Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Writing Horror is Scary

I was lucky enough to be a guest poster on Musa Publishing's blog for the Young Adult novelists, called Euterpe.  I told the story of how my latest release, middle grade horror story, The Detention Demon, came to be.  You may not have read it, so I'd like to share it here.

Why Writing Horror is Scary    by Samantha Combs

When I was a young girl, I was a fanatic reader.  I had books piled up in my bedroom, jammed in my backpack and even crammed in my purse (small paperbacks can be stuffed in; you don’t really need a wallet at fourteen.)  I think now it’s a good thing my parents didn’t pay a lot of attention to what I was reading…..I think they might have been fairly freaked out.  The Oh-My-God-Maybe-She-Needs-A-Psychiatrist kind of freaked out.  Because I wasn’t reading what you might think a young girl was reading.  No siree.

I had no time for anyone from anywhere called Sweet Valley High.  I loved those True Detective Magazines with the gory story about how the woman was attacked.  I read Go Ask Alice, a wrenching story about a teenage runaway.  I devoured anything by Robert A. Heinlen and even though I pretended to be as bored as my peers with the reading selections from my English classes, secretly, I was in heaven.  I pounced on Animal Farm and Slaughterhouse Five and I, Robot.  I cruised sections of the school library that l am now certain was never frequented by the student body.  Maybe, you’re getting it now…..I had, um, different tastes.

When I wrote stories, everyone always died.  Horribly.  Without limbs.  And I got older.  I developed an all-consuming fascination for true crime as well, worshipping at the literary feet of veteran story spinners like Ann Rule.  I read about Bundy and the Green River killer and Son of Sam.  Then I found and tore through Wes Craven and Michael Crichton.  And then one amazing, wonderful, life-changing day, I stumbled across a book at a yard sale called Night Shift.

A collection of short horror stories, I couldn’t put the book down for hours, and I couldn’t sleep with the night off for days.  I scrambled to get everything on this writer, this Stephen King.  I became one of the followers, the faithful.  No one could write like him, ever, I thought.  But, Man, I sure wanted to.

I tried my hand at horror.  I sucked. I look at my efforts from then now and I’m embarrassed.  I knew NOTHING about writing suspense and drama and tension.   But I found I could write a story that someone besides my Mum would read.  And I got older.

A lot older.  Like marriage, husband, homes and children older.  So I shelved the horror and wrote little stories for the kids.  Then one day two years ago, a little story became a little novella, which became a novel, which became a Young Adult paranormal series.  I was proud of it, and prouder still when it published.  And even more when it won an award!  But I wanted to do more.  I wanted to write horror.  And I wanted it to be in my own writing style, not anyone else’s.  No matter how much I worshipped them.

So I wrote one or two stories and let them marinate, to see how they might taste after a while.  They tasted good.  I wrote a couple more and then I my Muse made her appearance.  I call her Musina.

My son had been given detention at school for an infraction and carried on so much about it, I wondered what could be wrong with the teacher.  Musina planted a seed.  I wondered what would happen if there was something wrong with him.  I asked my son what he thought about it and he, wise sage that he is, said, Hey Mommy, maybe boys would like it enough to keep reading. Wouldn’t that be cool, Mommy?  Musina and I got busy and just like that, The Detention Demon was born.

But I was worried.  How would a horror story aimed at young boys go over?  There are so few “boycentric” books out there, if I wrote a bad one, it would really stand out.  And anyway, wasn’t R.L.Stine already doing it?  But once again, Musina set me straight.  No, he didn’t have a monopoly on the genre, she said.  You write whatever you want.  It’ll be great.  And if only one boy gets the reading bug, wouldn’t that be worth it?  So I did.  And shock of all shocks, a publisher liked it.  I was scheduled for a release date!

Then the nagging feeling came back.  What if I couldn’t write horror?  What if I wasn’t scary enough?  I had to test run something.  So I packaged my short horror stories together in an anthology, self-published it and held my breath. 

Ready for the shocker?  They liked it!  They actually liked it a lot!  So, now I am back to holding my breath.  The Detention Demon released today and I’m waiting to exhale.  I hope you enjoy it and even more, I hope you give it to your son and I hope he just thinks…’s cool.

 A raggedy group of delinquents, thrown together by circumstance, get the opportunity to prove if rumors about the detention teacher being less than human are true and discover it doesn’t take years of friendship to bond together and overcome evil.

Wayne is a Junior High school boy who just got detention for fighting in school to protect his longtime best friend, Gumby.  But recently, there have been stories about detention.  Kids have mysteriously disappeared, creating creepy rumors about detention class. Now, Wayne finds himself trapped in there with school bully Bubba Dugan.  Keeping his distance from Bubba won’t be Wayne’s only problem.  In fact, those rumors about the detention teacher don’t seem like stories at all.
With his best friend Gumby, a crew of delinquents and a surprising late addition, a pretty cheerleader harboring a secret crush, Wayne and his group of misfits will have to band together to outwit the detention teacher.  He’s protected his best friend from harm his whole life…..but, can he protect him and everyone else against something that might not even be human?
About the Author:  Samantha Combs is the Global Ebook Award-winning author of Spellbound, and book two in the series, Everspell.  An additional YA ghost story, Ghostly is her third publication, as well as a short horror story collection, Teeth and Talons, A Horror Anthology, her fourth.  She writes for Astraea Press and Musa Publishing and for the sheer love of it.  Following the release of The Detention Demon, her fifth published book, look for Waterdancer, a new YA paranormal from Musa Publishing coming in September of 2012. 



  1. It sounds like a great premise. I loved the originals of both the tale and your fondness for horror stories of all different persuasions!

    1. Thanks Derek. Hope you enjoy them. Teeth and Talons is FREE for two more days!

  2. I hope it does well. I'll be getting it once I fill up my visa card. An yeah, I will give it to my son to read, he loves the horror for kids.

    Stefan Ellery

    1. Stefan, I'm DYING to know what he thinks. Your son is smack in the middle of the audience demographic. Be sure and let me know.

  3. As a youngster, my reading tastes must have been just about opposite of yours. Oh, I read a few sci fi stories, mysteries, and horror tales. I even read two (I think) western novels ... mainly to see if they were as good as western movies. They weren't.
    But mostly I read biographies. I've always been fascinated by people and these particular sets of biographies focused on the early years of people who later became famous.