Why Do I Write Horror?
By Paul Flewitt
Other than “where do you get your ideas from?” this is probably the most often asked question across interview blogs and magazine pieces across the genre world. There are many ways to answer the question of why I write, or have written horror, and it’s always tempting to write an essay rather than a punchy sentence or two by way of an answer. So it is great to actually spread my wings a little on this platform with Kendall Reviews and give a more in depth answer. You see, there are a lot of reasons for me stepping into the horror genre. Okay, I might well be dipping a toe more into fantasy in my work these days, but horror will always be my home and that is where my heart will always be.
So … shall we begin?
I have to go back to the mid-80’s and my early childhood. My uncle was still living at my grandmother’s house, and I would visit them every weekend. My cousins and I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s place, especially in the summer holidays. Back then, there was a thing called the Brittania Video and Music Club, which my uncle subscribed to. Each month, the Brittania would send a brochure through the mail, showing all the movies you could borrow or buy. My cousins and I would spend hours flipping through those brochures, checking out the covers for films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Flight of the Navigator and Back to the Future and hoping that my uncle would rent them all. At the back of the brochure were all the horror films; and I would find myself drawn to those covers; there was one in particular that I would search out. The picture was an angry looking bald dude with a mean sneer on his face … and with nails driven into his head. I was mesmerized by that image; in equal parts terrified and intrigued by him. That guy haunted my mind ever since, and I would wonder what the hell he was all about. Of course, my parents and my uncle told me that it wasn’t a movie for me and didn’t explain what he was all about, but it didn’t stop me from being intrigued and fascinated. He stayed with me into my teens, always at the back of my mind. That man was Pinhead, and the movie was Hellraiser. It was created by a man named Clive Barker … and we’ll come back to him a little later, I promise.
My father is a hobby writer, mostly writing poetry and short stories. As such, our house contained a lot of books and I was always encouraged to read voraciously. I think I was around eight years old when my father first thrust Lord of the Rings into my hands, and I was instantly transported into Middle Earth. It was through my father’s influence that I wrote my first poems and short stories too, and all of them had a darkly fantastic edge to them even then. I read a lot of children’s short story anthologies, and one of them was a horror collection. This is where I first came into contact with M.R. James and Phillip Pullman. Video Nasty is a story by Phillip Pullman, and one which I read and re-read as a kid. It centers around three teenagers who are into horror movies, and they come across a snuff film. Snuff films were big in the eighties, reputed to contain footage of real-life murders and these kids wanted to see.They are joined by a fourth kid who is eager to watch, but the story takes on a more sinister twist as we find out that the victim in the snuff film is actually this kid’s mother. This was my first view into real horror literature; thought-provoking, taboo and somewhat heartbreaking too.
I was soon searching out more horror books; and so I did what most young people do and went to a master – another name that seemed taboo and dangerous: Stephen King. Needless to say, the fantasies of Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks and Tolkien were no longer satiating my appetite for darker literature, but Stephen King did. I ate through It, The Stand, Carrie, Christine and the rest of his early works. I was pretty much never seen without a book in my hand, and I soon discovered James Herbert, Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell and Dean Koontz. I dug deeper into the history of horror through King’s Dance Macabre book, and that’s where I discovered H.P Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. It was an education, though I didn’t realise this at the time. I was just a kid reading all the scary stuff I could find, becoming more and more enraptured by the atmosphere in the books; they were forbidden stuff, dark stuff and it called to a darker side of human nature. What could be more exciting? Of course, the scribblings and doodlings that I was creating in my teens took on a much darker edge too.
I guess I was around fifteen when I discovered the writer that would change my life. I was getting bored of horror at the time; I’d discovered the formula and it stopped being so fascinating once I’d uncovered the secret of horror stories. King, Herbert and the others all seemed to follow the same structures and come to the same endings … and I was tiring of it. I found myself going back to fantasy and trying to unlock the mechanism of those works.
Then, a friend of the family gave me a book which changed everything for me. That book was Books of Blood, by Clive Barker. From the opening lines, I was hooked. Here was a guy that was speaking my language, at last. His stories were far from formulaic or like anything that I had come to expect from horror … here was something … other. This was when a face from my childhood loomed up once again; that guy with the pins in his head that had so fascinated and intrigued me as a child, flipping through the pages of a brochure. Yes, I read Hellbound Heart before I ever saw Hellraiser, and I was spellbound by the descriptions of this demon from the darkest corridors of Hell, this explorer of the furthest reaches of sensation and feeling. It was language that I had never seen on the page before, emotions expressed that I’d never even contemplated. I’ve said before many times; Clive Barker opened up doors in my mind that I never even knew were closed. Needless to say, I read everything that Barker wrote within the next few months, and discovered the one book which I still consider to be the best work of dark fantasy ever written; Imajica. I was already tinkering with writing at that time, but now I became a fully-fledged devotee of dark fiction … and most directly a Clive Barker fan.
Why I write horror is probably best summed up in a simple Barker quote; “Horror fiction shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”
What can be scarier than being confronted with that notion? That’s what good horror is to me; to be confronted with the notion that we are not in control, that at any moment something can come along and tip us off our own personal axis.
That is what I discovered as a teenager: that the beauty of horror is that when it all becomes too much, we can put the book down and go back about our daily business. It’s like riding a rollercoaster, and I’ve always loved those too.
It’s evoking an emotion in a reader, and leaving them wanting to know more … even questioning their own morals for wanting to read more. That is what horror does; it pushes taboos and boundaries, shining a black light on humanity. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, that’s good … go change it. That’s what horror often says too. Horror has always been the spotty, ginger haired cousin that none of the literary types want to hang out with … and that’s cool. Horror doesn’t need to be popular with critics, because it still exists within each and every one of us; just out of reach, but always lurking, ready to get its claws into us. Some of us welcome it with open arms, and record our conversations with it … that’s what writers do, and that’s why we write horror.
Sometimes magic works Grief drives people to extreme behaviour, and when Poor Jeffrey is killed, his friends go to some extreme lengths to bring him back. But Jeffrey’s death isn’t the only thing going on in town … Several girls have disappeared, only to be found half-eaten by an unidentifiable creature … it’s enough to drive a town insane. For Tommy, Jade and Chloe the next few weeks will make them or break them … and a story begins. Poor Jeffrey; he never wanted death to be this way.
Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author with the CHBB/Vamptasy press. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.
In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.
In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes; A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.
2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. “Poor Jeffrey” was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.
In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies; Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane and more.
In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue; The Silent Invader for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.
Paul continues to work on further material.
He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.
You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…