Oh the Horror!

posted in: Book Reviews, Books | 41

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.

The always entertaining, Catie Rhodes also mentioned Cades Cove on her blog a while back  and she did a fantastic interview with Aiden James just recently.

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?


Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

41 Responses

  1. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    Thanks so much for the book suggestions. I haven’t read Stephen King or Dean Koontz in years and now I want to read some of these books based on your reviews. I don’t like body parts all over the place in movies or books because it just doesn’t scare me at all. It’s that “jump off the chair” type of fear I’m looking for and it seems I now have some titles!
    Thank you.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Patti! I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Gregory Carrico

    Whispers was one of my early Koontz fav’s, too. Being an identical twin, it really creeped me out. And the scene at the end… Darn it! I have goose bumps thinking about it 20+ years later!
    Horror, to me, is a one trick pony. It is there to scare me. Slashers and thugs with guns don’t scare me, either. I want to read something that makes me think; something that makes me wonder how and why, while simultaneously making me afraid to learn the answers.
    I just downloaded Dark House, and will go get Cades Cove shortly. Thanks for the post, and the recommendations!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I’ll bet being an identical twin would make Whispers even spookier, Greg. That book can still make me shiver just by thinking about it as well. “…something that makes me wonder how and why, while simultaneously making me afraid to learn the answers.” Great way to put it! I hope you like these authors as much as I do. Be sure and let me know what you think.

      And for anyone reading these comments — go pick up Greg’s book, APOCALYPSTICK. It’s on sale through the 25th (that’s today!) for only 99 CENTS. It contains two short stories: Finding home is an eerie supernatural horror, and the other, Killing Tiffany Hudson is a post-apocalytic tale. Greg is working on a sequel for the latter which will be out soon. These are both very different but creepy good. I loved both of them. 🙂 http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypstick-ebook/dp/B006UKFHHK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337922178&sr=1-1

      Thanks for stopping by Greg!

  3. Natalie G. Owens

    Wow amazing tribute to the genre, Rhonda. I need to check out these two books – not sure why I haven’t already. I am familiar with Aiden. And I already have Apocalypstick on my Kindle. :).

  4. Catie Rhodes

    Thanks for the mention! I downloaded Darkhouse, and I can’t wait to get started on it.

    When I write horror (quite poorly, I’ll admit) I try to think of things that creep me out. My worst fear is prison. Being locked away with so many sociopaths is a terrible thought. My other fear is falling victim to a nutjob. When I stop at rest stops–especially traveling alone–my imagination often gets the best of me.

    One horror author I find interesting is Richard Laymon. You don’t see people mention him a whole lot, but he defined a particular genre of horror. It plays on the idea of being vulnerable and falling victim to an unstoppable evil. Now, I’ll be the first to say Laymon is not for everybody. He explores something that makes many people uncomfortable.

    Great post, Rhonda.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks, Catie! I sincerely doubt you write anything poorly. Your blog is amazing. I’ll bet your fictional stuff is extremely creepy and I can’t wait to read it! I think we were separated at birth. My imagination often gets the best of me at those rest stops, etc. I can scare myself silly. LOL

      I don’t think I’ve read Laymon yet, but I’ll check him out. Thanks for the recommendation. Hope you have a great weekend!

  5. Stacey Joy Netzel

    I am not a fan of horror–books or movies, but I respect those that love it. For me, blood and gore are not scary, but the few movies that do scare me are the ones that focus on what you *can’t* see, versus what they show. Though mostly, I laugh my way through what are supposed to be scary movies and my family all gets mad at me, so it’s best for me to just stick to my rom-com’s. 🙂

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      LOL I laugh at some of them too, Stacey. I like the psychological, slow build up as well. Makes things more intense. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Let me know what you think, Stacey. The Experiment in Terror series has a great romance line. Sometimes I just want to smack Dex though. LOL And there is some humor as well. I love Perry’s character. I can see myself thinking some of her thoughts. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  6. Mitzi Flyte

