to play. Most of them ask similar questions, and there are two that are asked most often.

Why do you write horror?

Where do the ideas come from?

So, I thought I’d address them in somewhat longer form here. Why not?

I suppose the reasons for writing horror are similar ones to why we read horror. It excites us, awakens some primal part of ourselves. There’s a frisson of delight we get from being made uneasy in books, and the great thing is that we can always close the book if we want some relief. It’s like a rollercoaster; we’re exhilarated for the duration of the ride, but we know we’re getting off in a minute. It’s tapping into something that gets the pulse racing, the endorphins pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Oh, and the stories are entertaining too.

Writers are no different, and we seek that same exhilaration when we create our stories. You know that pulse racing? Yeah, we get that when we write too.

There are some scenes in stories that take us unawares; they just seem to creep out of the pen unbidden. We sit back when we’re done writing them and think “what the hell is wrong with me,” closely followed by: “Its damned cool though.”

Those are the moments we’re looking for, and they’re not always planned.

That’s one reason we write horror; to fulfill something in our primal selves and pour it out into the world.

Of course, there’s an element of catharsis there too. If we’ve had a bad day, then we know we can sit down and write a brutal death scene. Releasing that negative emotion is a good, healthy thing.

I don’t think there’s a psychological marker for horror writers. I know, when I was young, I pictured horror writers to be a certain way. I kind of imagined them all to be somewhat gothic, long hair and black clothes.

Then, I saw Stephen King for the first time.

We can be anyone, and that’s a cool thing. Horror speaks to all people, if they feel the need to embrace it. Horror writers aren’t all devil-worshipping, vestal virgin sacrificing freaks, or I just didn’t get invited to those parties yet. Pretty much all the horror writers I know are the funniest, kindest and most sensitive people I know, and I think that’s why they’re able to write horror. Most of us feel very keenly, and are very in touch with our emotions. If we understand how we feel, then we know how to convey emotions … and fears. That’s also a very cool thing.

So, where do the ideas come from?

Something funny happened when I released my first novel; my mum read it … and asked if it was her fault. Was it something she’d done? She was utterly serious, and I found the question completely hilarious. Actually, the idea behind that first novel was born out of a joke between me, my editor and a beta reader. But, I digress.

I don’t think this is a question limited just to horror. Every writer is asked where the ideas come from, and if they dry up. I think the answer is pretty simple; we always ask, “what if?”

We can be walking by a piece of architecture, an interesting quirk in the landscape, or pretty much anything and ask, “what if?” To me, it’s one of the most important questions in the world, and one we seek to answer. I think the most pertinent question is this though: “why do the answers have a spooky outcome with horror writers?”

Well, because that’s what we like. We see the spooky because spooky is cool. My wife will look at a beautiful view in the countryside and comment on its beauty, whereas I will look at it and say, “what if there’s a monster in those hills? What if that village is home to a demon-worshipping cult? What if?”

And the reaction is always satisfying. And that’s it, in a nutshell.

Yes, people of the page; we’re looking for a reaction. Whether that’s delight, disgust, fear, dismay, or the plethora of other reactions we can expect from a horror story, we’re just looking for that reaction.

Silence is fucking scary, after all.


Boo-graphy:
Paul Flewitt was born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire where he still lives with his family. He is the father of two children and keeper of several beta reading demons

Paul is a writer of horror and dark fantasy, and a former steel worker. His debut novel, Poor Jeffrey, was launched in April 2016. His latest short story, Defeating the Black Worm, is part of the Short Sharp Shocks series from Demain Publishing.

Paul spends his time caring for his children and devotes much of his free time to writing his next works. He writes only for the thrill of scaring his readers in new and inventive ways.

Short Sharp Shocks 62:
Defeating the Black Worm

Matthew had fallen so far, so quickly. The anxiety and panic had overcome him suddenly, and he couldn’t find a way back. In desperation, he sought solace in doctors and psychiatrists, but no-one could (or would!) help him. He loses everything to the hunger and appetites of the Black Worm.

