Why Do I Write Horror?
By Brett McKay
“As if I had any choice in the matter,” is the first answer that comes to mind when asked Why do I write horror? Why does Claude Monet only paint landscapes instead of people, or why does Alvin Kamara play running back for the Saints instead of a wide receiver? We all do what comes natural to us. Horror comes as naturally to me as breathing. When I first started to write stories, I wrote in several different genres before landing on horror. I can only imagine it would have been the same for Monet when he first started painting. He may have painted people or animals first and said, ‘that is not for me’. And I’m sure Kamara has played several different positions before he realized, ‘damn, I’m really good at running the ball.’ I don’t know Monet’s history or even Kamara’s; I’m only speculating, but I do know what it was like for me.
I was eleven years old when I wrote my first short story, and it was a science fiction tale for a school assignment. I received beyond an ‘A’ as my teacher put it, and she read it out loud to the class and it made me feel special. I’d always had a love for reading and for movies. When I was young, I was fascinated by movies so much I’d come up with a story idea from start to finish in my head and act it out. I had images, characters and ideas spinning out of control in my mind, but didn’t know where to place them until I found the outlet to write. As I began writing I followed mentors of books I read from Louis L’Amour, and I wrote some westerns. Later I mimicked action-suspense tales like The Executioner series by Don Pendleton, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories. You’ll also find influences of Chuck Norris movies in my earlier writing. I wrote books titled Burning Rage, Cold Vengeance and A Burst of Fury that relied a lot on revenge. I didn’t know at the time, but I was trying to find my niche, and land on a genre that connected with me. I was a huge fan of horror movies, and in junior high I read my first Stephen King book. Night Shift was a collection of shorts and it changed my world. I didn’t know horror stories could be so fun. And the scarier they were, the better the ride. Just like rollercoasters at a theme park. Still to this day, only a handful of stories gave me actual nightmares. Two of them came from Night Shift, Sometimes They Come Back, and One For the Road. Later it would be Pet Semetary.
I went on to read other horror novels by some of the greats such as, Peter Straub, Robert R. McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker.
It wasn’t until high school when I wrote my first horror short story called The Dark Shadow. It was an ‘ah ha!’ moment. The clouds parted and shown a beam of light on my story. Horror was that dark avenue where I could express twisted ideas and violence and sort out moral choices in life. Since I was first inspired by action tales, westerns and barbarian epics, I found I included those elements in my horror tales, and still do.
When I first saw the movie Aliens, I hoped one day I could write something so genius. It had it all. Horror, action, science fiction, violence, scary as hell creatures, character development and a moral to the story and even some humor. Horror is the one genre you can include it all. A good friend of mine continues to poke at me to write a romance novel. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’ve heard ideas that I should write children’s fiction. You might as well ask me to perform brain surgery. You have to write what your passionate about, and horror lives in an apartment deep in my heart. It sings to me. It flows through my fingers and onto my keyboard easily. It awakens me, just like a dark, stormy day, which by the way, are the best times to write.
Shortly after I was married I experienced real life horror. While eating dinner at my mom’s house, a friend down the street ran to our house in a wild panic. His dad was beating up his mom. My brothers and I tried to intervene, but his house was locked. We immediately called the police and soon after his mother came running to our house screaming and crying. She was dressed only in torn panty hose and a bra; dark blood caked the side of her face. As my mom cradled her, I ran to intercept the abuser and found myself standing ten feet away in the middle of the road from this massive man. And yes, he was in a wife beater’s T-shirt. He asked, ‘What are you gonna do? Stop me?’ I answered, ‘Yes, if I have to.’
The police came and sorted it all out. I didn’t have to fight him, fortunately. A broken, bloody phone sat in the front yard. We walked in to the house to discover more remnants of violence. Inside a bathroom was a bloody smear on the wall; still dripping. I felt so helpless. How could a man attack a woman so viciously? I remember the wife pleading for the police not to hurt her husband. She was more concerned for him than for her. It blew me away. Furthermore, he was only held in a drunk tank over night and released the next day. I had a wish that night that there was some person, a supernatural being perhaps, who wasn’t confined to the mortal rules we are, who could exact revenge on men like him. Someone, not unlike a superhero, who could fight for the defenseless, and lay justice to those where our justice system has failed. I was inspired to write my next novel The Rage. Zane, a dark angel for the underworld who leads spirits of the damned to Hell, rebels to unleash his own brand of justice to a world filled with unspeakable evil. The story revolves around a young boy who watches helplessly as his mother is constantly abused by his father, and he prays to God for help, and Zane, our anti-hero dark angel, intercepts the prayer, and steps in to help.
