Horror writers are always asked the question, “why horror?” My dear friend Michael Frost reveals his reason for spewing darkness onto pages.
Here’s Michael Frost:
It is quite interesting that I have been asked many times, ‘What drove you to write horror?’, and although deep down the answer to such an inquiry had substance, meaning, I never really thought about it. Why does one like the color blue? Would be just as passive as a question about the weather, but in the end I think not so; I think the water flows deeper, colder, darker. I think it does this where there is no light.
Normally I can knock out a ‘writing’ in the matter of hours without ever so much as dwelling on what is to happen, but instead what is happening at the moment. I write that way; usually starting off with an oblique first sentence and then ride that puppy as long as it will take me.
This writing now? Honestly, I find it puzzling to put down in text; difficult even.
The When it all started is simple; one day the Horror woke up in me, well it whispered actually; turning this once fantasy writer into who I am today almost 25 years ago. The other W’s and the acceptable How of the family I really can’t definitively tell you for certain, yet I do know the Why; it was The Darkness.
Growing up until my early teen years—embarrassingly—all things horror scared the shit out of me; seriously. Commercials on television during the early late 70’s, 80’s for the next Friday the 13th or any other scary film sent me closing my eyes and plugging my ears with fingertips; droning the childhood ‘yayayayaya’s until the commercial would pass. Like all children who feared such, our timings were always off; releasing the ear canals and opening the fleshy cameras just in time to see the hook; the scariest shit the commercial would have to offer.
This fucked me a lot then really and that’s when the Darkness would come.
At night—always with the dim lamp on in the corner on at the room on my dresser breeding a million shadows—I would lay awake as my mind molded and formed those horrific images from earlier that day once again. Once you added an imaginative child’s mind I was truly fucked sideways.
What is in there?
Is IT watching me?
If I scream for my parents would they save me in time?!
Where’s my BB gun?!?!?
Sleepless nights, lots of them…frightful nights; nights which eventually melted away their shadows skins away to the morning hue so to allow me to breathe and live again for one more day. I was a normal kid once again (sans basement and backyard of course), yet as the twilight crickets began to chirp along the bush edgings, the Darkness would creep in once again. Always the same really, that feeling; coming along just as the streetlight’s mini-capacitors hummed and buzzed as they gained charge then eventually flickering to life. That’s when the horror would begin again.
So define this damn Darkness already and tell me how in the hell this made you the horror writer you are today!
Hmm, still working on that.
What I can contribute a fact is to where I go when I sit before the screen and feel that tingle; that one edge as the ‘other’ Michael takes a seat next to me and begins to whisper to me. Stories do that you know, well at least how I see it. There are countless ones floating around the ether looking for the right voice, its voice, to tell its tale, and when it finds the right medium, it talks.
I just shrugged to this dismissing how many might view it, but it is as true and factual as one might see self-interpretation of one’s own face in a mirror. That’s also when The Darkness comes back to be after decades of once fearing it. Michael carries it forth and shows me the things I once saw, once felt, once sweated to and then I finger this keyboard to death to show you.
What’s it like? Well, it’s like a mixture of elated Heaven edged by Hell; a continuous onslaught of those fears rekindled and formed like so many puzzle pieces of a horrific Salvador Dali painting on crack! I hate quoting people let alone myself, but I once wrote what it was like when the Darkness comes to me, my essence, sadly my ethos:
“You know it when you feel it, don’t you? Sure you do! That electric sensation which tingles the senses as you glide your fingertips over the black keys with white lettered labels; pure elation to know that the words are there–right there before you–begging to come out!
I know this to be true, because they whisper this to me…
Full cup of coffee, black; no sounds house is quiet in the dead hours of morn with only the whispers of the story flowing in.
Palms grow damp…
Ideas form while synapses fire!
Keys clicking–pounding even–becoming echoes of a thousand nightmares before!”
Yes, it’s something like that, but still, in the end, it’s just The darkness; that fluid caliginous essence which goes beyond the shadows…
It breeds the shadows; Fathers and Mothers them like a horrible malignant disease festering in the marrow-deep.
<*Clears finger-throat, continues*>
I know…you were looking for a particular event weren’t you Happy Reader; that key point of the era-carved points along a timeline with specifics with the magical 5 W’s and the acceptable How?
Mayhap—perchance—there was a certain movie or a traumatic event?
Honestly, there are none.
In truth, a movie did fuck me about clowns (Poltergeist as a matter of fact [thank you Mr. Spielberg]). I didn’t eat snap peas for a long time because of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a kid (thanks Dad) and due to a physically abusive babysitter who loved my older twin sisters, but loathed me enough to beat the shit out of me daily while screaming that there were snakes in the backyard and ghosts in the basement, I never visited those places whilst alone for years.
Where are those fears now? Down a river they run with not one single reflective or disconcerting thought other than a shrug as I light yet another cigarette before sipping my coffee. Those things are simple segments as to whom young Michael was, not who I am.
Later in life when I had a child of my own—my dear and lovely daughter—I was on alert because I knew she too would find the Darkness, actually, it would find her. I was diligent then however. They knew they could no longer haunt me, so they chose her to attack and they did it well, but I had a tactic. I absorbed all of her fears without bullshit that they did not exist by telling her that I saw them too.
One particularly bad night of their visits from the closet, I vanquished them all with an empty cardboard box, a soft tone and a convincing story for her to stay out of her room. With a soft Dad voice both understanding and caring, I spoke to The Monsters from the other side of the closed bedroom door; ‘convincing’ them all to get into the box. Once I heard giggles on the other side of the door from my daughter, I opened it up so she can see. She entered eyes blinking on the closed box, and I explained her that they were all inside. I had told her that these might seem like scary monsters, but actually they were scared themselves; lost from their land and wanted to go home. Smiling, she helped me push the box into the closet (her closing her eyes by instructions so that she didn’t see them). We left the box inside and returned and to her delight the box was then empty; the monsters had gone back to Monster Land and were now happy
It was lying, I know, but a Daddy lying—a savior’s lying—because that same Darkness I once feared and held inside was never to harm my daughter, my very Light of my life. From that night on she slept fearlessly and sometimes talking into the open closet during the day to see how they were doing being back home.
My point? Simple really so please just be patient a little while longer and you too will (hopefully) understand.
One can write about the Darkness, the horror, the fear, but until it enters you it is as passive as a fart downwind in the breeze; foul for a moment and then forgotten. Want to know if you truly know it, see it, feel it, taste it, are it and breed it? Sit in the darkness and see if the shadows dare to whisper to you and tell you things. If they do you will know what horror is and be afraid of it yet welcoming it all the same. You do not consume and/or feel any of the above? Well, then you are regurgitating what someone else feared, loathed and wrote. Perhaps maybe historical fiction might be your forte? For me these things are both friend and foe; often wanting to talk passively and directly while at the same time they glide the edges of their claws against the stones in my mind behind their backs; sharpening them with an alternative motive to rip out my throat and consume my flesh.
So far, they only cut me deep when I refuse to listen.
Over time, I have truly learned to listen.