OK, so I screwed up and forgot to post this when I promised Julie I would. Ugh…it’s been kind of hectic here at Taff Lodge. My sweet mother-in-law, who’s slowly sailing into Alzhemier’s, fell in her home about two months ago and broke her hip. Serious for any 78-year-old, but even more troublesome for someone suffering from this insidious disease. So, yes, this is my bald-faced attempt to generate some sympathy for forgetting to post this as promised.
I’ve “known” Julie (in the odd modern way we know digital peers) for about six or seven years now. She was one of the inaugural group of authors assembled by Books of the Dead, of which I, too, was one. Julie’s book, Running Home, was a beautifully written tale of vampires steeped in Japanese mythology, and she did very well with it. With Books of the Dead’s demise a year or so ago, Julie struck out on her own and has continued to write and publish.
I love Julie and I think, after reading this, you will want to read her novels. And you will love her, too. Take it away, Julie:
THE HURT IN HORROR
By Julie Hutchings
Pretty Scary Author
I wrote this book, THE HARPY, and let me tell you a thing: it was scary. Not scary because of the mutilation and viscera, not because of the hellscape setting, not because of the monster Charity Blake turns into, not even because of the horrible past she survived.
The real horror is in what that past has made Charity feel about herself.
Horror comes in many forms, caters to every dark corner, all the recesses. As a writer, if I don’t search out the corners of where the scary comes from, I haven’t given my readers anything new. I have to dig deeper than surface scary, and for me, that’s the scariest part of all. Exposing the ugliness that follows a victim long after the horror has died away.
Charity ran away from her past, made a new name for herself that she hardly lives up to, and destroys herself little by little in a thousand ways because of the lie she now believes: that she’s worthless. Trash. Destroyed already. And as a result she runs straight into an escape that isn’t an escape at all, that rips her limb from limb as she herself rips her victims limb from limb. She becomes the monster she’s believes in. The emotional damage manifests physically, dragging the victim back out while pushing her into the body of a predator. A different kind of predator than the ones who ruined her, but a predator all the same.
The question is, does circumstance excuse becoming evil?
STOP ME BEFORE I START TALKING ABOUT KYLO REN.
The hurt creates the horror. The horror becomes the woman. The woman becomes the horror.
The aftermath of the real horror, the abuse and neglect Charity survived, stays with her as long as the physical scars. (The physical scars that the reader doesn’t even hear about until the last third of the book.) Because the outward hurt isn’t always what makes something truly disturbing. The inescapable psychological damage is where we find something we ourselves fear more than torture, the sight of our own intestines falling out, the idea of our loved ones being brutally murdered when we could have stopped it… Any long list of scary stuff to make us wince is never really as frightening as the thing in ourselves that we strive to keep buried. The constant fear that the ugliness within, the secret, the lie we believe, will come out and change everything we know, even if all we know is the dregs of evil.
In writing a horror that hurts, I was pretty terrified myself, of a lot of things. What people would think, of course. Who I would hurt by making them relive things they’d rather not. I don’t want to hurt anyone—but I’m afraid of keeping things in the recesses that pop into my head. And more than that, it’s my responsibility to deliver something that makes my reader think, makes them feel, makes them read again and again, even if they hate themselves for it. In the end, I hope more than anything that the story helps. Shock value has its own merit, but disturbance that chills places we’d rather not go is important. It draws out the ugly, takes its power away, even just for a moment. It has weight.
So I ask you: what line is too far to cross in horror, or in writing at all?
About THE HARPY
Charity Blake survived a nightmare.
Now she is one.
Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her.
But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy.
Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie’s a mythology-twisting, pizza-hoarding karate kicker who left her ten-year panty peddling career to devote all her time to writing. She is the author of Running Home, Running Away, The Wind Between Worlds, and The Harpy. Julie revels in all things Buffy, will beat you at Tekken, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, forever running a Scholastic Book Fair and awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband, two magnificent boys, and an army of reptiles.