by Horror Author
Thomas M. Malafarina
Horror author Thomas M. Malafarina is currently on tour with Ravenswood Publishing. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author on his reasons for writing horror. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Guest Post by the Author
Why I Write Horror
I am often asked to explain why I choose to write horror fiction. I mean, it’s not the most popular form of fiction and I can attest it’s not the most financially lucrative genre in the world either. So why write horror? Usually this question, if asked in person, is followed by an expression on the questioner’s face similar to that which one might have upon stepping on something foul on a sidewalk, such as a slug, a worm, a dead squirrel, or perhaps the contents from the backside of a less than considerate dog.
Looks of revulsion aside, the question is actually a fair one; one which I might be inclined to ask myself if I were the inquirer and not the inquiree. Thinking logically, why in the world would anyone want to write horror fiction stories, especially those terror-filled stories which tend to lean toward the gruesome and emotionally disturbing variety that I write? Seriously, what’s the motivation?
I suppose the simplest answer is, I write stories about what I like. I’m sure that doesn’t help make anyone exactly feel warm and fuzzy. You see, I’m a life-long fan of the horror genre and, as such, writing horror fiction is something which comes as naturally to me as breathing. (Ok, maybe breathing is not a good example, since breathing is an involuntary function - luckily for me, as I would likely absent-mindedly forget to breathe otherwise.) But I digress. That being said, I have been a fan of all things horror-related for as long as I can remember, which means at 59 years old … well that’s a long time.
Regarding the type of horror I strive for in my own writing, I generally prefer to write a strong story that features monsters, demons, ghosts, or other such fantasy creatures based completely in the world of imagination. I enjoy taking regular, everyday sorts of characters and putting them in completely impossible situations, things which in a normal world could never happen.
For the most part, I tend to stay away from human-on-human violence, such as serial killers. There are plenty of other authors out there who regularly travel down that literary road. It’s just not one I prefer on most occasions. This is not to speak negatively about such work; it's just not what I choose to write. That being said, I should point out the hypocrisy in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. You see, I am a major fan of cop TV shows, detective novels and murder mysteries, so I do enjoy the genre immensely, but as a consumer not as a writer. Anyway, there is plenty of murder and mayhem of the human variety in those works, without my adding to the mix. And if I really want to have the crap scared out of me I just tune into the evening news. People genuinely frighten me. Keep in mind, the only qualification to be a member of the human race is a pulse.
But regarding human violence, as long as I am coming clean, I should point out that in my first short story collection published by Sunbury Press called 13 Nasty Endings I actually did write a short story entitled "Retribution" involving a man driven mad by grief and who subjected his victim (a really bad character) to unmentionable tortures. I had originally had twelve stories ready for the book; then my publisher, Lawrence Knorr, had an idea for the title and I needed to come up with an additional story to make it thirteen. I had written "Retribution" as an experiment simply to put the idea down on paper. I once thought it might make a good novel but decided a short story would be bad enough. I was extremely reluctant to submit it as it was not one of my typical works, but I did so nonetheless, and it became the last and thirteenth story in the collection. (Unlucky 13?) It still makes me uncomfortable to read it. As I said ... not really my thing.
I should also mention that my personal horror movie collection is chock-full of slasher, mangler, hacker, ax murder, and other similar types of movies as well; some of them quite well-known and popular while others might be considered more obscure. And yes, I do watch them too; I watch all types of horror and sci-fi movies. In doing so, I’ve been fortunate to see some really great classic horror films and unfortunately I've also had to endure some real bottom-of-the-barrel virtually unwatchable crappola as well. If I had a dollar for every time in my life I’ve watched a horror movie and said, "I would have written that much better" (or at least much differently), I would probably be able to afford to pay someone else to type all of my manuscripts. But I digress (yet again). So, as my collection of bad horror movies grew, so did my frustration with pitiful story lines.
In fact, it was that very overabundance of bad horror movies which motivated me to stop talking about writing horror stories and actually take the leap into writing. For example, my first novel 99 Souls started out as a screenplay back in like 2005 or 2006. I had an idea for a really scary and horrible scene, and so I wrote it down. Then it evolved into several scenes, then to a complete story. Since I had never written a screenplay before, I had it spilling over with detailed descriptions and set directions; I quickly learned it did not quite fit the design of a typical screenplay. (Apparently, film directors like to give direction rather than take them – hence the name director.) As such, I decided the story would have a better life as a novel, so in 2009 I rewrote it and it eventually became my first published book. It also ended up being my maiden voyage onto the tumultuous seas of serious horror writing.
After completing 99 Souls the novel, I started shopping it around to publishers for about a year or so, and in my spare time wrote a number of short stories as well as started on my second novel, Burn Phone. Then lo and behold in 2010, a small publisher from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Sunbury Press, liked 99 Souls and wanted to see some of my short stories. They liked them and suggested publishing a collection. Then when I pitched Burn Phone I was blown away to have them offer me a 3-book contract. Within several months, we published 99 Souls, followed by 13 Nasty Endings, then Burn Phone.