But then, at his lowest point, and with nothing left, Matthew finds aid in the most unexpected of places…

But can the Black Worm be defeated?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Paul Flewitt

Meghan: Hey Paul. Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. Thanks so much for coming back again this year. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Paul: I love the atmosphere around Halloween. The misty nights, the weather getting cooler and the leaves falling … it’s the stuff horror movies and books are made from. Here in the UK, it’s the beginning of a pretty fun couple of weeks: we have Halloween, then we have Bonfire Night (celebrating Guy Fawkes) the week after. It really is great time of year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Paul: I really enjoy dressing up, and friends of ours tend to have costume parties for Halloween. I’m not really big on Halloweening, but the dressing up and having fun with character is just so much fun. It’s a time when I can really let my inner-cosplayer emerge.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Paul: Why would it not be? It’s much more fun than Christmas or Easter, and can be done without spending much money. It’s a great way of having fun with family and friends, and you really get to know your neighbours around Halloween. If they don’t embrace the dark season, then are they really worth your time?

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Paul: Nothing really. For a horror writer, I don’t really go in for the mystical. It’s really boring, and really rational, but I just never got people who were scared of black cats, refuse to walk under ladders or saw bad luck omens in every quirk or accident. That really comes from my Dad, who was always pretty rational too.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Paul: Pinhead, from the Hellraiser universe. He is the most articulate, eloquent character in the whole of horror. I like it when he doesn’t say much in a movie, but when he does speak it has real substance and gravitas. He’s almost regal, almost sympathetic to his victims. He explains exactly why he’s there, and exactly what he’s going to do to you. It’s your fault, you invited this, and this is the consequence. What gets any better than that?

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Paul: Oh, there are many. I suppose a lot of horror writers are fascinated by murderers who got away with their crimes; how they did it, where they went, who they were … it’s really an intriguing area to research. I mean, Jack the Ripper’s murders are probably most people’s favourite, simply because he’s never been identified, but there are so many possibilities. There’s endless scope for speculation, and it all happened at a really emotive time in British history too. Victorian London will always be a time we remember in many different ways, as portrayed by Dickens, Conan Doyle and Shelley. We can easily identify with his victims too, when you look at their stories and discover who they were. Those times and places are evoked and encapsulated in many of the early works of horror, so Jack definitely fits right in there.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Paul: None of them scare me per se, but some of them do fascinate me. I love the foundations of these kinds of legends, finding out where they came from and how they evolved over time. Essentially, they are the modern version of the tales told in mediaeval times around the campfire, which eventually were collected in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. They really are a great call back to former times, and I’m all there for it.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Paul: As above, it would be Jack the Ripper for the reasons I set out there. I mean, the serial killers we know about, we know about. We know their psychology, their motivations and what drove them. We know nothing about Jack the Ripper, but we can track him down and seek to find some closure on those deaths.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Paul: I’m not even sure about that. I guess it would be one of the old Hammer Horrors, or maybe one of the classic horrors. When I was a kid, black and white equaled boring, but there is definitely something primal about the images of Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff as Dracula and Frankenstein. Those characters really stuck in my mind.

I loved the Hammers, because they seemed to be played with tongue firmly in cheek. They were making low budget movies, the scripts were sometimes terrible, but they knew it. Some of them were so terrible that they went straight back around to being genius again, and they gave us Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Bernard Cribbins. What’s not to love?

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Paul: I don’t think any horror novel has truly unsettled me. Some have engaged me deeply, and I’ve enjoyed the imagery evoked by them, but none have really triggered any extreme reaction. Why? Because you can put them down. That’s the beauty of horror.

Now, if you asked me about a book that unsettled me, I would cite A Child Called It, which is a true story of the author’s abuse at the hands of his mother. Now, that story is truly affecting, and you need to read it cover to cover, in the hope that there is closure at the end. In the fiction world, I found We Need To Talk About Kevin to be similar in the emotions that book evoked.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Paul: Not a horror movie exactly, but Pink Floyd’s The Wall movie screwed me up. The imagery and symbolism in the film was really affecting; from the visions of riots, to schools making clones of us all, to kids being put through a giant mincer … it was just one thing after another in that thing. It never let up, from beginning to end. Yeah, that thing still gets me after all this time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Paul: I told you about friends who have costume parties at Halloween, and one year we really hit it out of the park. The theme was an evil twist on fairy tales, and so my wife decided to do Alice in Wonderland. Oh, it was great. My wife was Alice, my son was the Cheshire Cat, my daughter was the Red Queen (I think??) and I was the Bad, Mad Hatter. My wife really went to town making that costume, and I even had miniature bottles of liquor that were labelled up with “Bigger,” “Smaller,” “Wiser,” etc. That was an awesome one, and it must be reprised sometime.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Paul: Pfft, tough one. I mean, I really like horror movie soundtracks around Halloween, and I generally have them playing in the background when kids come to call around on the night. It’s great, slowly answering the door in the darkness, with the Hellraiser soundtrack playing behind me.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Paul: I’m not a big fan of sweets, so I leave that to the kids. It also saves disappointment, so it’s a win-win for me.


