WIHM: The Things That Used To Scare Me…
When I was a kid, I had a ventriloquist dummy. I knew he was going to come to life in the night and eat my face off with that weird clackity clacking mouth of his. Obviously, he didn’t because I’m here to tell the tale of my survival…but since I still have him, I guess he still has time.
To this day, I will not look into the mirror at night when I get up to use the bathroom because I am convinced a terrible impulse to say “Bloody Mary” three times will overcome me, and she’ll come out of the mirror. Then I’ll wish I’d been lucky enough to get my face eaten off by a demonic dummy.
I’ve been writing horror since I was what weird little kid. Some of my very first stories were about vampires and ghosts bent on revenge. Monsters. Werewolves were always a favorite, too. As I grew up and focused on my writing career, I never lost my love of horror even though I turned to a different genre. Most of my published work is romance (mostly of the sexy sort.) I like to say that writing horror and writing romance is actually very similar – there’s often a lot of screaming a fair amount of bodily fluids. And honestly, what’s scarier than the utter horror of being in love?
The older I got, the more I discovered the real terrors were not the things with long, scrabbling fingers and wretched, gnashing mouths. The things that scared me turned inward. I had thought I knew what horror was, but it wasn’t until after I had my children that I realized what really terrifies me.
That scares me the most. Since becoming a parent, I can’t read Pet Semetary. The Babadook left me shaking. To me, those are stories not only about monsters, but about loss and grief and despair.
The fear of watching something bad happen to my children, to be unable to prevent it? Those nightmares have woken me, shaking and crying out into the darkness. Being incapable of protecting the people I love is so horrifying that it makes my mind reel.
So, what do I do about the things that scare me? I write about them, of course. Digging deep, I yank those fears to the surface, knowing that won’t completely dispel them but hoping to gain some power over them anyway.
My novel Little Secrets features a young woman about to have her first baby, and the things that haunt her in the new house she and her husband have moved into. The idea of seeing things from the corner of your eye while you’re in your most vulnerable state had me terrified as I typed. Yet Little Secrets isn’t just a haunted house story. It’s about grief and the things we do when we’re afraid of losing what’s most precious to us.
One of my latest stories, Blood Born, is about a young woman with a newborn infant. Stranded in the snow, forced to rely on the dubious kindness of a family of lunatics, the heroine is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her child. Worse than the lurking threat of what her sinister hosts might do to her, in my mind, was her vulnerability. Sure, we can all claim aloud that we’d do anything we had to in order to keep our loved ones safe, but what happens when your own body is weak and incapable of doing that? What if you want to push yourself to the limit to protect your baby, but you simply…can’t.
My heroine Tori has to reach inside herself to find something strong enough to survive, not only for herself but for her baby. Tapping into my fears about loss, devastation, my own physical weakness, I made Blood Born one of the most personally disturbing stories I’ve written. But isn’t that what makes something truly horrifying and scary, when it calls upon something intimate and personal? Blood Born is available now from Howling Unicorn Press (https://www.facebook.com/HowlingUnicornPress) in INTERSECTIONS: Six Tales of Ouija Horror, an anthology that features some other terrific stories from Rob E. Boley, Kerry Lipp, Brad C. Hodson, Séphera Gíron and Chris Marrs.
My horror stories aren’t all about children. I still love to write about monsters and things that go bump in the night. But when I reach way down into the caverns of my soul to find the things that scare me, the themes that recur are universal, and I think that’s what makes them work. For me, it’s always scariest when I believe it could happen to me.
Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use a lot of bad words, but most of the other words are okay. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling. She can’t stand the feeling of corduroy or velvet, and modern art leaves her cold. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing erotic fiction that sometimes makes you cry. Find out more about her at meganhart.com.