As a writer, there are many people that I'd like to say thanks—readers, of course, are first and foremost. Thank you for buying my books and for taking the time to post reviews. Next, like any good acceptance speech, I'd acknowledge family, friends, teachers, and lastly, a shout out to the super supportive community of authors & bloggers that I have discovered online.
My deepest debt of gratitude, however, actually goes to the horror maestro, Stephen King.
King was the author, beyond all others, who showcased the versatility of the horror genre to me, which forever shaped my path as a writer. At an early stage in every writer's career, it becomes necessary to select a genre. This is the decision which will define you, as an author, and your books, as a product, from that point forward, as you strive to build an audience.
Throughout my childhood, starting around third grade, I was a voracious reader and I devoured my books, en masse by genre. I went through periods where I read every book that I could find in a specific genre and nothing else, until I grew bored with repetitive themes, characters and plots. I would then switch to a new genre.
In this fashion, I went from reading westerns to spy adventures, mysteries, celebrity bios, science fiction, detective, romance and horror novels. I'd bravely walk pass the main librarian's desk, so that I could enter the Adult section (there was one dour old librarian who'd bark that I should stay in the children's area, if she saw me), passionate on my crusade to explore of all these different genres.
There were certainly some great books that I encountered—the hard-boiled detective novels of the 1940's were one particular stand-out, but when I finally embraced the Stephen King collection, it was like a shining beacon went on. I had avoided King, due to reading Carrie at the tender age of eight (since it kept coming up during recess). That novel was the bane of my adolescence.
Whenever a prom or school dance was scheduled, some smart mouth would ask if I was intending to run for prom queen and wouldn't it be funny to toss pig's blood at me. Ha. Ha. I recall while reading that book my dismay at finding out that Carrie was such a total social outcast. She had no redeeming traits—no charm, no good looks, no intellect and she hurt the very people who tried to help her.
I couldn't appreciate, at the time, the tragedy and horror that was being depicted in this tale of bullies, victims, and the not-so-innocent bystanders who allowed this cycle of abuse to continue. My main take-away was that it would be fool-hardy for me to ever run for prom queen. I knew that it would be too tempting for my peers. After reading Carrie, I hated Stephen King.
Only when I was in college, during a writing workshop where other people kept comparing my writing to King's, did I become curious enough to try his books, again. It was a revelation. Once I was no longer reading about characters named Carrie, I found him vastly entertaining!
King showcased for me the endless possibilities, flexibility, and originality of the horror genre. A villain can be a serial killer (Firestarter), a loving father and husband (The Shining and Pet Sematary), a classic car (Christine) or a clown (It). Heroes can be just as unexpected—children, an average joe, or even a prisoner on death row as in The Green Mile series.
One of my favorites from his more recent works has to be the untrustworthy narrator of Blaze, a petty criminal who kidnaps a baby, who is both the hero and the villain in the novel. It's an elegant exercise on the duality of human nature. I also adore Misery. It is both a great horror novel and a wonderful stand-alone romance (in the chapters that resurrect the character of Misery). I could not imagine a more unlikely genre coupling, but King appeared to pull it off with ease.
I must sincerely thank King for teaching me, through his published works, that the horror genre, above all others, can be any genre. It offers the greatest flexibility, since horror can be found in any situation and seen through the eyes of any character. It offers infinite freedom. I am only limited by my own imagination!
Note--this blog was actually a guest posting on Depression Cookies, but it was so perfect for Thanksgiving that I had to post it again on my own blog to celebrate the holiday. Be sure to visit the original posting to read the more than 40 comments that it received. You'll also want to check out Tia Bach's warm and witty blog entries! Photo credit: Shane Leonard
I've been interested in the Titanic since I was a child. I've seen numerous movies, documentaries, and devoured tons of books on this subject. I even posed with my understanding hubby in front of a backdrop of the famous Titanic staircase.
As a horror writer, I'm fascinated with this tragic event, since horror is often about what you should do, or not do, in order to survive. I've often wondered how I would have reacted, if aboard. Would I have panicked, running from side to side of the ship, until it sank and I froze to death in the ocean water? Or, would I have come up with the idea to use a cabin door as a floating device, like one clever male passenger?