Boo-graphy:
Paul Flewitt was born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire where he still lives with his family. He is the father of two children and keeper of several beta reading demons

Paul is a writer of horror and dark fantasy, and a former steel worker. His debut novel, Poor Jeffrey, was launched in April 2016. His latest short story, Defeating the Black Worm, is part of the Short Sharp Shocks series from Demain Publishing.

Paul spends his time caring for his children and devotes much of his free time to writing his next works. He writes only for the thrill of scaring his readers in new and inventive ways.

Short Sharp Shocks 62:
Defeating the Black Worm

Matthew had fallen so far, so quickly. The anxiety and panic had overcome him suddenly, and he couldn’t find a way back. In desperation, he sought solace in doctors and psychiatrists, but no-one could (or would!) help him. He loses everything to the hunger and appetites of the Black Worm.

But then, at his lowest point, and with nothing left, Matthew finds aid in the most unexpected of places…

But can the Black Worm be defeated?

READING of Red Lights: Tommy B. Smith


Boo-graphy:
Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction, award-winning author of The Mourner’s Cradle, Poisonous, the short story collection Pieces of Chaos, and the coming of age novel Anybody Want to Play WAR? His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and cats. More information can be found on his website.

Poisonous
Following the Quake of ’79, a terrible force came to the city of St. Charles. This was the Living Poison. In Lilac Chambers, it may have found the perfect host. As she finds herself changing, becoming increasingly dangerous to everyone around her, it becomes apparent that her state of being is no accident of nature. She is becoming a prime vehicle for the Living Poison’s destructive swath through the streets of St. Charles. Detective Brandt McCullough has seen the Living Poison’s brutality. John Sutterfield, ringmaster of Sutterfield’s Circus of the Fantastic, is discovering its malignancy festering within the very circus he founded. These two are the only ones who might stand in the way of a force greater than anything they have ever known, one which threatens to wash the streets in red and swallow the city into chaos, but the stakes may be higher than either of them can imagine. St. Charles—indeed, the world—may tremble.

GUEST POST: Tommy B. Smith

Black Cat

The October month evokes images of falling leaves, orange and brown, slow signatures of the season’s turning, and that mystical night of the thirty-first with its tricks and treats, disguises, revelry, and jack o’ lanterns with strange smiles. Decorative renditions of ghosts under white sheets, witches with pointy hats and broomsticks, and black cats abound.

Many of these images stem from the legends and folklore surrounding the origins of the occasion. In some cases, as with the jack o’ lanterns lit by flickering flames, they represent traditions muddled by time.

Witches were distrusted and feared throughout crucial points in history, which in turn gave rise to the caricature of a crone garbed in black, often unpleasant in demeanor, who became the staple of numerous tales intended to frighten and horrify. Likewise, the black cat, declared by its appearance as a creature of darkness to the superstitious, became included in many of these tales as the witches’ familiars. In some stories, the witches themselves possessed the ability to shift into the forms of black cats.

The black cat has found its way into many subsequent horror tales, classic and modern. The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe is widely recognized, and black cats went on to make appearances in numerous horror films, including Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror (1962) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), both adapted from Poe’s works and featuring the legendary Vincent Price.

While I can appreciate their resulting place in the horror genre, I have never lent a molecule of credence to the aged superstitions deeming their presence as unfortunate. As it happens, black cats cross my path every day. I have two: BearCat and Thirteen, the latter of whom gained his name as a jab at those superstitions, in part, and also because his birthday falls on the thirteenth of April.

Tripping over a black cat isn’t a matter of misfortune. If we watch our steps, it shouldn’t be an issue.

As Groucho Marx once said, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”

Should we celebrate black cats’ place in horror, Halloween, and the month of October? Certainly. It’s been earned. Besides, October 27th is National Black Cat Day.

As the world turns and learns, tired old biases fading but ever-present in the yellowed pages of history, the black cat prances on, head high, eyes sharp, the cautious mascot of the misunderstood, the disparaged and beautiful, the transcendent.


Boo-graphy:
Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction, award-winning author of The Mourner’s Cradle, Poisonous, the short story collection Pieces of Chaos, and the coming of age novel Anybody Want to Play WAR? His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and cats. More information can be found on his website.

