My Sources of Inspiration, Part II: The Masters of Horror

In every writer’s life, there are other writers who serve as his or her highly esteemed examples. In my case, these people are writers of the fantastic and the horrifying. Not all of them are technically specialised in horror as a genre, but the ones on this list certainly know how to give children the chills.

Hans Christian Anders is the first person on my list. This nineteenth-century author is mostly known for his terrifying fairy tales, that used to spook children all over Denmark and later the world. Fairy tales are tales with a moral, but the only way to impose a moral on children seems to be by frightening them – or that is at least what Anders’ work implies. In his The Red Shoes, a girl loses her soul when she decides to put on her red shoes for her communion. She has to dance until she dies. In The Little Mermaid – and by that, I mean the original tale – a young mermaid trades her voice for a pair of legs in order to charm a human prince. However, part of the trade was that she would die if she could not win the prince over. The mermaid dies. These moralistic tales contain very macabre concepts, as they all end with young girls dying due to pacts with what is most likely the devil. Sure, they had a function in the nineteenth-century society, but they were pretty horrific as well. I loved them.

R.L. Stine, writer of the famous Goosebumps series, is the second person on my list. Second because he was the second writer of horror I can recall because of the impact he had on my life. He was the one who caused me to hate ventriloquists – such a shame – , made me believe my neighbours were vampires – I didn’t even know who they were, how spooky! – and above all made me want to scare children the way he could. I still have some of his books standing in my bookcase. Especially The Ghost Next Door left an imprint on me. Not because of its surprise ending, but because structure. The reader should have seen the ending coming… But I didn’t. I loved the feeling I got when I finally connected all the pieces of the puzzle. I am not good at writing mystery, though.

J.K. Rowling – apparently pronounced like “rolling” – is not really a horror writer, but she definitely knew how to create some terrifying scenes. I absolutely hated her Dementors, long before I saw them on screen. Her description of those soul-sucking creatures gave me chills that lasted for a long time. In fact, I think the Dementors from the movie are not anywhere near the picture in my mind. Sure, they were scary, but the power of imagination sometimes is much stronger. I feared the cemetery scene of Voldemort’s resurrection, I always dreaded the moment where Sirius would fall through the portal – I think I read the books about seven times – and I wanted to throw out the book during the lake scene with the zombies. The books may not have been scary in the startling sense, but they sure filled me with dread.

Darren Shan is the last writer on this list, because he was the last one I discovered. I originally started out reading his The Saga of Darren Shan, the story about a boy who became a vampire. I later went on to read his The Demonata, a series about werewolves demons and magicians. Both series were awfully dark and detailed and haunted me in my nightmares, yet I read them over and over again. They kept luring me back into their strange worlds of daylight-loathing creatures. My target audience is slightly lower than that of these series, but they probably are the most terrifying books I can think of.

All in all, reading horror as a child turned me into the person I am nowadays. While I definitely love to be frightened by a nice horror movie or book, I prefer to be the one to scare others, no matter how impossible it may seem.

3 thoughts on “My Sources of Inspiration, Part II: The Masters of Horror

  1. reading through your list is like a recap of my own reading history save that as a youngster i also read survival novels like day of the triffids and the midwich cokoos by john wyndam. I also enjoyed the more morbid elements of myth and folk tales.

    What would you consider was a reason why people are drawn to these notion of being scared, i like to depict curious or worry-some elements in my illustrations so id be interested in your thoughts on why fear seems enjoyable sometimes?

    • I think fear is enjoyable as long as we know it is not real. We know it is not real, but our brains do not so the rush stays the same. Watching anything horrific that is not real makes us… feel alive, although that is not the right way of describing it. I personally love that rush, heart pounding in my chest, as long as I am safe in my own home. The unknown always is appealing.

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