Christina Bergling has written one of my favourite boks of 2017 - The Rest Will Come. (My review follows tomorrow). I am delighted to welcome her onto my blog today. Here she is talking about a subject dear to my heart:
Sometimes, it is rough being a horror author.
There is definitely a strange stigma around the horror genre. All stereotypes are odd and overreaching if you break them down, and those for horror and horror lovers are no different. I have encountered the assumption that you have to be a deviant or mentally ill to enjoy the genre. I have heard the contents of anything horror dismissed as trash. I have watched people abjectly avoid the fruits of the horror genre entirely.
Sociologically, I get it. Culturally, it makes sense. The mainstream always shies away from things that are disturbing, upsetting, or traumatizing. The masses are well behaved when they are warm, fed, and feel safe, so the majority prefers the palpable. This puts horror, a genre fixated on the disturbing, upsetting, and traumatizing, firmly outside the mainstream. An outcast genre.
So sometimes being a peddler of the deformed and traumatizing is a tough racket. When I tell people I write horror, they often grimace, or they give me some confused look. They often ask me why. Why would I even want to write horror? Which comes with the unspoken question, what’s wrong with you? How could these awful things come out of your brain?
I have wondered these things about myself before. When I have written about rape, child murder, or torture, I have wondered if something is truly wrong with me. Why would I want to dwell in all these dark places?
My answer has always been that this is just how my mind is. My mind just wanders in twisted directions, and I have chosen to embrace it. I have decided to vent it and create with it. But it is more than that. Horror is more than that. More than just a darkness or the gore. More than a fright or a jump scare.
Why should you give horror a chance? What could horror possibly have to offer you?
Life requires contrast. To create light, there must be darkness. To experience sweet, there must be the bitter bite of sour. Horror can be that sour darkness, a safe window into the other side. No one (or perhaps very few) want to actually experience horror in real life. Yet horror permits you to experience a taste of the primal thrill without the danger.
The appeal is no different than taking in a haunted house. One might even argue that a haunted house would be considered horror itself. Horror allows you to have the fear, flirt with the scare while avoiding any true mortal peril.
I know I, personally, am addicted to that thrill. I actively pursue horror that will genuinely scare me. I want a book that will have me clinging to the pages (or Kindle) and reading well past my bedtime. I want a movie filled with startles that have me jumping on the couch cushion. I want to experience that fear and the adrenaline that comes with it. Safely. I definitely do not want (and do not enjoy) those same feelings or experiences in real life.
The fear is still on the surface though. There at the top with the gore. Below that, deeper below the superficial, horror is about extremes. When you break any story down to the basics, whether it is told in a book or a movie, regardless of the genre, it is about characters in a setting. The more extreme the setting, the more opportunity to affect the characters. Horror is merely a stage, a grotesque exaggeration of circumstance used to manipulate characters.
In Savages, I used horror to make comments on the ugliness of human nature. In The Waning, I used horror to examine the psychological breakdown of a strong woman. In The Rest Will Come, I used horror to help a woman discover her true self after being destroyed by divorce. Horror is a device. Horror is the setting and the circumstance, not the story.
Horror allows the creator (in this case, me) to stretch the characters and situations beyond the realm of the normal or the every-day, creating more magnified statements and developments. I believe that if you turn the lights out long enough, humans will show you what they truly are. And like the safe fear of the horror audience, horror lets the creators explore these extreme ideas without having to experience them.
I do not want to see what happens if society was to fall or if we were fighting for our lives, but I do want to play with the ideas from the comfort of my couch. Horror lets me do that.
What will you see in horror if you look past the blood and the gore? Everything. Things at their most basic, things at their most extreme. Things in a new light.
Horror has shown me some of the most basic truths about people and the world, under all the cheap violence. Yet I have seen so many people turn away and dismiss the potential based on the stereotypes. Yes, the genre has plenty of shallow slasher clichés and gratuitous violence (hence the well-earned stereotypes), but that need not damn the entire genre.
I am not lobbying that everyone become a devout horror lover. That is unrealistic and, if we are being fair, would destroy the genre. I do not need horror to go any further mainstream than what The Walking Dead has done to it. Instead, I am merely promoting keeping an open mind when it comes to the dark genre. There are gems under the rough edges, if you are willing to look past the blood.
Colorado‐bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade.
In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. It all began with How to Kill Yourself Slowly.
With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. She continues to write on Fiery Pen: The Horror Writing of Christina Bergling and Z0mbie Turtle.
In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collections Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Collected Easter Horror Shorts, Collected Halloween Horror Shorts, and Demonic Wildlife.
Her latest novel, The Rest Will Come, was released by Limitless Publishing in August 2017.
Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non‐writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.
Connect with Christina here: