‘What Horror Means to Me’ by: Heidi Lane who is next featured in the anthology ‘Paying the Ferryman’
I can still remember sitting on the couch as a child watching Psycho with my mom. She had enjoyed watching Alfred Hitchcock films growing up and wanted to share this interest with me. I watched the film with wide eyes; scared but unable to take my eyes away. It took me about a year to be able to shower with my eyes closed after that, but somehow it didn’t deter me. My interest in horror only grew.
In elementary school while other kids were interested in shows like Teletubbies and reading The Boxcar Children series, I was watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? and reading R.L. Stine Fear Street books. In middle school I started delving into books about alien abductions, the occult, and the paranormal. I made a couple of friends who shared my interest in horror movies. We would always watch the newest ones together. When Freddy Versus Jason came out to theaters, I paid for my older sister’s ticket to get us into the movie since it was rated R (she promptly left before the movie started since she hates horror movies).
As an adult, my interest in horror has not wavered. The horror genre has been knitted into many of memories and is still a part of me to this day. With such an interest in horror it would seem only natural that I would combine it with my love of writing. However, I always thought that horror was something for me to enjoy, not to write myself. Girls were supposed to like romantic comedies and Nicholas Sparks books, weren’t they? As a female, I shouldn’t be expected to be voraciously reading Campfire Tales, nor should I be on the lookout for the next great horror movie to add to my queue. Or so I thought.
About a year ago I decided to give writing horror a try. Something finally clicked inside of me that caused me to ask myself, “Why not?” Up until then I would struggle and get bored with my stories, almost giving up writing altogether. When I allowed myself the opportunity to write horror, I was beyond surprised to discover how natural it felt to be writing the genre. The words flowed, the story played out in my head like a movie, and I was invested in my characters and what would happen next. Unlike my attempts at writing non-horror, I could feel my characters speaking to me and telling me the story, rather than the other way around. Nothing ever felt forced.
So why did it take me so long to write my first horror story? On some level it shouldn’t be surprising. Like many things, horror felt like a man’s genre. When I think of horror authors, the first names that pop into my head are Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dean Koontz. When doing a quick online search for top twenty horror authors, the first list I looked at were all male authors. Not even Anne Rice placed in the top twenty. Even the top selling horror graphic novels are written by men (e.g. Hellblazer, The Walking Dead, American Vampire, Preacher). Seeing all of the horror big hitters be men can be intimidating.
It’s disheartening to think that other women and girls out there might be put off from contributing to the horror genre for the same reasons I did. But at the same time, I think now is our time. Although the horror genre can be seen as a male-dominated genre, as women we shouldn’t be intimidated. Female writers who love horror need to put those stories that have been locked in their minds on paper and breathe life into them.
To help other young girls and women know that they’re not the only females with an interest in horror, it’s important to not be silent. Women need to voice their interests and not be afraid of what others will think. It is easier to stand up for your interests when there’s a feeling of belonging and knowing that you’re not the only one. Horror needn’t be viewed as a genre for men; women are invited as well, and I’m glad that I finally took my seat at the table.
Heidi has recently fallen in love with writing horror/paranormal short fiction. For most of her life she has been drawn to topics involving the paranormal and occult. In elementary school she devoured R.L. Stine Fear Street books and in middle school she developed a love for horror movies.
Heidi was born and raised in the technology and coffee mecca that is Seattle. When she is not busy corralling her toddler, she enjoys writing, curling up with a book or graphic novel, and watching the occasional movie. She also can be found out running on the trail in order to stay in shape in case of a zombie apocalypse.
Heidi’s work appears in Paying the Ferryman (Charon Coin Press). Her website is heidi-lane.com.