We’re drawn to certain genres for a reason. E.M. Knowles explains why she enjoys reading and writing stories that are dark and macabre.
LF:Why do you enjoy writing & reading dark and macabre stories?
EMK: I feel as if art, whether visual, musical, in media, written, spoken, or dreamed should always serve as something of a mirror to society. Life is hard. It’s scary and often filled with uncertainty and loneliness. But from all of these dark places, the beauty of life seems to get its glimmer. The fact that we can feel and experience great sorrow often gives us a clearer appreciation for the worth of every moment. There is massive value in empathy to the human experience. The act of acknowledging that other people (in my case in particular, the characters I present to a reader) can be low and can be dark and can be tragic is really important in understanding how we function as humans. Rarely do lives end on a happy note. Why should the stories that reflect who we are? A happy ending has its place, it does. But when I read, I feel more satisfied by the anti-hero. I feel a greater connection to the flawed.
I like to write about the reality of the monsters we make for ourselves. The greatest horrors in history are horrors that humans inflict on themselves or other humans. It’s often awful stuff, but it’s real stuff. Stuff that could be and should be felt and examined.
LF: Give me an example of one of your favorite paragraphs from a dark story.
EMK: Browning’s 1855 ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’ is a powerful piece of poetry that utterly knocked my breath out when I first encountered it. It stays with me and haunts my thoughts when I least expect it. The imagery and utterly base suffering of the would-be hero plays as something of a Swan-song to the concept of a sterling, shining hero figure.
For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
What with my search drawn out thro’ years, my hope 20
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,—
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its scope.
As when a sick man very near to death 25
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside, (“since all is o’er,” he saith,
“And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;”) 30
While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves,
And still the man hears all, and only craves 35
He may not shame such tender love and stay. ”
Find out more about E.M. Knowles and her projects on her website: