I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me. I read a LOT. I read fast and usually consume 3 to 5 books a week. But the genre I’ve found I’m reading the most is horror.
Now that’s probably not too surprising. I’ve always loved the genre. I began reading Stephen King when I was young. But, for some reason I’ve been focusing more on horror books lately than the mixture of thrillers, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and YA that I usually read right along with it. Occasionally I’ll open up a science fiction or fantasy as well. I really just love to read in case you can’t tell. But horror is definitely one of my faves.
There was a discussion with several writers regarding the horror genre over at Sean Taylor’s blog. Check out the post, The Horror of it All – Writers on Being Scary with Words. It was very interesting to read and see how each of the writers described horror and what they thought of the current trends.
To me horror is about being afraid, touching on the dark side. When I read horror, I want to feel my heart pumping and my breathing quicken. I want that fight or flight response to kick in. A good horror writer will take the normal and turn it into the unexpected and the uncanny, make us afraid of the boogeyman hiding under our beds.
Think the original Halloween movie. Scared the crap out of me. It still scares me even though I’ve seen it I don’t even know how many times. And IT by Stephen King. Clowns have never been the same for me since. Then there’s Whispers by Dean Koontz. I think that was the first Koontz novel I ever read and I’ve been a huge fan since.
There’s a lot of writers out there today that think they have to make their works as bloody and as gory as they can make it. Why? Is this really scary to anyone? The gore does not make it scary for me. In fact, gore for gore’s sake turns me off. Quickly. It’s not that I can’t handle it. I’ve seen things I wouldn’t want anyone to have to see. So it’s not that. I just don’t think it’s scary.
Now am I okay with reading about blood and guts and brain matter splattered all over? You bet. I have absolutely no problem with it. But in order to be scary it has to have more than someone just chopping people up and arranging their limbs into odd patterns. After reading some of these (or part of them — I can’t say I finish all of these types), I feel like I need to write a book about The 101 Uses for a Severed Limb. Reading about a slasher just doesn’t ignite that fear factor for me.
I know there are people that like the slasher books and movies. And I respect that. I’m just not one of them. If you do, please leave a comment and tell me why so I’ll know what I’m missing. 😉
What does turn on that eerie vibe for me? Well, I’ll give you a couple of authors I’ve read lately that really get it. The whole fear thing.
Aiden James is a remarkable writer that I just can’t get enough of. The first book of his that I read was Cades Cove. It’s still my favorite of his and one of my all time favorites. The horror in Cades Cove and its sequel, The Raven Mocker, took my breath away at times. Made me afraid to move. Made my fists clench. When I’d finally remember to breathe again, all I could think was “Wow! How awesome was that?!?” And he did it without gore.
Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series is just amazing and affected me the same way. But different. Instead of not breathing, I found myself panting, my heart was racing and my limbs were jerking like I wanted to flee. I originally downloaded the first in the series, Darkhouse, when it was free. (At the time of writing, it is currently free if you want to give it a try.) I am so glad I did. When I finished it, I immediately bought the other three books. I consumed them one right after the other and then had to wait a couple of months or so before the last one, On Demon Wings, was released just recently.
I can’t remember when I’ve looked so forward to a book’s release. I kept checking for updates and news of the arrival date. I got it just after midnight and could barely contain myself until later that morning. I consumed it in one reading. And oh my gosh! If you’re reading, Karina — I need book six now! LOL Back to waiting and checking. 🙂 But believe me…these books are worth the wait.
Now I know one writer in the discussion I linked to above said paranormal romances aren’t horror, but my opinion differs from his apparently. He said “What isn’t horror is paranormal romance. That is just taking vampires as a sexual metaphor and making it more obvious by entwining it with a romance plot and genre-style.” Uh, hello…sparkly vampires isn’t all that paranormal entails. Of course there are books that are paranormal that are not horror. But there are some where the two mix.
Quite well if the authors are Aiden James and Karina Halle. When I think of Karina’s books I think horror, paranormal and romance. And it’s all edgy. Very. Aiden also entwines elements from all three, mostly big doses of horror and paranormal with romance of varying degrees sometimes.
I obviously really love the writings by these two authors of horror and highly recommend them. And if you’re wondering, all the books I’ve mentioned are stand alone books. You don’t have to read one to like the other. However, I think you’ll enjoy them more if you read them in order. I always find it fascinating to watch the character growth in a series.
What about you? How do you define horror? Do you like the gore? Any horror authors you’d recommend?