Yesterday evening, Pan Macmillan hosted An Evening of Spirits, to introduce people to an unholy trinity of frighteningly good horror writers. It was an evening of books and ‘boos’ (geddit?!) and a fine old spooky time was had by all. The authors themselves were Adam Nevill (House of Small Shadows, October 2013), Seth Patrick (Reviver; June 2013) and F. R. Tallis (The Sleep Room; July 2013) and their books are truly fabulous creations. We’ve some great photos of the event itself below and we are giving away a horror goodie bag of book proofs on our facebook page today, so go there for details.
On a sombre note, the evening was introduced by our Head of Fiction Jeremy Trevathan, who spoke of the legacy James Herbert has left behind, saying 'he was a true stalwart of the genre and hugely encouraging to new talent', We’ve seen some wonderful tributes in the last few days, including in the BBC and Telegraph. But Jeremy said for him it was perhaps encapsulated best by something he saw on twitter, by author William Hussey: 'The Fog has dispersed, the lights in the Magic Cottage have dimmed, Crickley Hall stands silent.'
Horror is a genre with a rich history and our authors have all been influenced by those who have come before. To try and understand a bit more about what makes this area so very exciting, and to find out who has helped Adam, Seth and Frank along this road, we asked them why exactly they write horror. They’ve each given an insight into this below and it’s a fascinating insight into their imaginative, stimulating and chilling worlds...
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Adam Nevill on horror ...
When I was as a boy, my Dad read classic ghosts stories to me and my brother; stories by M R James and many others from the canon of great horror fiction and I was captivated by the supernatural. These stories made the biggest impact on my young imaginative life. Ever since, the strangeness, the mystery and mysticism, the eldritch lore, the sense of brushing against something vast and inexplicable in good horror fiction has always rung my bell as a reader. And that weird quality I wanted to recreate in my own stories as I grew older.
The compulsion to do so has never left me (in horror terms: it grows stronger and won’t release me). When I look at the world in my own time, and the nature of our species throughout history, I want to reflect upon these things and recreate them in their horror. And when I do write, I often wonder why every writer isn’t writing horror. Because existence is horror, more for some than for others. But for all of us, life will be horror at one time or another, often at life’s end. Wonder is also a part of existence and, as Lovecraft wrote, the best horror incorporates wonder and awe. Horror or terror in fiction should be one of the most powerful human experiences rendered imaginatively, and a great reminder of what it is to be alive … and even dead ... as well as the most effective reminder of how cosmically insignificant we are.
Seth Patrick on horror ...
Ah, horror. One thing people underestimate about horror is its breadth. From the deep unease of M. R. James to the Grand Guignol of Clive Barker, horror can be brutal or genteel, Satanic or technological; anywhere from a whisper to a scream. All tastes are catered for. You don’t think you like horror? You just haven’t found the right mix.
Horror is at the heart of being human. When people gathered around a fire forty thousand years ago, I can guarantee their storytellers didn’t explore the fine points of language, or the angst of middle age. They spoke of the creatures that came from the dark; they spoke of pain and fear. But here’s something else I guarantee: they did it with humour, with thrills, with shocks. With a pinch of romance and a dash of the supernatural. Even now, our existence is only a wrong-turn away from genuine horrors that, fascinated as we are, we can’t bear to discuss. Horror is our way of peering close at the rotting corpse we’ll all become, and then closing the book, finding ourselves a little more grateful than before.
In the end, though, the appeal of good horror is a simple one: it guarantees an eventful read. And at its best, it provides moments that will forever lurk in your thoughts. The strange thing is how much fun it can be to write horror. A dark kind of fun: a sense of mischief and a hope that, just maybe, you can capture such a moment. A moment that seizes your heart and makes you know – just for a time – that something is very, very wrong.
F. R. Tallis on horror ...
Why do I write horror? I could give a number of superficial reasons, but that wouldn’t be very interesting. I practised as a clinical psychologist for twenty years and know that the really important determinants of behaviour are usually buried deep in the mind. So, in order to answer why I write horror, I’ll have to climb on the couch and free associate back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by anything weird or supernatural. And I suppose I’ve always had a perverse interest in anything morbid. It’s difficult to trace all this to a common point of origin, although, when I was very young -- about five or six maybe -- my grandfather died and his open coffin was placed in the lounge for a few days. The mirrors were covered in purple drapes and I can recall being carried into the room by my father and finding the whole experience very powerful. It was fantastically Gothic and even though I was a child, exposure to a dead relative (somebody I’d only been chatting to a week earlier) got me thinking. Is there a God? Is there life after death? And so on.
In a sense, this memory goes right to the heart of why I love reading and writing horror. As a genre, it has always been prepared to grapple with the ultimates of existence. Horror entertains, but its subject matter – never far removed from the graveyard - frequently provokes meaningful reflection. OK, I’ll get off the couch now. So, is that really why I write horror, because I had an early preview of oblivion? Maybe ... or the explanation might be far, far simpler. In the immortal words of Sir Michael Jagger, ‘It’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it’.
Sometimes, even psychologists are forced to concede that not everything merits psychoanalysis. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
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Some interesting thoughts on the whole area and what motivates these writers. And here's some more photos of the event itself: