A big thanks to Peter and the others who have let me paint their pages red.
On Pushing Boundaries by Lee Thompson-
I wasn’t a life-long horror fan like a lot of writers so I didn’t come into the genre looking to pay tribute to the masters (other than Poe I didn’t even know who the masters were!) and I haven’t approached writing horror with a sub-genre in mind. Those things might help me, or hurt me, or both at times. I really don’t know much about vampires, werewolves, zombies, or the like. But I am attracted to building new horrors from horrors that exist in the heart. Since my early roots aren’t in books, but in real life, I feel lost when other writers reference dialogue I feel I should know if I’m going to be labeled a Horror writer. But really, I just want to write great stories that disturb readers on a subconscious level, that holds a mirror up to who and what we are because we’re all heroes and villains at different points in our lives. We all have choices, words, and actions haunting us. And sometimes there’s not a resolution or closure because life isn’t tidy and clear cut like fiction.
Even though I’m still missing out on many parts of Horror’s rich history (though I intend to read it all in time), I believe that it’s also a blessing because I started writing a bit different than a lot of horror writers. Working slush for Horror Library volume 4 I got to see the same stories over and over, and a lot of lazy writing, and it was so refreshing to come across the diamonds in the rough. I don’t think every idea is worth writing. Maybe one out of ten, if that. Yet many story ideas are churned out (and a lot of them published) because some readers connect so deeply with this trope or that. And hell, it’s just great that they’re reading whether I want to write those kinds of stories or not. I think pushing the human beast and seeking out the magic in our hearts has a lot of potential. Not just stereotypical serial killer stories where we know what’s going to happen, but how the daily pressures of life, work, family, and raised and dropped hopes wear away the illusion we’re trying to create for ourselves in this reality.
I think if you’re going to live, you should do so bravely. Stretch your imagination. Try new things. Fear really is our greatest enemy. We fear we won’t find that special someone; we fear that the one we’re with isn’t who they pretended to be when we fell in love with them; we fear technology even as we wire it to our hearts and minds; we fear downsizing; we fear being a number; we fear cancer and miscarriages and divorces; we fear never being good enough; we fear being hacks; we fear other people’s opinions; we fear looking like a fool; we fear water, spiders, closed spaces, heights; we fear time’s constant rush forward, we fear life and death; we fear wasting our time; we fear not paying our bills on time, again; we fear, we fear, we fear.
I think to live a full life, to grasp any happiness at all, it’s all leveraged by our attitude and perspective. Thousands upon thousands talk about what they want but never take more than the first steps to achieve it because their attitude (whether pride, or know-it-all, or cowardice) stops them before they even get started. Really, we’re not promised anything in this life. We’re fortunate to have people who care about us, skills we can develop, our unique blends of past experiences that shape who we are, and the ability to decide how we’ll act and react to any given event.
If we want to push boundaries, to create work that is somewhat new and fresh, we have to make fear fear us. No easy feat. And it’s not for everyone. But if you have a bit of the pioneer trapped in your bones, go for it. I challenge writers to write something that pushes their own boundaries, and readers to find something that does the same. Then point me in that direction because I want to read ‘em!
In NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN (Delirium Books, May 2011) my characters refuse to stay in the box other people try to stuff them in, even though in the beginning John McDonnell’s initial turmoil pre-story is self-imposed. They have to struggle with boundaries internal and external—moral duties, and the like. They have to face the past, embrace the present and fight for the future. They have to overcome fears of failure, death, and their personal faiths, to live and move forward while trying to limit the destruction. They stretch boundaries and find ways to make things work for them.