The current hot topic amongst my network of horror writing friends is the difference between the writer and his or her work, and how some people have trouble making the distinction.
One writer bemoaned the fact that, although he is in person a pleasant and laid-back fellow, his ‘extreme’ writing sees him ostracised from some circles. Another recently took offense (and rightly so) because someone assumed that, as a horror writer, his parenting skills must therefore be lacking. Autumn Christian talks about the dissonance between who she appears to be and what she writes about in her recent guest post, “Some difficulties in being a female horror writer”.
I see it as being an occupational hazard; it’s a bit like being an actor and having people frequently confuse you with the characters that you play. If you’re a superstar like Stephen King, you can (or more likely have to) just roll with it, have a little fun with it, even. Live in some gothic-looking mansion with bats and spider webs all over your front gate and take cameo roles in TV shows as the creepy guy whose job it is to ‘disappear’ dead bodies.
For the rest of us, it’s not so simple. I’d particularly like to invite my friends who are erotica writers into this discussion, because I suspect they have it even worse than the horror writers. All the erotica writers I know write under pseudonyms. One of them, when she set up her erotica blog, asked me, please, please, PLEASE don’t ‘out ‘her real name, because she didn’t want the people in her town to find out (don’t worry, your secret is safe with me). Sex and death, the bookends of life, the two biggest human taboos. Because isn’t that what horror writing is really all about, death and our response to its inevitability?
The thing is, dear readers, that writers are no more or less weird than the rest of the world, regardless of what Chuck Wendig says. And we don’t live out the fictions we commit to the page. Not all erotica writers spend their leisure time chained to the walls of a BDSM dungeon, participating in orgies or playing Adult Musical Chairs. Some might, but not all. Horror writers are not all itching to take to you with a blunt chainsaw and a flamethrower (some might, but not all…).
In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret; most of us are big wusses, and are still afraid of the monster under the bed (it’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real…). That’s the real reason why we write horror; not to revel in it or glorify it, but as a way to cope with our deep-seated terrors.
So next time someone says, “I’m a horror writer,” don’t sidle away. Don’t shun him or her. What they really need is, not your distrust and condemnation, but a nice cup of tea and a hug.