Call me a nerd, but I always enjoyed the feelings associated with “Back to School.” Don’t get me wrong; summer is my favorite season, and I love the freedom of endless days, but there was always something thrilling about fresh pens and pencils, fresh notebooks, and endless books to read. The fall leaves in the air and the dwindling daylight are all reminders to me of the comforts of curling up and reading.
I especially enjoy the month of October. It seems everyone is looking for spooky reads to celebrate Halloween. Prestwick House, a publisher whose mailing list I am apparently subscribed to, sent out a recent blog post entitled “Top Literary Horror Titles.” Among them are Dracula, MacBeth, and Coraline. I’ll admit that these works were all important inspirations to me in fueling the darker side of my works. From Dracula, I take the symbolism of decadence and morality linked to vampires, which bleeds into our modern horror films. What I love about MacBeth is its ambiguity. Did the title character doom himself, or were the witches actually an external force intent upon sending him to his destruction. Like Oedipus (a play that did not make Prestwick’s list), the reader is left to wonder whether we bring our own destruction? In some ways, humans being responsible for their own downfall is far more frightening than the most powerful monster. And what I’ll always remember about Coraline is the possibility that we have doppelgangers out there. Have you ever sat down with someone and wondered if they were truly themselves? Have you ever wondered if you were truly yourself? Something that mixes the very familiar and the very foreign seems startling.
I decided to search to see what other “literary horror” lists are out there. I came upon The Literary’s Hub’s “10 Works of Literary Horror You Should Read.” I have read many fewer of these titles, and I look forward to doing so, especially Victor LaValle’s novel The Changeling. (I was glad to see that Morrison’s Beloved made this list: it’s definitely as literary as it is haunting.) I was intrigued by another work I haven’t read, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. According to Literary Hub, the novel makes the reader feel claustrophobic along with the characters inside the house. I look forward to experiencing that, and the literary craft that makes it possible.
And of course, I wanted to end by mentioning my spooky works. The Halloween volume of my Corgi Capers series follows fifth grader Adam as he works to determine whether his neighbor is a witch. This is inspired by my thoughts as a kid, when I was terrified of my very kind neighbor because I seriously imagined her casting spells and separating me from my parents. The attempted kidnapping in the novel was also inspired by my real-life experiences!
My adult horror novel Faulkner’s Apprentice was based on a dream I had in which a “bad man” forced his way into a house I inhabited. Despite pressing all my body weight against the front door, he forced his way in, and I felt truly powerless. It was that feeling of powerlessness that inspired the novel. Lorelei finds herself fighting to keep control of her life. The novel explores a similar question to that posed in MacBeth and Oedipus Rex. Do we have control of our own fates, or are there forces working against us?
My newest “spooky tale” is called The Man with the Crystal Ankh. It’s about a high school student who finds herself being followed by an unseen presence. She is a violinist, and when she enters the trance-like state of a musician completely captivated by her music, she is able to see and communicate with that which follows her. To be honest, this was inspired by my love of the violin and a rather scarring violin lesson in which my instructor’s dry and cracked hand literally left a drop of blood on the neck of my violin. I couldn’t shake that image and wondered if my instrument was someone imbued with a sense of “blood power.” The idea emerged as a novel in which I also add a bit of colonial history–a bit of that witchcraft hysteria and obsession with “the invisible world.”
I love promoting books, so if you have a spooky read to recommend, please leave a comment, including the title of the book and why you enjoyed it. I also love to help other authors promote their works. If you have a story (spooky or otherwise) you’d like to share, perhaps you’d like to be featured in my Writer Wednesday post. Send me an email!
Happy Haunting, and Happy Reading!