Sometime around the seventh grade, other girls began to get boobs. Honest to goodness breasts that required honest to goodness support and garnered honest to goodness attention. My genetics made me a lot of things, but being a big booby girl was never in the ribonucleic cards for me.
For years, I felt awkward and unattractive. I was a mess of self-doubt all because I didn’t look the way I thought I should look. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I accepted my body and I began to feel at home being myself.
How does this have anything to do with writing? Or horror writing in particular? Well, for me, the process of accepting my body mirrors the experience I had in accepting myself as a horror writer.
When I started writing stories, I was convinced the only works that ‘mattered’ were Literary Works. I eschewed mass-produced fiction and felt superior to people who expressed an interest in genre writing. I was a snob who read horror novels in places where no one knew me, like the airport.
When I started writing, I was full of BS! First of all, where was my debate, careful thought, and good definition of what it meant for something to be literary? Second, where was my self reflection, where were the questions as to how I could love horror so much when no one was looking? Third, where were my boobs?
From 2005 until 2009, I wrote short stories. When I had about 30 stories, I played with the idea of putting together a collection of shorts. I set about reading and organizing everything I’d written. It was an Event. A Discovery. Nothing short of a Revelation. Everything I had written that really had heat could be classified as horror!
By this time, I was less of a snob. I felt let down by the contemporary works labeled as “Literary.” I’d grown impatient with books that tried to be so clever with their metafiction and their own cleverness that they didn’t carry a story. I was bored of being tricked, bamboozled and led. I wanted to read books that swept me away. I wanted to be seduced, not analyzed. I wanted a good read.
I gave myself permission to explore all the sections of the bookstore. I read what I wanted, no matter who might see me. I devoured horror novels. I searched for female horror writers and discovered Elizabeth Hand and Alexandra Sokoloff, whose writings prove that horror can be well written, absorbing, even beautiful. I rediscovered Steven King and was absolutely blown away by THE SHINING, a novel that works on so many different levels it transcends any narrow categorization. I was loving my reading with a depth and fervor that I hadn’t felt since the onset of my snobbery. I was a happy reader.
And I was a very, very uncomfortable writer. I had never considered writing horror, yet horror is what I wrote. I found it difficult to accept and for a long time did not tell anyone what sort of works I produced. I even tried to write some stories that were consciously engineered to be devoid of anything supernatural, horrifying, or creepy. Those were terrible stories! They reminded me of a bra I once bought that promised to make me look two cup sizes bigger and jiggle! All I ended up doing was looking silly and bumping into stuff because I wasn’t used to my chest protruding that far away from my body. I’m built more like Milla Jovavich than Christina Hendricks, and that’s just a simple fact of life. I write tales that have more in common with Dean Koontz than with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and that’s just a simple fact of life.
I’m flat chested and I write horror. And I’m okay with that. Finally!