As I continued writing novels, shades of domestic abuse situations dotted the landscapes of my stories. It became something I felt so strong about, and it carried a real life horror. In Damage Inc., my first professionally published novel, domestic abuse became the catalyst that drove the abused woman, and her new lover, to hire a group of supernatural hitmen called Damage Inc. to kill the abusing husband with ferocity. They did it by bringing his worst fears to life, as only these demon hitmen can do. Things go awry when Damage Inc is hired by an unknown person to hunt down and kill our heroes using nightmarish creatures and fears. I find that in writing horror, as it is in writing any genre, if you can bring real life experiences into your fiction, it grounds your characters and gives them life.
Damage Inc. was a success for me, and several fans begged for a sequel. I’m not usually one for writing sequels, but this one worked. It was too fun to delve into a world where demons created their victims worst fears in order to torture and kill them. It opened the story for me to go anywhere with it and expand my creativity. Developing the demise of each victim became challenging and fun. How can horror be any better than bringing someone’s ultimate fear to life? Damage Inc. and Damage Inc. The Hit List are two horror novels of mine that hold all of the aspects in a story that I love. It has a great premise, consists of horror, suspense, mystery and action. And to top it all off, they both have a twist in the ending no one sees coming.
The other inspiration of horror I cannot forget to mention is music. I listen primarily to hard rock and heavy metal, which is heavily influenced by horror. Real fans of bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Dio, Black Sabbath and King Diamond, will recognize traces of it in my writing.
My latest novel, The Other Side of Elsewhere, has a more subtle horror that creeps throughout the story, and then comes in full force by the end. This is, so far, the best writing of mine. It takes place in the summer of 1982. When an outsider buys the neighborhood’s abandoned house, people start to disappear. Twelve year-old, Ret, is determined to solve the mystery before it swallows the entire town. His obsession with the Crooked House and its strange new owner threatens to put him and his friends in danger more terrifying than anything they could have imagined. This was a chance for me to re-visit my childhood and include real experiences and adventures, which again is the key to create an air of horror that can be believed and have the effect of being scary.
Your foundation should be your characters. If readers don’t love them, they won’t love your story no matter how good it is. The next important thing is to create a believable backdrop, a real world we can relate to, and incorporate experiences and dialogue we’re all familiar with. Then when you introduce the supernatural and the macabre, we’re frightened for what might happen to the characters, and it becomes more believable because we’ve already boarded the train. My main goal in writing, or wish, is to create characters as good as Stephen King can, suspense like Dean Koontz, action and landscapes like Robert McCammon, and demons and other worlds like Clive Barker. Of course we cannot mimic or copy writing of anyone’s else’s work, or try to be like them. We must find our own voice and follow it wherever that takes us. I found my voice, and I try to follow it the best I can, and right now it leads me into horror. I have many more tales to write and develop, and I’m excited to see them all come to fruition, and I can’t wait for my fans to experience them.
The Other Side Of Elsewhere
Ret McCoy was always the new kid, but after three years in the small town of Riverton, he thinks his family may have finally settled. He and his friends have the perfect summer planned before they start seventh grade, and his new job at the local mortuary promises enough pocket money for all the sodas they can drink.
A dare from an older boy quickly ruins their plans. Everyone knows to stay away from the Crooked House, but after Ret and his friends take on the dare to spend the night in the abandoned house, they become caught up in the house’s dark history.
Later, an outsider buys the house. When people start to disappear, Ret is determined to solve the mystery before it swallows the entire town. His obsession with the Crooked House and its strange new owner threatens to put him and his friends in danger more terrifying than anything they could have imagined.
When Brett McKay is not conjuring demons and bloodthirsty psychopaths to put on paper, he sells landscaping. He loves all types of music, but hard rock and heavy metal fuel him the most. He enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and curling up in front of a good movie with his wife and a bucket of popcorn.
Brett lives in Utah with his wife and two sons. Fall is his favorite time of year because he gets to decorate his house for Halloween much too early for his neighbors.
You can follow Brett on Twitter @BrettMcKay8
Please visit Brett at his official website http://www.brettmckaybooks.com