Recently, I was excited to discover 'The One That Got Away' by Kellianne Sweeney. Kellianne has created a realistic Titanic tale with added original elements such as reincarnation and questions about whether there is an after-life. It's a compelling work that is respectful to the history, but takes it somewhere fresh and new. Enjoy this teaser!
My mind seemed to turn off and my body moved by its’ own accord to open the door and walk inside. I stood in the middle of the foyer and tried to collect my thoughts. I knew I had been instructed on where to meet in the event of the ship’s sinking. I had not been paying particular attention to this information because I had believed the Titanic to be unsinkable. Quick action was required, but I needed to figure out where to dash off to and stop standing motionless in the middle of the foyer like a simpleton. I could feel panic burbling from the tips of my toes, thrashing in my guts and squeezing my chest. I was very aware of my heart beating rapidly. Panic was a foreign emotion to me. It hit me like a brick wall and seemed to immobilize my limbs. Then, I thought of Jackson. I needed to be sure of Jackson’s safety. Oh, dear God, protect my child! If anything were to happen to him…I couldn’t even let my mind go there. My mind and body seemed suddenly connected with purpose and I bolted to the stairwell.
As I clambered down the narrow stairwell I was greeted by a deluge of third class passengers trying to come up. By the time I made it to the foot of the stairs the corridor before me was filling quickly with a glut of milling and frightened families. The sleepy, crying children wrenched jaggedly at my heart. I could see Jackson in every face. As I rounded each corner I hoped against hope that I would see his crazy, curly head bob into view. Surely Jane would get the children up and out right away? What if they were all still asleep? I pressed on with my mission to locate their room, but I was getting confused coming from this direction. It became apparent to me that I was not going to be able to navigate my way to Jane’s room due to the budding chaos in the hallways and my unfamiliarity with this end of the ship. I decided that it might be better for me to go up and come back down using the route that I was familiar with. I spun on my heel and joined the rapidly increasing exodus up the stairs. I was so grateful to finally reach the top. The stale air down there was giving me a headache. The foyer area was starting to fill with people now as well. On every face I saw varying degrees of panic. I vaguely wondered what my own face looked like. My thoughts were scattered again. I was fervently trying to figure the most efficient way to get to Jane’s berth in order to scoop up my son. My arms ached to hold him and bring him to safety. I struggled to think clearly. I would have gladly slapped myself upside the head if I thought that would juggle my thoughts back together. Even at the best of times I was not good with directions.
“Please,” a timid voice cut through the increasing din surrounding me, “are we to go to the lifeboats?” I turned to my left and found a pale and fragile looking young woman holding the hands of what appeared to be her daughters. The younger girl was sobbing so hard that she was hiccupping, while the older one looked as though her face would burst with the effort of holding back her tears. The woman’s face was strained and tight and her voice trembled as she spoke politely to me. “Would you please tell us where to go? Please, miss?”
“Yes,” I answered immediately and matter-of-factly. “Follow me.” I offered my hand to the older girl. She took it gratefully. My small gesture seemed to send a cascade of relief over her pinched face. She even smiled a little. I grabbed her hand with purpose and the four of us began to wind our way through the thickening throng up to the deck. After I saw this trio safely to a lifeboat I would cross over to the other side of the ship to where I would be more able to get my bearings. I thought of Violet. Of course she would be doing exactly what she needed to be doing in this situation. Violet was always able to take care of herself and others with poise and aplomb. I could even imagine her managing a lifeboat herself. As we entered the deck area the cold once again slapped me hard, but this time I had no time or concern for it. Up ahead I saw a lifeboat being readied to lower. I squeezed the girl’s hand tighter and guided the family firmly through the confusion. A sudden, thunder-like bang stopped me dead in my tracks for a moment as I searched for its’ source. I soon discovered that a distress rocket had been fired. It was fascinatingly lovely in the star sparkled sky. There was a collective pause as everyone on deck stared at the brilliant spectacle that meant disaster.
The One That Got Away by Kellianne Sweeney is available for purchase at many online bookstores including Amazon