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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction


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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I want to talk about...gore


I would like to just take a minute and talk about gore.

Gore and splatterpunk, as it was popularly know a few years back, encompasses writers such as Laymon, Ketchum, Keene and Lee. Yes, there are arguments for and against each one for inclusion, and the whole thing about labeling authors in a subgenre...but I think anyone who has read one of the above authors can agree that there is no shortage of blood spilled, limbs munched on and brains used to decorate walls.

Which brings me onto Samhane, as there's been a bit talked about my book since its release.

The book was written back in 2004. At the time, I firmly believe that this would be the first and only book I would ever write, and because of this, I wanted to have lots of fun with it. This might have been my one chance, you know? I wanted to write something extreme, something to emulate the authors I adored, mainly Laymon and Barker, to write something with Laymon's to the point style of writing and pace, with some deformed machinations akin to Barker. Did I succeed? Personally, I think so. I'm not saying this is better or as good as these legends of horror, but I hope that readers will feel the love in the streets of Samhane.

Now the book is hitting readers. Here are a handful of reviews:

ScaryMinds

Shroud Magazine

Phantastiknews

Goodreads

So far, the reception that I'm getting is the book is a good one, but very, very extreme. Perhaps too much. Surely...it's not THAT extreme, is it?

Compared to later books of mine, I feel that Samhane is relatively tame in hindsight. Mother's Boys, The Forgotten and the almost completed Entertaining Demons all have far, far nastier death scenes. In fact, some of the scenes described in the latter made my partner nearly retch.

On the shorter side, my novellas also have their squeamish moments...even though in my novella Critique, there is barely any violence at all. Would this book be considered extreme? Dealing by the subject matter...I dare say so.

And this is the problem...or is it a problem?

By writing novels that are generally considered on the verge of being unfit for sane human consumption, am I restricting my market appeal?

Carsten Kuhr hit the nail on the head in his Samhane review for Phantastiknews (translated) :

"This is certainly not a mainstream horror, but is aimed explicitly at a fairly small group of corresponding fans."

Aaaaargh! So by writing splatter, I'm only going to be selling to other like minded deviants? I would say so, but then...coming from England, Richard Laymon books are in almost every book shop in the country. The SAW movies get some flack, but they still pull in the crowds. I think maybe more people are agreeable to a bit of splatter...but perhaps they don't know it yet?

The one thing that irks me a major way, and I'm going to use a bit from the Scaryminds review for this. This is not a slur on scaryminds.com, nor am I arguing with the reviewer's rating (as with Carsten above), I'm using this to highlight a point that I actually agree with. But just because I agree with it, doesn't mean I like it!

"7/10 Gore limits rating, well recommended otherwise"

Hmm. So the amount of gore kinda keeps the book from doing better. Okay, I can see that. But here are the things that really piss me off!

Horror. I've been in many arguments over what horror is. I like the definition:

Horror - an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting, anything that causes such a feeling, a strong aversion; abhorrence.

Yup. To me that is horror. I expect horror to sicken and disgust, to create a sense of tension and suspense, to explore the realms of the extreme. One of the things we band about the Necrotic Tissue office is 'this story has a mounting sense of dread'. I like that. A mounting sense of dread. Yes, I like horror novels that feature a normal everyday character slipping into a macabre, bloody tangent, and as they fall further down the rabbithole, a mounting sense of dread develops. Ooooh. That kinda makes me want to go and read some Ketchum right about now.

I detest books that simply are not horror, that have no feel of terror or revulsion about them, but are sold as horror instead of dark fiction or paranormal or crime. Hang on, it has a what? A friendly werewolf? Ah, a werewolf means it's a horror novel. And this one has somebody that not only dies but is...(dramatic pause for tension) murdered. Has to be a horror. Miss Marple can scare the bejesus outta you! And finally, the third book has a mopey female protagonist that is full of gloomy and depressed thoughts. We gotta stick a cover of a chick with a full moon behind her and stick it on the horror shelf.

I know there are grey areas, but I think some are more clear cut books then people would want to hear. I'm not prepared to get into the whole Twilight is not horror just because it has vampires argument again.

Personal rant: There are big publishers who won't even consider horror. They release a dark fiction novel...and all of a sudden it's in the horror section in bookstores. What the hell?

Sigh. Back to the point.

Okay, so I'm kinda limiting my options by writing a book, sorry books, this extreme. How can I get around this? I have two possible solutions:

1. Lie about the content. Well, I say lie, more like deceive. A few mutilated corpses swept under the pubic hair rug.

2. Write a more mainstream novel.

Ah, Dan! You all cry. You get it! You finally get it!

Nah. Not happening. I tried. I really tried! The more I try to keep things light, the worse they inevitably get. With the latest novel, which is about 80% complete, things really do get quite low and nasty. Yet, I feel it's the most ambitious and possibly grown up (harhaar!) novel I've written. Maybe on day I can write a more commercial novel, but the closest idea I have on the horizon is a bizarro epic post apoc kinda gig.

Anyway, thanks to Anita S for letting me know my leave a message facility is busted, so if you have any thoughts about the predicament, such as shut the fuck up Dan and write a paranormal romance instead of splatter, feel free to email me at harlequin-writes@hotmail.co.uk.

Other big thank yous go out to the reviewers linked above, to German site horror-forum.com for having Samhane for their reading circle this month, the 947 people who entered the competition to win a copy of Samhane and the person already selling Samhane on eBay (gotta love it).

Anyway, after six weeks summer holiday, I'm back at the coal face as the students arrive back at the high school tomorrow for a brand new academic year. I'm actually looking forward to it. Think the break from the writing world will do me good for a few weeks until I get in the rhythm of things.

See you next week! (I do have something planned to discuss...but I've forgotten it. I'm sure it will re-emerge before next week!)

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