Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest Post: Author Charlie Higson

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Charlie Higson to Red House Books.
Charlie is the author of The Enemy series. Book 2, The Dead, releases today in the US. Thanks for visiting :)

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People often ask me why I write horrible stories in which children are terrified, chased around, killed and eaten. After all, my biggest fear, as a parent, is that some harm might come to one of my own kids. Well, maybe that’s the answer. In order to frighten others (the main, though not the sole, purpose of a horror story) we must write about what frightens us. I think novelists have always used their books not only to explore things they are interested in, but also to unload their own fears, neuroses and concerns; they play with their darkest thoughts and utilize their most unpleasant characteristics.

It must be said that children love horror, and the biggest consumers of horror movies are teenagers. I was a horror movie fiend when I was younger, but I’ve found, like many others, that my appetite for gory movies has diminished as I’ve grown older and the impactions of what we’re being shown on screen sink in. As an adult I am all too aware of (to borrow a film title) the consequences of violence. Kids just love horror movies for the gore and the gross out effects. It’s no surprise that the adjective ‘sick’ has now come to mean something especially good. Teenagers don’t realize the lifetime of fear and pain and guilt that real violence can cause, which is why they can so casually attack other teenagers for status. As an adult I increasingly question the use of killing and violence for entertainment, but it hasn’t stopped me writing these books. So I guess I’m a big fat hypocrite.

There are several reasons to write horror books, though. I am revisiting my teenage love of the genre. I am trying to show that violence and death are actually not very nice and, to be honest, I am also trying to keep my teenage boys happy. They are all massive horror fans. Actually that’s no strictly speaking true. My middle boy is a little bit more sensitive and gets freaked out. He hasn’t yet been able to read The Dead.

So we use horror to explore and confront our own fears, maybe it’s a fun and not too ‘on-the-nose’ way for young people to learn about death and disease and injury… to come to terms with their own fragile morality. Also, it must be said that all the best horror has an allegorical/satirical edge. George Romero’s zombie films became increasingly political, but what gives even his first film – Night Of The Living Dead (the first and the best of the cannibal zombie apocalypse movies, and the film that got me into zombies when I saw it as a teenager) – its bite is its strong element of satire. Something which is perhaps not unexpected in a movie that was originally made as a student film project in the radicalized late 60s. The film explores notions of racism, police brutality and government indifference. Zombies originally took hold in America as a twisted representation and critique of slavery, and since Romero re-invented them as flesh-eating cannibals they have been perfect metaphors for mindless consumerism.

So what do the adult zombies in my books represent? Well, just that… They represent adults. For a while now we have been brainwashed by the media into thinking that teenagers are a threat, that they are mindless, out of control, monsters who terrorize us poor adults. Come off it. As I say, I have three teenage boys of my own, and I see a great deal of them and their friends. Modern teenagers, in my view, are on the whole friendly, decent, open, sensitive and caring. It’s us adults who (as the title of the first book in my series suggests) are The Enemy. We’ve screwed things up for kids. Most problems in young people’s lives are our fault, and in writing these books I wanted to redress the balance a little. Oh, the kids in my books aren’t all precious little angels, and there are some pretty nasty cases, on the whole, though, they’re the ones who are trying to ape the old ways, to behave in the way they observed adults behaving in the past.

In future pieces for my blog tour I’ll be further exploring the theme of kids vs. adults in literature, so stick around and watch out for further details.

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Thanks again Charlie. If you haven't yet picked up The Enemy and The Dead, you should! For more information, visit Charlie's website.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, such an insightful guest post, Charlie. I haven't read The Enemy series yet, but you've made me want to check it out so I can see, firsthand, how you explore the horror genre and show how consequential actions can be.

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Thanks a bunch for visiting :)