Embrace The Darkness; Embrace Insanity – Why Do I Write Horror?
By Renee S. DeCamillis
Why do I write horror? The simple answer to that big question: I write about life and life is horrific. Yes, life has its beauty, but horror is always there, always present. Sometimes it’s hidden in the shadows, lurking, waiting to pounce on you when all is going great in your life. Sometimes the horror is blatant and in your face and everywhere around you, attempting to devour your will to go on. But why I write horror goes much deeper and far back to my childhood. (Ha!—childhood, doesn’t everything take root there?)
My Nana Jo was a huge Edgar Allen Poe fan, and she also loved to watch “Planet of the Apes” and anything and everything from Alfred Hitchcock—and I watched it all with her. My mother’s best friend was, and still is, a big Stephen King fan, so I was introduced to horror literature at a very young age.
Horror movies were also a huge draw for me as a kid. I was the youngest child in my family, and I’d always insist on staying in the room when my older siblings watched all the 70s and 80s horror films. They’d make me cover my eyes during the scary/gory parts, but we all know how that goes. To this day the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” still scares the shit out of me, and I love it! (Human monsters are the scariest for me.) And I can’t even express how hooked I was when I first watched “The Twilight Zone” film. I have never been able to get it out of my head since. I devoured everything “Twilight Zone” after that.
My Nana Jo’s Poe collection was passed down to me, and my horror movie collection has grown and grown over the years. My fate was sealed. I write horror.
But I think why I’ve persisted with the genre is also due to my many, many, MANY horrific life experiences, coupled with my background in psychology and working in the mental health field. Not only have I lived through way too many horrific life experiences to go into here, (Let’s be honest, no one wants to hear my life story, except my shrink.) but I’ve also worked with people you’ve lived through even worse horrors than I have. Writing horror fiction allows me to delve into the many horrors I’ve witnessed, experienced, and the many I imagine. And, man, oh, man does my imagination think up the worst possible things that could happen at any given moment. I can’t seem to shut that part of my brain off, no matter how much it scares the shit out of me.
Is that a gift? Or a burden?
Well, for the horror writer, it’s a gift.
The funny thing is, in high school, all my teachers told my mother that I had a gift for writing and that that is what I should pursue in college. When my mother came home from parent-teacher conferences and told me that, I laughed. I said to her, “No way am I going to be a writer! I don’t want to end up poor and dead at a young age, like many of the writers I love to read.” She asked me what I wanted to go to college for. I said, “I’m going to school for music, and Berklee is the only school I’ll go to.”
Ha! Yeah, I thought being a professional musician would be a better choice, a more life-saving choice. Oh, how mysteriously fucked up my teenage mind was.
Now, here I am—a so-called grownup and a horror writer. Yes, I still have a strong passion for music; I still play and sing, and have played professionally for quite a few years. But let me tell you, if anything was going to kill me at a young age, it would have been being a professional musician on a grander scale than I have been. That lifestyle is tough as hell. So I turned to horror writing as my savior.
Yes, horror writing IS my savior.
For me, writing is extremely therapeutic, especially writing horror. Fear is primal. We all feel it and have experienced it. At times in my life, my fears have been debilitating, keeping me from doing what I so desperately wanted to do. I learned a long time ago to face my fears, and writing horror helps me do that every day. I no longer shy away from things that scare me. I run toward them, head held high, and fight them off until that fear is squashed. When I hear a bump in the night, I jump out of bed to go see what it is. I don’t pull up the covers, shivering with dread. Hell no! I’m on it, blade in hand (Yes, I told you, I always imagine the worst-case scenario.), and I go after whatever is lurking in the dark. My husband laughs at me because I insist on sleeping on the side of the bed that is closest to the bedroom door. When he asked me why, I said, “Because if anything goes wrong in the middle of the night, I need to protect my family.” Yes, little me, at five foot two 110 pounds, I’ll go up against anything and everything that is frightening. Bring it on!
What I think is funny is that when people hear that I write horror, they can’t imagine little hippy-chic me—once nicknamed Sunshine—can write such dark and horrific tales. I tell them that it satiates my shadow side; it keeps me balanced. We all have a dark side, no matter how much we try to hide it or pretend like it’s not there. I just happen to be a person who embraces both the light and the dark sides of my psyche. After all, we can’t have the light without the dark. They complement each other. All the sunshine-and-rainbows aspect of my personality helps to combat the darkness that exists within me. Accepting both sides of myself helps keep me connected & balanced, as well as helps to fight off the insanity all around, the madness that knocks at my door every day.
I understand darkness. I understand insanity. I understand how easy it is to let it all consume you. I choose not to allow that. I embrace it all.
And, so, I write horror. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Renee S. DeCamillis
Renee S. DeCamillis is a dark fiction writer, an “on-hiatus” horror movie reviewer, a lyricist and poet, a hard rock/blues rhythm guitarist and singer, and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Her debut book, The Bone Cutters, is set for release on September 1, 2019 through Eraserhead Press. Renee’s short fiction has been published in Deadman’s Tome: The Conspiracy Issue, Sirens Call eZine Issue 37 The Sixth Annual Women In Horror Month Edition, on The Other Stories Podcast—along with an interview. Her poetry appears in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. IV.
Her horror movie reviews have been published on AllHorror.net and Horror-Movie-Reviews.com, as well as on her websites reneesdecamillis.com and http://phantom1333.wixsite.com/renee-young-decamillis.
Renee sold her first story in 2016 to a pulp horror anthology, but the editor died before the publication was finished. Darkness follows her everywhere.
“I find that my real world bleeds into my fiction, just as my fiction bleeds into my real world. Once I write something and then let time pass, I often find that the writing has bits of prophetic visions woven throughout. It’s uncanny and often horrific, but it’s my life.” ~Renee~
Renee earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Graduate Program, she has her BA in psychology, and she attended Berklee College of Music as a music business major with guitar as her principle instrument. Music has been a huge part of Renee’s life ever since she was a young child. She has been in a number of bands where she took on various roles, including hand percussionist. Renee is also a former model, fiction editor, school rock band teacher, creative writing teacher, private guitar instructor, A&R rep for an indie record label, therapeutic mentor, psychological technician, and pre-school teacher. (Yes, she loves to wear many hats; she is known to have worn thirteen hats all at once—literally.) She is also a former gravedigger; she can get rid of a body fast without leaving a trace, and she is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. Renee lives in the woods of southern Maine with her husband, their son, and a house full of ghosts.
You can follow Renee on Twitter @ReneeDeCamillis
The Bone Cutters
Dory wakes up in the padded room of a psychiatric hospital with no recollection of how she wound up there. She soon finds out she’s been Blued-Papered—involuntarily committed. When she is sent to the wrong counseling group, she discovers a whole new world of drug addicts she’d never known existed. When she learns that those grotesque scars they all have are from cutting into their own bodies, it makes her skin itch. Why do they do it?—They get high off bone dust. They carve down to the bone, then chisel and scrape until they get that free drug. When they realize Dory’s never been “dusted”, she becomes their target. After all, dust from a “Freshie” is the most intense high, and pain free—for the carver.
By the end of that first meeting Dory is running scared, afraid of being “dusted”, though the psych. hospital staff doesn’t believe a word she says. She’s delusional—at least that’s what they tell her. They end up sending her to that same counseling group every day, though Dory knows that all those junkie cutters want is what’s inside of her, and they won’t give up until they get what they’re after.
Like Girl Interrupted and “The Yellow Wallpaper”, The Bone Cutters is one woman’s dark and surreal experience with a madness that is not necessarily her own.
You can read what Miranda thought of The Bone Cutters in her Kendall Review