Poisonous
Following the Quake of ’79, a terrible force came to the city of St. Charles. This was the Living Poison. In Lilac Chambers, it may have found the perfect host. As she finds herself changing, becoming increasingly dangerous to everyone around her, it becomes apparent that her state of being is no accident of nature. She is becoming a prime vehicle for the Living Poison’s destructive swath through the streets of St. Charles. Detective Brandt McCullough has seen the Living Poison’s brutality. John Sutterfield, ringmaster of Sutterfield’s Circus of the Fantastic, is discovering its malignancy festering within the very circus he founded. These two are the only ones who might stand in the way of a force greater than anything they have ever known, one which threatens to wash the streets in red and swallow the city into chaos, but the stakes may be higher than either of them can imagine. St. Charles—indeed, the world—may tremble.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Danger Slater

Meghan: Hey, Danger! Welcome welcome welcome!! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Danger: Eating candy. Duh. I don’t have kids so I gotta buy all my own candy though. I’m an adult though so I suppose I could do that at any time. Hmm. Why haven’t I thought of that before. I could be eating candy for dinner every day!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Danger: I have a black cat so I use it as a day to pay tribute to him. Usually by carving his face onto a pumpkin.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Danger: I mean, I’m into horror stuff all year round, so it’s cool that there’s a month/holiday for other people to get spooky with me.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Danger: I have to brush my teeth before I go to bed. I don’t know if that’s a superstition or just basic hygiene, but if I don’t do it, then I feel real icky.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Danger: Frankenstein. HE’S JUST MISUNDERSTOOD. Unlike Dracula who is just a straight-up dick.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Danger: I don’t follow this kind of stuff too much, but I did watch this fascinating documentary called Casting JonBenet on Netflix that is less about the actual crime and more about how the people audition for a reenactment of the JonBenet story feel about the crime. It’s hard to explain, but it’s more about people’s fascination and interpretation of the truth than it is about the actual truth. Very interesting film.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Danger: Pop Rocks and Coke. My cousin’s best friend from grade school died that way.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Danger: None. Fuck those guys.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Danger: First horror movie I remember scaring me was the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I had a cousin who was obsessed with Freddy Krueger growing up. He even made his own knife glove.

My first horror books were Goosebumps, though I only got to read a few. My mom stopped buying them for me pretty quick, not because of the content, but because I was reading them too fast and she didn’t have the money. I was in like 3rd grade when she handed me a copy of Jurassic Park and was like, “There, that should keep you occupied for a while.”

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Danger: I don’t get scared by books or movies, generally speaking. I usually have a difficult time removing myself from the edifice of it. Especially as a creator myself, I’m always thinking about the process that goes into a story (or a scene in a movie, or a performance, or any aspect of how these things are put together) so I rarely find myself so immersed that I actually am scared of what I’m reading/seeing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Danger: Same answer as above, though I will add a few movies that I did find actually scary were Melancholia – the Lars von Trier film – and Vivarium. These are more about existential horrors though. Movies that make me reflect back on my own life choices and experiences are the ones that hit hardest for me.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Danger: Last year I put on my girlfriends kimono and a captain’s hat and was just a ‘good time party dude’ and it was comfortable as hell.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Danger: Halloween by the Misfits, of course.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?

Danger: Kit Kats are the best. I’m trying to eat every flavor. Did you know there are over 300? Crazy!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, Danger. It is ALWAYS a pleasure. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Danger: You’re talking about movies that specifically take place on Halloween, right? In that case:

Donnie Darko
Halloween III
The Nightmare Before Christmas
House of 1000 Corpses
Tales of Halloween


Boo-graphy:
Danger Slater is the Wonderland Award-winning writer of I Will Rot Without You and several other books that haven’t won awards, but are okay still. He lives in Portland, OR with his cat and his girlfriend.

I Will Rot Without You
Meet Ernie. His life is a mess. Gretchen’s gone, and the apartment they once shared is this grey, grim city is now overrun with intelligent mold and sinister bugs.

Then his neighbor Dee shows up, so smart and lovely. If he can just get past the fact that her jealous boyfriend could reach out of her blouse and punch him in the face at any moment, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Unfortunately for all involved, a Great Storm is coming and it will wash away everything we’ve ever known about the human heart.

Impossible James
My father was dying. There was no hope. Then he took a screwdriver to the brain. Got pregnant. And found the cure for death.

Impossible? That’s my dad.

Impossible James