    I love horror but not if it’s all slash and gore. I like the suspense building, like in Jaws…a horror from real life or the Haunting of Hill House. I also like subtle horror: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a favorite.
    A friend just recommended one of Koontz’s books, Odd Thomas. I will have to check that out.
    I’ve been a Stephen King fan since he scared me with ‘Salem’s Lot. I carried The Stand around with me, telling people they had to read it. Recently I did that with his 11/22/63 A Novel. He brought that time period back to life for me.
    More recently I read the indie pubbed book The Widowmaker about a murderous movie – very good.
    I write horror and have had a couple of stories published. Right now I’m working on a collection of my own horror stories.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Mitzi! I love Odd Thomas. He’s such a great character. I read the Widowmaker and enjoyed it. I even found it pretty humorous at times. Feel free to leave a link to your pubbed books if you’d like. I’m looking forward to reading them. 🙂

  7. Alicia Street

    Wow, Rhonda! Thanks for the recommendations. They sound great. I don’t like reading blood and gore unless it is meant tongue-in-cheek and then I don’t have to believe it – like in the action-comedy style. But I agree that true horror comes from anticipation, not action.

  8. Pamela Turner

    While I prefer my horror to be more psychological and of the “lingering” kind, I can and do write some violence. (Depends on if it’s necessary for the plot.) I was also one of the writers on the above mentioned roundtable, re: Sean’s blog. 🙂

    Timely post, btw. 🙂 Just signed the agreement for one of my short horror stories to appear in an online anthology. Another short vampire horror story appears in an earlier digital anthology and a third one is in the works. I enjoy writing horror, of taking people on that journey to the dark side of human nature.

    One of my favorite horror tales is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, also well known for “The Lottery.” Like many, I started out reading King, Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, etc. Shows like Night Gallery, Thriller, and Twilight Zone were also a big influence. Another favorite horror writer is Algernon Blackwood.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks for stopping by, Pamela! I loved what you said, “it’s this idea of confronting the dark aspect of our natures. To paraphrase Nietzsche’s quote, how long can we look into the abyss? There’s also a kind of catharsis that comes from being scared, pushed out of our comfort zone. It’s like ‘Okay, I’ve faced this fear, now I can face another one.'” I feel the same way. Whenever I read or watch something terrifying, I feel exhausted afterward, but also like I have this release, if that makes sense.

      Congrats on the anthology! I don’t mind the violence; it just needs to be necessary and not the only point. All those shows were staples for me as a kid as well. 🙂 And I still need to read The Haunting of Hill House. I can’t believe I haven’t already.

      Feel free to post links to some of your work here if you’d like. Have a great weekend!

  9. Gerri Bowen

    I don’t like gore, nor the death of children or animals in the story. I like to be scared.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Me too, Gerri. Killing off kids and animals is a real downer. I don’t care for those either. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. K R Morrison

    Horror is best written with the extraneous left out. I’ve never thought that what a character was wearing had much to do with the plot or the action. My writing is very Hitchcock–I let the reader’s imagination scare him or her into a quivering mess. Blood and guts just takes away from the fright and sends me more into Yuckzone. I lose the momentum.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I agree, K R. I’d much rather my imagination be put to use. I typically skip over some of those long descriptions. Hitchcock is definitely the master. You’re more than welcome to post a link to your work, if you’d like. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  11. PJ Sharon

    I learn new things about you all the time, Rhonda. I used to be a horror reader when I was in my teens, but life gave me enough nightmares that I didn’t have to have the image of blade-wielding sociopaths cutting young women to pieces in my head. LOL. Basically, I’m too sensitive to take that kind of assault on my senses. I’ve never been able to look at Jack Nicholson the same after THE SHINING. The book kept me awake for weeks, as did movies and books like SALEM’S LOT, DELORIS CLAYBORNE,THINNER, AND SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. My first nightmare inducing movie was THE BIRDS. Anything Hitchcock has a great creep factor. He knew how to create suspense, which is the keystone of good horror, IMO.

