Saturday 5 August 2023

Ginger Nuts of Horror: Horror of Humanity feature: Why Horror by Miranda Kate Boers


A couple of years ago, in 2020, I wrote a feature article for Ginger Nuts of Horror, a horror review and discussion website, and for some strange reason I didn't share it on my blog. And now, as the hosting site for Ginger Nuts had problems, they had to move their website, and my article is no longer readily available - at this point I haven't been able to find it in the archives. So I decided to republish the article here on my blog. 

It was part of a feature they were running about horror and mental health, and as I have now published my first self-help book, I am often asked how a horror writer and this article covers that.

What drew me to horror, first as a reader and then as a writer.

I still remember being out on the sports fields at school and classmates surreptitiously passing around a worn paperback urging me to look at a certain page number. To this day I still remember the line: ‘putting his member into her like stuffing dough into a purse’ – or something along those lines. It’s from The Dark by James Herbert if I remember correctly, and there was something repugnant yet compelling about it that made me want to read more, so I did, I read lots more – especially of Herbert’s books. And not just for dark, crudely described sex scenes, but for the dark sinister feel and the brutality of the horror – a brutality which had overlapped into my life since I was born, being a child of domestic violence and having been on the receiving end both verbally and physically as a teenager.

I moved on from James Herbert, lapping up the likes of Guy N Smith and his books Deathbell and Satan’s Snowdrop, and then I discovered Stephen King – Firestarter being my first. I became one of his Constant Readers. And then Clive Barker came to my attention, and he encapsulated both horror and a surreal fantasy that was so extreme it was difficult to explain to people who have never read his work. I could only describe it as being so far beyond fantasy it was ‘the fantastic’; his use of crude, harsh, blunt words giving it a harder edge than a lot of books in the same genre, placing it in darker realms. But I loved it and consumed as much of it as I could find, and for me personally it was the ultimate in escapism, feeding the fantasies I used to disassociate from my real world.

I also reached a point that I was so used to reading this type of horror that it was hard for me to gauge how dark it was: I remember recommending Weaveworld to a friend, only thinking about the fantasy side, and they struggled with it. I did the same with Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz, when suggesting it to my book club.

It’s led me to ponder many times why I was so unaffected by it where others weren’t, and I knew it was reflective of my childhood. I had witnessed and experienced such real, tangible horrors that fictional tales like these didn’t affect me negatively, in fact they helped me escape and see that it was possible that things could be worse. I could relate to the fear and the suspense of uncertainty in a much more visceral way, whereas happy-go-lucky chick-lit or romance novels, where people’s struggles were minor in comparison, just didn’t cut it for me.  

Despite their darkness, many horror books have a baseline of good triumphs over evil – and I needed to know that, I needed to believe it could get better and that there were people out there that got away or recovered.

The fallout of experiencing the kind of abuse and trauma I did as a child is that it has repercussions as you grow up and try and hold down relationships and jobs. I suffer from Complex PTSD, which shows up in lots of forms from anxiety and depression to suicidal ideation, and is caused by prolonged and repetitive abuse over many years. It also means I would disconnect from life around me and live in a fantasy in my mind, a form of dissociative behaviour that has caused me to struggle a lot, and which is what led to me moving from reading to writing my own horror.

I started with flash fiction, which enabled me to express emotions – emotions that I hadn’t been allowed as a child – through characters and situations. I could express their hurt and I could express their anger, I could explore what was going on. It was a release, and in sharing them I was also able to open a dialogue about them – a much needed dialogue.

The opening to my debut novel in September 2019 was written in 1991 as a mere snippet for a competition to win a copy of James Herbert’s Portent, but I knew then I wanted it to be bigger, that I wanted to express to the world what would drive a woman to murder, how that was possible, how a person’s mind can be broken. But I wasn’t ready at that time to write it and I knew that. I needed to unravel myself and gain some life experience, and after years in therapy I was able to finally write about that character’s break from reality and her recovery – all be it in prison. I wanted the audience to feel sympathy for her, to understand her, and realise that life is not black and white, it’s a whole world of grey and that mental health is a fragile thing and if people aren’t paying attention things can go array.

As a reader I want to be able to relate, to engage to connect in a way I struggle to in real life, and for me that connection has to be with characters and storylines that aren’t straight forward or ‘normal’, that are off kilter and warped in some way, because that is how I feel in myself. They add depth and give me a sense of belonging, and as someone who has suffered a whole half century on this planet without one that is paramount. I might go and visit other genres to read and write, but horror will always be my true home. 

No comments :

Post a Comment