(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)
By Tiffany Trent, author of the HALLOWMERE series
Big thanks to Nova Ren Suma for including me on this blog extravaganza! It’s interesting that she would ask about my favorite scary things because the truth is that I tend not to read or watch scary things. Given the fact that all of my work borders on dark fantasy/horror, that may come as a shock. (Or not. Maybe you already know I’m a wimp about certain things.)
The problem is just this: Horror affects me so deeply that it’s hard for me to read or watch it. Some people like being scared, but my mind goes there so easily that I don’t need extra stimuli, if that makes sense. In fact, I can probably pinpoint the exact time I stopped reading it. I plowed through all of Poe’s work (which I still deeply love, gruesome as some of it truly is). I read Something Wicked This Way Comes. And then when I was 15, I snuck Pet Sematary by Stephen King into church. I couldn’t have told you what the pastor said that day; the book had me in its clutches. It took a long time to get out of that novel.
Novels held me too hard. I can’t stop thinking about them and living in them. I was forbidden to watch horror (I don’t know how SK slipped past my parents), but even the lighter spine-tinglers like The Watcher in the Woods and Lady in White gave me the creeps. I think the only reason I could sit through The Silence of the Lambs is that criminology, especially serial-killer psychology, fascinates me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just accepted that I’m far too sensitive to such things. I tried, for instance, to get over it by reading Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, an excellent novel that I just couldn’t finish because it scared me to death! Seeing Pan’s Labyrinth nearly killed me, but I forced myself to watch it all the way through because it was just that good. Even I Am Legend nearly made me pee my pants in terror, especially at the point where Will Smith goes into the dark after his dog. And don’t even get me started on The Others! Eeeeeep!
The funny thing is that people say that my work terrifies them. When my first book came out, I had *adults* writing me saying they had to sleep with the lights on, so creepy was In the Serpent’s Coils!
I think the reason why these things work so strongly on me comes from the architecture of anticipation. Everything prior to the moment of terror is visceral—breath, blood, bone, that sudden arresting moment when you realize you are not alone in the dark room. I love making this moment real in fiction (even if I dislike re-creating it in real life). My imagination just naturally tends to go in that direction, and I actually spend a lot of time reining it in, saying, “No, we will not think about the creepy man hiding in the coal chute while the poor woman gets ready for bed alone” or “No, we will not think about the careful arrangement of bones under that layer of topsoil just put down in the pasture…”
Horror is at its best when it touches on the sublime. Beauty and the Beast. Frankenstein’s monster waxing poetic on his humanity. A child subduing a terrifying monster with one word. It’s danger withheld and restrained. It’s truth and strength forced to crisis, and thus, to transcendence. I love that about horror and creepy tales, I really do. Just don’t make me have to live through them! 🙂
Tiffany Trent is the author of the steampunk YA The Unnaturalists (coming Summer 2012 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) and the Hallowmere series (Mirrorstone). She lives and writes in the ghost-ridden Appalachian mountains.
Visit Tiffany at tiffanytrent.com.
Follow @tiffanytrent on Twitter.