I’ve recently decided to switch genres with my writing. Or rather to modify one of the genres I’ve written in before – which is horror fiction. In the future, I’m going to concentrate on Young Adult – Horror (YA Horror).
There are a couple reasons for this, which I’d like to get into. First of all, for readers who have been with me for some time, you’ve been used to my interest in literary fiction. I’m not necessarily abandoning litfic altogether since one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, made a career out of driving academics batshit with stories that aren’t entirely horror but simultaneously touch on elements of non-genre fiction – personal development, coming-of-age and sociology.
I’d like to think and hope that as I write my stories, the same qualities that have made literary fiction important to me over the years will continue to bubble to the surface. After all, I’ve written literary fiction for a reason – I love more thoughtful fiction. And it’s not as though I can simply turn off the motives that have driven me to write for many years. I won’t event attempt to try.
And it’s also not as though horror fiction is completely foreign to me. I have written a horror novella, The Curse of Jaxx, which has been published for the last several years. That story was dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft, another one of my favorite horror novelists from the early 20th century. I’ve blogged about Lovecraft–H.P. Lovecraft and the Curse of Jaxx–and I’ve also taken a stab at answering the question about why families don’t turn out too well in horror films.
So the question remains then – why switch? Why not keep going as I have?
The reason is very simple – market dynamics.
Meaning that the Amazon bookstore is absolutely flooded with literary fiction and writing a novel that will find itself into the hands of enough interested readers can become increasingly unlikely. “Enough” means that I DO want readers to find my stories and have the chance to enjoy them. I’m not some martyr expecting to write incredibly obscure stories and then wring my hands because no one can appreciate what I’m doing. Nah, I gave up that drama back in my 20s.
What has also made young adult horror increasingly interesting to me is the fact that I have a 10-year-old son and, as I watch him mature, I am exposed to the doubts and fears he carries around with him. He’s observed that his bedroom is closer to the front door than mine, so if someone bad were to break in….
But this, I’m finding, is how 10 year-olds can think. And when he feels bad about something, like a missed assignment, he can turn inward with it and lose self-confidence.
Most, if not all horror, is based on fear – fear of monsters, which are really fears of what we don’t understand. Horror is one of my favorite genres because it taps deep into the heart of humanity. And the kinds of emotions that can lead to bad behaviors – reproach, anger, bitterness and jealousy – can also be the basis of horror fiction.
As my son grows up, I’m finding that I can better understand his psychology. It becomes relatable as I have my own fears. And my own embrace of literary fiction, which stems no doubt from those long-ago days when I expected to become an English professor, slips somewhat as I find myself more and more absorbed with the life and development of my son–the concerns of a father, in other words.
I still have to determine what constitutes adult horror from YA horror though what I’ve come across so far, which makes a lot of sense, simply says it depends on the amount of graphic violence in the story. Too much of that, and the YA horror genre inevitably becomes horror fiction for adults.
But like I said, I don’t expect my writing to change all that much. I’ll eventually have to contend with my son’s continuing evolution as a human being, including all the things he may be afraid of as a young person as the dawning world opens before him. And that’s complex stuff. It’s not simply ghosts and vampires running around, scaring the hell out of us all. We scare each other when we demonstrate just how much depravity exists in the world of human beings. With neighbors like this, who NEEDS monsters? We’ve already got them.
I’ll be around soon, again, with a short clip from my first novel as a YA horror novel. I have some ideas but still need to work on an outline. This change is fun, yes. But I know it will also require quite a bit of hard work.