I write Middle Grade horror.
I enjoy saying this, but often find that simple sentence requires an explanation. First, not everyone knows what Middle Grade means, so I inform them that it refers to young readers generally between the ages of 8 and 12. Then I have to again explain that I write horror for that age group. At which point, whoever I’m talking with usually says something like:
“Oh. Like the Goosebumps books. Got it.”
At which point I pull out my hair.
I dig the Goosebumps books, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not what I write. I like a little madness with my horror. I like a touch of dementia. Monsters. Tentacles. Horrific possibilities beyond time and space.
You know. Lovecraft.
When my soon-to-be editor read my first book, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, she commented, among other things, that she really liked the Lovecraftian aspect of it. I was tickled pink. It told me she was the right editor for me, because she GOT it.
Make no mistake, Cthulhu does not make an appearance in my book. The children do not visit Innsmouth. R’lyeh does not rise from the depths of the oceans. And frankly, there aren’t really any tentacles to speak of. Which is what made her comment all the more special. Because for my money, that’s not what Lovecraft is about.
Lovecraft is about learning the forbidden truth and discovering it is much worse than you thought. Lovecraft is coming to the end of the book and in some ways, the characters wish they’d never started on this journey in the first place. Lovecraft is Be Careful What You Wish For.
One of the best Lovecraft books I’ve read recently was actually not written by Lovecraft, but by Stephen King. His Revival is beyond chilling, and the end… oh sweet Lord in Heaven the END!!!!
We teach our children to be brave, reach for the stars, believe in themselves. That anything is possible. But what if it isn’t? That, to me, is horror. It’s one thing to know the house is haunted. It’s another to learn that it’s haunted by your twin brother who was killed at birth so you would survive. In short, it’s not the WHAT, it’s the WHY.
That’s what I try to bring to my books. The WHAT in Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is mega-creepy, but the WHY is horrible.
My second book, Beyond the Doors (available everywhere August 1!), stays true to this concept. You learn the WHAT long before you learn the WHY.
I think children need to understand that motive matters. In fiction, in life, in everything. And so in my small way, I feel that I’m doing my part to prepare the next generation to be better-informed citizens.
And if a few of them go insane along the way, that’s a plus.