Like my wife, I’m sure you Hellions need a break from me from time to time. Put your hands together and give a warm welcome for author JG Faherty and by all means, pick up a copy of his latest book, Houses of the Unholy.
I thought long and hard about what to write for my guest post. And I decided rather than talk about what scares me, or why I wrote a certain book, or why does everyone love zombies (or vampires, or clown-faced killers), I would write about what I hope for from the things I write. Most horror writers will say they want to scare their readers, or entertain them, or perhaps maybe even make them think about this social or political issue. And that’s all true to a degree.
But for me, there’s something else.
What I like to write are stories that make you uncomfortable.
There are a lot of ways to do that. You can hit readers over the head with buckets of gore and you can sneak up behind them and give them a jump scare. Keep them at the edge of their seat with non-stop action or be so subtle they don’t even know they’re scared until later that night while they’re lying in bed with the lights off and still thinking about that certain scene in the story.
A lot of horror writers tend to stay within a specific sub-genre. Zombies. Splatter. Extreme. Weird. Vampires. Werewolves. Kaiju. Ghosts. Torture Porn. Suspense. You name it, there’s someone specializing in it. And that’s great. All of us have different tastes, and that shapes what we like to read and what writers like to write.
I’m a little different. I guess you could call me a throwback. I’ve never stayed within the lines of a certain sub-genre, or even a genre at all, unless you consider the broad descriptor of dark fiction. I primarily write horror, but sometimes it drifts into the areas of weird fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction. I’ve written about supernatural creatures, haunted houses, serial killers, and zombies.
As a child, I discovered horror by reading Poe, Shelley, and Stoker. But I also devoured The Hardy Boys, Jules Verne, HG Wells, and Ray Bradbury. I watched all the classic Universal monster movies but I also never missed the reruns of the sci-fi classics from the 1950s: Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, The Blob. As I got a little older, I learned many of the movies were made from books, so I read the books, too. In my teens, I discovered gore. Faces of Death, I Spit on Your Grave, Motel Hell, Evil Dead, and so many others. In college, I read every horror novel and short story anthology to hit the bookstores, from King and Koontz and Straub to Garton, Skipp, Spector, and McCammon. I went back and ‘discovered’ the authors I’d missed as a kid. Manly Wade Wellman, Karl Edward Wagner. And I also still read sci fi (Alan Dean Foster, James Bliss, Heinlein, etc.).
Over time, as a reader, I came to know what I liked and what I didn’t. When I got to my thirties, I no longer cared for splatter or torture porn. I preferred books that had complex plots, that ratcheted up the suspense chapter after chapter, that sent shivers up your spine because you didn’t know what was going to happen next.
And, when I started writing, I stayed true to that form.
It’s easy to go for the gross out, for the quick disembowelment, the body tossed in the wood chipper. Something like that might make you flinch, or gag. But for me, that kind of scene never stayed with you, and often it ended up more silly than scary.
I wanted to write things that make people keep the lights on at night, not laugh about how someone’s intestines got used to hang their mother.
So I’ve always stuck to the plan that I have no plan. If the story in my head calls for no blood, then there’s no blood. If it calls for buckets, then there are buckets. As long as it’s necessary for the plot. I veer away from the gratuitous, the unnecessary. When it comes to gore, a little can go a long way. I won’t skip on the zombie eating its victim’s organs, I just won’t spend 3 pages describing it. A few sentences ought to suffice, and then let the readers’ imaginations do the rest.
With all that in mind, when it came time to do my latest collection of short stories, Houses of the Unholy, I wanted it to run the gamut from violent to comic, from supernatural to all-too-real, and from straight horror to those places in between genres.
Most of my stories do tend to be ‘classic’ horror; there’s something supernatural, somewhere. It might be the major point of the story or a subplot, but it’s there. Beyond that, I like to think there’s something for everyone here, whatever you happen to enjoy.
I hope that, like the younger me, you’ll read broadly, and maybe discover something new. Something that sends a shiver up your spine and keeps you awake at night.
Something that disturbs your peace of mind.
A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award® (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 6 novels, 9 novellas, and more than 60 short stories. His latest collection, Houses of the Unholy, is available now, and it includes a new novella, December Soul. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 1950s, 60, 70s, and 80s, which explains a lot. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, http://www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, http://www.jgfaherty.com, and http://jgfaherty-blog.blogspot.com/