After that, I was hooked (and still am). I started writing like a maniac. I currently have eleven books published through Sunbury Press including; 99 Souls, 13 Nasty Endings, Burn Phone, Eye Contact, Gallery Of Horror, Malafarina Maleficarum Volume 1, Malafarina Maleficarum Volume 2, Fallen Stones, Ghost Shadows, Undead Living, and my latest, Dead Kill Book 1: The Ridge Of Death. In addition, I have a collection of bizarre single panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too: Cartoons For The Slightly Off-Center. I’m currently finalizing another short story collection for Sunbury and working on the second book in the Dead Kill series. Oh yeah, I'm hooked big time alright.
Another reason I love to write horror is that I discovered something interesting and exciting about the writing process itself. Instead of wasting my time watching bad horror movies, my stories have become my own personal movies of my mind. When I am writing a story, I'm attending a movie screening inside my head. Often three quarters of the way through a novel or short story, I have no idea how it will end. When I am writing, it's just like watching a horror movie for the first time, with me being as eager to learn the ending as any of my readers might be. And the cool thing about it is, unlike a bad movie where you are stuck with a crappy ending, if I write something I don't like I can just rewrite it until it is what I like. I realize that sound a bit strange, if not self-serving, but that's how it works for me. I write for my own entertainment, assuming if I enjoy it being my own worst critic, then maybe someone else will enjoy it as well.
I am also a musician and artist so when I am writing a story, I am painting my scenes with words, and if I do a good job, then the reader should be able to see the scene played out in his mind, exactly as I meant for it to be visualized. If I do an exceptional job, the reader might even be able to imagine a horrifying musical score to appropriately accompany the scene. Ok, maybe that’s asking for too much with the whole music score idea, but a vivid imagination is a wonderful thing which, in my opinion, knows no bounds.
This sort of descriptiveness and mood setting is extremely important for horror fiction because, as an author, I’m asking a lot of my reader. Think about it for a minute. I’m expecting the reader to buy into a completely impossible set of scenarios. Unlike other forms of fiction, most of what I write is not only fiction but is impossible fiction; something which the reader knows from the beginning can absolutely never happen. Accepting this is quite a major commitment to expect from a reader because, before they can truly enjoy the story, they must first change their rational, logical mindset to one capable of accepting the possibility of the impossible - if only for the time they are reading the work.
It’s like when someone starts telling you a joke about a priest, a hooker, and a gorilla walking into a bar. If you’re not willing to accept the possibility of those three unlikely companions entering a drinking establishment together, in other words if you can’t accept the premise of the joke, then there is probably no point in listening to the rest of it. Likewise, with horror fiction, if you’re not willing to buy in to the premise and also be willing to free yourself from the confines of reality and jump headlong into the abyss of terrifying darkness, then what's the point? Again, if I do my job well, the reader should be able to easily leave the world of day-to-day reality and comfortably (or uncomfortably, as the case may be) step into my special realm of unimaginable terror.
One way I can tell if I've earned my keep is when someone tells me they were disturbed for hours or even days after reading one of my stories. Or even better than that is when they tell me they had nightmares about something of mine they’ve read. Then I truly know not only was I successful, but they did their part as well and bought into my premise. And that means that, for a short while, two complete strangers were able to share and enjoy the experience of horror fiction together. What a great symbiotic relationship!
My website carries my horror fiction slogan, "Embrace The Fear". That’s a credo, which I feel is useful in explaining how I like my readers to approach one of my stories. When you are reading my work, don’t fight it, don’t hold back, and don't allow reality to get in your way. Instead, let go, relax and enjoy the roller coaster ride of terror which I have provided for you.
And that, my friends is another reason why I write horror fiction. When it works, it can be an amazing experience, and I do my best to make it work every time. Sometimes I hit a home run, sometimes a single. But regardless of the level of success, I don’t want you to ever be disappointed. My goal is to stir emotion. It might be terror, it might be frustration or it might even end up being anger. Regardless of what sort of emotion I manage to stir within the reader, I don’t want it to be complacency. I would rather have a reader furious or disgusted with something I’ve written then to have him say, "It was ok."
Many people think that buying a book is the greatest gift a reader can give to an author but, in my opinion, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I feel the greatest gifts a reader can give are his time and his emotional commitment to the work. Nothing is more valuable than our time and, if I spend a year writing a novel, I want to make the reader feel the time he gave up to read that novel was time well spent.
About the Author
Thomas M. Malafarina is a horror fiction author from the South Heidelberg area of Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was born July 23, 1955 in Ashland, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, where he lived until moving to Berks County in 1979.
Many of Thomas's stories take place in his native Schuylkill County and also in Berks County settings. Thomas's books are published by Sunbury Press of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
Thomas's novels include 99 Souls, Burn Phone, Eye Contact, and Fallen Stones. His short story collection are 13 Nasty Endings, Gallery of Horror, Malafarina Maleficarum Volume 1, Malafarina Maleficarum Volume 2, and Ghost Shadows. He also has a collection of single-panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too. In addition, Thomas's stories appear in many anthologies currently on sale on Amazon.
Thomas has had a life-long love of the horror and monster genre in all its form of books, movies and art. Annually, Thomas creates works of horror art, props and scenery, which he donates to a local non-profit Halloween Barn Of Terror.
Thomas lives just outside of Wernersville, Pennsylvania, with his wife JoAnne. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.