Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alexander Gordon Smith to Red House Books.
Gordon, as he is known socially, is the author of the Escape from Furnace series. The first two books, Lockdown and Solitary have be released in the US and they are awesome!
Horror and Me
I love horror. It’s my absolute favourite genre. I think it always has been, even though my experiences with it haven’t always been good ones! I love horror because of the thrills, the unnerving, unsettling unexpectedness of it. And I love to be scared, the incredible feeling that everything you thought was real might suddenly turn out to be wrong, that the fabric of the universe might peel away to reveal something else, something terrifying beyond. There really is nothing like it.
I think maybe the main reason I love horror, especially as a writer, is that it’s the only genre where absolutely anything can happen. There are no rules. With, say, science fiction you have to stick to whatever science you’re using, even with fantasy you need to adhere to the world you’ve created. But in horror, there are no limits on what can happen. The laws of physics, psychology, biology, religion – everything – can fall apart without warning, plunging you into the abyss. There are countless different kinds of horror, but they all have this in common: they are rule-breakers, they make a mockery of everything we take for granted.
I didn’t know this when I first started writing – I was only six or seven – but part of me must have been fascinated by horror, by the unknown, because my very first book was a collection of monsters. They were just doodles accompanied by names – creatures such as the Ploop and the, er, Poo – and they all had smiley faces rather than scary ones. All the same, I remember showing the book to my mum and dad hoping they’d be at least a little bit scared – and being very disappointed when their only reaction was along the lines of ‘aw, aren’t they cute!’
My first experience of genuine horror almost put me off the genre for life! When I was about the same age, I used to go and visit my gran up in Scotland. I must have told her that I loved horror – by which I meant my little book of monsters and, well, Scooby-Doo. My gran worked in a newsagent’s that also rented videos, and one day, thinking she was getting me a real treat, she brought home a stack of R-rated slasher movies. I don’t remember the titles, but I do remember sitting in her living room, wide-eyed, watching chainsaws and zombies and cannibals and lots and lots and lots of blood. I didn’t have the courage to tell her I was petrified, and every time I tried to look away she’d say something like ‘oh look at that, Gordon, it’s sucking his eyeballs out!’
For a while after that I didn’t go anywhere near horror. I couldn’t even watch Scooby-Doo. But in the long run I think that experience desensitized me to the genre, because by the time I hit my teens I was once again addicted to it. I would read Stephen King almost religiously, I devoured the works of the masters – Stoker, Shelley, Lovecraft, Poe, M. R. James, Blackwood and loads more. I started to write stories of my own. They were silly, and not very good, but my friends would ask me to make up tales of their own grisly deaths. I even got into trouble by writing a story in English about a serial killer who murdered all my teachers – apart from my English teacher, of course, who was wonderful!
When I was twelve, I wanted to become the Ernest Hemingway of horror. I wanted to investigate haunted houses and genuine paranormal events then write novels about them. This ambition didn’t last. One night in summer I managed to convince my best friend – whose name shall remain anonymous for reasons that will soon become apparent – to sneak out after dark to a nearby house. It had been abandoned for years, and everybody said it was haunted by the woman who once lived there. We climbed in through a broken window armed with torches and coffee, thinking that we were the coolest paranormal investigators ever. We set off into the winding corridors, and after about five minutes we had both wound each other up so much in the creeping shadows that we were almost paralyzed with fear. We bolted for the exit, and I was so scared that I had to keep stopping to throw up all the way back to the main road. I thought my friend had escaped with a little more dignity… until I saw that he had wet himself! It was a disaster, and needless to say my dreams of being the Hemingway of Horror died there.
I continued to write, though, and when I was seventeen I began my first real horror novel. It was called Asylum, and was actually set in a prison called Furnace – although the plot was very different to the Escape From Furnace series. I absolutely loved writing it, the freedom that the genre gave me to let absolutely anything happen. In fact, I loved writing it so much that I failed my A-Levels (our main high school exams), because I just assumed I was going to be the next Stephen King. I sent the finished manuscript out to about five different publishers, all of whom rejected it. One even told me that I should seek help because of my disturbed mind!
Despite this hitch, I never really stopped writing horror. And I hope I never do. Horror is terrifying, yes, it makes us hide behind the sofa, or cower under the duvet, but it also allows our imaginations to soar, it pushes back the walls of reality and lets us believe that anything is possible. Horror scares us, but it frees us too. That’s why I love it.
Like what Gordon has to say about his take on horror? I sure did! Thanks Gordon!
CLICK HERE for a chance to win copies of both Lockdown and Solitary.
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