Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
Picture a girl. Almost eleven. Not like the other girls. An only child, her imagination is her best friend. She spends her time listening to Shakespear’s Sister and Jefferson Airplane whilst creating fictional diaries for people she makes up in her head. A voracious reader, she has grown tired of Roald Dahl and Judy Blume and Betsy Byars. Point Horror is her new obsession, and a new R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike would be read in a single sitting. But she wants more. She craves bigger thrills and deeper chills. Then one boring, endless Sunday afternoon, perusing her mother’s bookshelves, she found this.
So, it started with Stephen King, as these things often do. Carrie had great resonance with me as a young girl on the cusp of being a teenager, and all the mysteries that womanhood held. Plus, I loved the idea of taking murderous revenge on bullies and bitches. The Shining, I will admit, was so terrifying that I was unable to finish it on my first attempt. Misery was, for a child who told anyone that would listen that she wanted to be an author, a fascinating peek behind the scenes of being a novelist. The ritualistic nature of writing, the typewriter as a character in itself, the minute details of the paper and pencils, the concept of fandom and obsession, and of course Misery’s Return, the book within the book. I have read and re-read King’s novels many times over the years, and I never fail to be blown away by his talent. When he is on form, he is unbeatable. Let’s just not talk about Tommyknockers.
I quickly moved onto Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Clive Barker. His blood spattered double header graphic novella The Yattering and Jack / How Spoilers Bleed sticks in my memory. Then I discovered Prey by Graham Masterton.
Set on the Isle of Wight, the protagonist and his young son are spending the summer renovating a run-down house. He discovers the house acts as a portal between the present and the past, and the sunny, innocent façade of the seaside island gives way to a dark world of Victorian slum witches and child snatching rat-men. I love everything about this novel. It has some gore, but it is never gratuitous. It has disturbing imagery abound and genuinely horrifying characters that were outside anything I had read or seen before. It was also my introduction to H.P. Lovecraft and his Old Ones, being as it is heavily inspired by Dreams in The Witch House.
The final side to my past triangle is Poppy Z. Brite. I remember the day I picked up my copy of Lost Souls, ordered from our local book shop (now sadly closed down due to the rise of Amazon and the e-book revolution). I devoured this book on the day I got it.
A modern vampire tale set in New Orleans which owes more to The Lost Boys than Bram Stoker, and definitely no sparkling. Centring on the story of orphan boy Nothing and his search for his true identity, Brite’s mixture of Southern Gothic and popular culture had me hooked from the first page.
‘The sky is purple, the flare of a match behind a cupped hand is gold. The liquor is green, made from a thousand herbs, made from altars. Those who know enough to drink Chartreuse at Mardi Gras are lucky, because the distilled essence of the town burns in their bellies. Chartreuse glows in the dark, and if you drink enough of it your eyes will turn bright green.’
I had never read a book with gay sex and exotic recreational drug use, with goths and punks and weirdos. Brite’s rich descriptive style, every page dripping with a kaleidoscope of colours and bodily fluids, has had an influence on my own writing, even if my subject matter and setting are wildly different. It spoke to teenage me in a way no other book had. I lent it to all my friends, they underlined passages and in turn lent it to their friends, but I managed to get it back and I still have my original copy to this day. The front cover has long since disintegrated and its soft pages are engorged with the sweat of a thousand thumbs, just the way a book should be.
Trying to read when you are the parent of two young children is hard. It’s even harder when you are also trying to write, have a job, eat, shower and all the other things expected of you when you are an adult. As such, I have found short stories to be my saviour. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, and his Trigger Warning collection is my current go to book when I have two minutes to spare.
It was through my search for exciting short stories that I was introduced to a raft of up and coming horror talent, in the fantastic anthology Wild Things, edited by Steve Shaw. A lifelong lupophobe, as result of my mum letting me watch An American Werewolf in London when I was far too young, the prospect of a whole book of shape-shifting stories filled me with slight trepidation. However, I found the creativity of these writers went way beyond the usual lycanthropic standards (were-centipedes anyone?). This collection showed me that quality writing didn’t have to come from the mainstream, and that indie publishing was a deliciously diverse alternative to the homogenous output of the traditional publishing houses. As an unpublished writer, this was a revelation.
And I am now no longer unpublished. My poem Here We Come A-Wassailing can be in the Burdizzo Books anthology 12 Days.
It includes contributions by other up and coming horror writers, including C.L. Raven, Calum Chalmers, Edward Breen, Christopher Law and Matthew Cash. To top it off, one of my all-time writing heroes Graham Masterton donated his story The Anti-Claus, so to be sharing a book with him is honestly a dream come true. All the proceeds go to Cystic Fibrosis UK, so it’s not only my first publication but it’s for a really good cause, so I am very proud to be involved.
They say if you want to make it as a writer, the first twelve years are the hardest. Although all I ever wanted to be since I could remember was an author, I only started to take my writing seriously two years ago, (and by seriously, I mean not writing two pages and deleting them instantly in embarrassment). In that very short time, as well as guest posting on a few blogs and having some of my short stories selected for inclusion in anthologies and journals, I have written my first novel The Golden Virginian. It’s not horror, more an urban / historical fantasy, featuring magic, murder and marijuana. In the future, I would like to publish my novel. I don’t expect to make any money or get famous or win a Booker Prize or become the next JK Rowling. All I want is for people to read my book, and like it, and let me know that they liked it and maybe ask me for another one. Which would be just fine, because I am already writing the sequel…
You can buy 12 Days here:
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Em also has two short stories in The Siren’s Call e-zine Women in Horror Month edition.
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Em Dehaney is a mother of two, a writer of fantasy and a drinker of tea. Born in Gravesend, England, her writing is inspired by the dark and decadent history of her home town. She is made of tea, cake, blood and magic. You can find her at www.emdehaney.com or lurking about on Facebook, posting pictures of witches. Her debut novel The Golden Virginian is scheduled for release in Spring 2017.
If you can’t wait that long, her poem Here We Come A-Wassailing is in the 12 Days Anthology (available on Amazon now) and her short story The Mermaid’s Purse will be in the fourth Fossil Lake anthology Sharkasaurus due out March 2017.
And for more about Em, visit her site or find her on social media: