Hey folks — I’m a new blogger in this group (you can find out more about me under Authors or Books, above), and I’m thinking about just why I’m here.
My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, was historical fiction. I then wrote several other (unpublished) historical and contemporary fiction novels, without a hint of fantasy in them. I also did some work for hire nonfiction and fictionalized biographies. My first nine published books have no fantasy, science fiction or alternate reality elements. And yet, here I am on a blog about “speculative fiction.”
True, my Haunted series involves a girl who can see ghosts. Technically, the book is a fantasy, or even horror. Yet I never even noticed that I was changing genres, and the editor who acquired it claims he doesn’t like fantasy. I guess we both saw it as more of an action series, which happened to include ghosts.
In 2008, I wrote an article for Children’s Writer on horror and ghost stories. In an interview, Delacorte Editor Krista Marino said, “There really hasn’t been much true horror done for YA, but there’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal.” What defines horror, then?
Agent Ashley Grayson said, “My definition of a horror novel is one where a group of ‘good’ people encounter a malignant entity, whither a ghost, werewolf or psychotic killer. The novel of terror can include the quite different type of story where simple acts of malice by the protagonist or her circle of friends avalanche into worse acts. Fortunately or not, classic monsters like vampires are the new buddies of romantic interests for teens.” So is Twilight a horror novel, because it involves vampires, or a romance? Or a romantic horror?
Scholastic Editor Joshua Glazer noted, “Scary stories are always popular, but not everybody self-identifies as a horror fan. I often encounter people who say ‘I don’t like horror,’ but ask them if they’ve read The Stand or seen The Exorcist, and they’ll answer with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ Horror also hides in unlikely places. If Beowulf debuted in stores today, it would probably be shelved in the horror section, and the recent mega-properties like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter all contain horrific elements.”
I would say I don’t like horror. I haven’t even read The Stand or seen The Exorcist. And yet, I’m a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs involves a scary ghost possession. I have even called the Haunted series “horror light,” though it never occurred to me to use the word “horror” as an Amazon tag word. Instead I stuck with terms such as ghost stories, action and spooky.
When you read a novel with ghosts, vampires or werewolves, do you think of it as a horror novel?
Or do you prefer the term paranormal (defined as supernatural or not in accordance with scientific laws, including phenomena such as ghosts, telepathy, UFOs and Bigfoot), or speculative fiction (dealing with a world outside normal life, and generally considered to include science fiction, fantasy, alternate histories and horror)?
On the one hand, maybe it doesn’t matter. Someone can like ghost stories or vampire romances without needing to define them further. But finding the right language could be key in helping readers find the right books. For example, kids who enjoy Goosebumps might look for other “horror” books. And they might enjoy the Haunted series …. So I guess I need to go back and add “horror” to my Amazon tag words, and embrace my status as a horror author!
Chris Eboch thinks feeling horrific might not be so bad.