Guest Post written by: Anna Ryan
‘Mr Miller, have you ever read any of Stephen King’s books?’ I asked my year ten English teacher when I was about fifteen years old.
If my memory serves me correctly, we were planning our creative writing stories for the creative writing section of the English curriculum here in New Zealand. My story was inspired by Good Charlotte’s song “All Black”, and was about Count Hilton Sharples and his wife, whose name escapes me.
With a glint in his eyes and a smile on his face, Mr Miller replied: ‘Oh yes, they will give you nightmares!’
Now, for a girl of about fifteen, the new found knowledge that there are books written by people crafted to actually scare the reader was a mountain of intrigue for me. I’m not entirely sure how I came across Stephen King and his glorious novels; my parents hadn’t read any of his books, nor can I recall them ever mentioning his name. But the wonderful fact is that I discovered him somehow and it’s safe to say that his books have changed my life.
Fast forward a few years and, after fairly long deliberation, I bit the bullet; rebelled; decided that I was going to live life on the edge.
Guess what I did?
I bought Stephen King’s “Carrie” off The Book Depository. And so the obsession started – “It”, “The Stand”, “Salem’s Lot” – the list is satisfyingly long.
From my love of Stephen King’s novels, I discovered Shirley Jackson, who wrote the ultimate haunted house story with, “The Haunting of Hill House,” which is an epic read. My personal favourite is “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.”
Being a writer and reader of horror novels, people ask me questions such as: ‘What is it about horror novels that you like so much?’ or ‘Why do you write and read books that are going to scare you?!’ in exasperated and horrified tones.
I have many answers to these questions, as I’m sure we all do. No, none of mine involve any bad words…promise…seriously.
My go-to answers or justifications are these:
- People that have never read one of Stephen King’s novels (or any other horror author) simply go off the assumption that his novels are written to primarily scare the reader, and they don’t want to read a book just so they can feel terrified.
Okay – fair enough, I get that. But hear me out. Deep inside novels such as “IT” by Stephen King, you will stumble upon some very deep and relatable ideas. Sure, it’s about a shape shifting clown that changes form and goes around killing young kids and teenagers. Now, I know that, although that sentence is accurate, it is also off putting for a lot of people. But aside from the clown and the murders, the story teaches you about overcoming (your) fear, the unbreakable bond friends have, among many others.
As I mentioned earlier, the clown is a shape shifting entity, so after it lures you into its grasp, it will turn into your BIGGEST fear. The main protagonists in the story, teach us that with courage, bravery, the power of thought (telling yourself that what you are seeing isn’t real), and the help of your friends, that you have the ability/power to overcome you fear.
“IT” also teaches us about the power of love and friendship. Throughout the story, we see that IT (Pennywise) wants to break the group of friends apart because, as a group, they are a threat to him.
- Alright, now for a story that is, and always will be, very close to my heart. The Lady in the Coat is the first full length story I have written and published. Who is The Lady in the Coat? Well, The Lady in the Coat is an evil entity that taunts and stalks Isaac and his friend, Axton Thatcher. She is cloaked in a long black coat which has a hood that covers the top half of her face, so her evil, psychotic, crazed smile is the first – or last – feature you will (ever?) see.Isaac and Axton must use the strength of their new found friendship, and engage in a life and death battle against The Lady in the Coat. It is imperative that they tap into the dark and dusty corners of their mind in order to overcome what they fear the most.
As you walk alongside Isaac and Axton and hear of their stories and their hope to serve revenge, you will clearly be able to indentify that even the most confident and self assured person can be racked with uncontrollable amounts of fear. You will also witness moments when the strength of friendship is the only weapon they have to use against The Lady in the Coat.
So, the next time you find yourself buying books from Amazon, be sure to click on the “horror” genre and read or even skim the blurbs, because there is much more depth and meaning behind the horror genre than what is seen on the surface. Monsters such as Pennywise (IT) or The Lady in the Coat aren’t hanging around on the pages to simply scare. They are there because they represent a deep form of fear and terror.
Characters such as Isaac and Axton Thatcher aren’t there to solely be intermittently scared by The Lady in the Coat. They are there to show us that fear is how we perceive it to be; and that loyalty and friendship are two of the most important things in the world.
As you have perused this literary feast I have written, you will have seen that, deep down, the horror genre is widely misunderstood as a genre that is primarily crafted to scare the reader. However, the genre of horror, if given the opportunity, can teach us many life lessons. Remember to be kind to everyone, love your friends, and do not judge anyone at face value. Oh, and remember to make sure The Lady in the Coat or Pennywise the Dancing Clown isn’t lurking behind you, ready to…pounce! And make sure you lock your door to keep the monsters out.
About the Author
Anna Ryan is from New Zealand! And is the author of the horror/mystery novel, “The Lady in the Coat” and the Sly and Hokey Detective Series (Amelia #1), available right now on Amazon.
You can (an should) connect with her. Go tell her what your favorite Stephen King book is. 🙂
Thank you Anna for sharing your thoughts with us! And thank you dear readers for stopping by.