    Awesome post, my friend!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Paula! I luv all of those! 🙂 It’s definitely not for everyone. But, some of my earliest memories are sitting on the sofa with my grandmother, eating popcorn and watching scary movies. I have her to thank for my love of the genre. I hope you have a great weekend!

  12. Jennette Marie Powell

    Whispers was the first Koontz book I read, too! Although I think his scariest was Midnight. Good thing the Internet wasn’t around (for most of us) at the time, or I might have been afraid to log on! I find psychological horror – the horrible things humans can do to each other – much scarier than gore. And gratuitous gore is just as bad as gratuitous sex. I haven’t read horror in a while, but I just might have to give Cades Cove a look – simply because I love the locale, and can certainly see how it could be creepy!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Oh yeah — Midnight was scary! I really enjoy the psychological horror the best. If you try Cades Cove, let me know what you think. I really really liked it. I read it months ago and it’s still with me. Thanks for stopping by Jennette!

  13. corajramos

    I started out reading Tales of the Crypt comic books and was addicted to early horror movies. I don’t read too much horror anymore, most that I’ve read have been too gore oriented, but I might try some of your suggestions. They sound very interesting. And thanks for mention of the Horror if It All blog post–very exciting and informative.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      You’re welcome, Cora. I found the other post very enlightening. If you do read some of the others I hope you’ll let me know what you thought. I’m always anxious to know whether my recommendations were on the mark. Have a great weekend!

  14. Nicole Graysen

    I love the old Alfred Hitchcock movies because they held you by suspense and tension. I don’t watch a lot of horror these days because they go for gore and special effects. They’ve lost the suspense.

    I haven’t really read much horror since gorging myself on Dean Koontz. I read 20 of his books in a row my first year of college. I kinda burned out. My all time favorite horror author is Brian Lumley. The man knows how to frighten you with words.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I love Alfred Hitchcock for that very reason. I don’t think I’ve read Lumley yet, I’ll have to check him out. I appreciate the recommendation, Nicole. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Cate Dean

    Great post, Rhonda! And thanks for the book recs. I downloaded Darkhouse, and am looking forward to it.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks, Cate! And you’re quite welcome. I hope you enjoy Darkhouse as much as I did. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  16. Dana Delamar

    Thanks for the recommendations, Rhonda! I was a huge Stephen King fan in my teens and 20’s. I still remember being so creeped out by the last few lines of Pet Sematary. I look forward to reading these!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      You’re welcome, Dana! I hope you enjoy them and I’d love to hear your opinion. I get creeped out still …after all these years…just thinking about Pet Sematary. Have a great weekend!

  17. Angela Wallace

    I read Three by Ted Dekker a while ago and it totally freaked me out. Though, I think it’s considered a thriller. What’s the difference?

    Anyway, I do not like being freaked out and scared. I think I’ve been living in the fight or flight response for too long because even action movies (my favorite) bother me on the big screen with surround sound.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      It’s definitely not for everyone, Angela. We’re just so lucky we have so many genres and books to choose from. When we need something uplifting there are spiritual books. Need a laugh? Try a romantic comedy. Need to feel young again, there’s always YA. I just love that we have so many choices. I haven’t read Three and will have to try it. House was a little spooky. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Julie Glover

    This post is fabulous, Rhonda! I long believed that horror meant slasher, gore, and 12 layers of ick — along with the scary stuff. Thus, I didn’t read it. However, Catie has given me a couple of recommendations, and I have to admit that my interest is piqued. I’ve always loved suspense and spooky. Hitchcock movies are some of my absolute favorite films. So I’m opening up to this genre more. I will be checking out Aiden James in particular. Thanks for the heads-up.

    And could you share a few of those severed-limb uses? Just in case we ever need them. 😉

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks, Julie! Hmmm…I think the severed limb uses might make for another blog post. I’ll give it some thought. Let me know what you think of Cades Cove. It really is one of my faves. 🙂