A question I find myself asking more and more these days, is when does a thriller novel stray into the realms of horror? Is there a definitive line in which an author has to cross before one genre wholeheartedly turns into another or is it just semantics and personal opinion?
As an author I obviously have my own preconceived ideas of what horror is with regards to my own work, yet whilst having discussions with not only other authors but friends, it has become apparent that we all have our own personal line to cross and that line varies widely. Personally, when I write, I like to keep it as realistic as possible, that’s not to say some may view my work as a little far-fetched, but to me realism is at the very heart of horror. I have said many times before in interviews that I prefer the impact of social conditioning and human emotions as opposed to the supernatural element, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t explore such topics in later works. At present though, I feel a deep seeded need to at least try to keep the horror grounded.
The old saying of “Horses for courses” is apt when we explore our reading habits within the horror genre. Some authors are superb in weaving a vast supernatural yarn that keeps the reader firmly in the books grip, causing us to hide beneath the duvet for fear of antagonising some deity baying for blood. I myself have a very fast paced and kinetic style, I aim to keep the reader turning the page either through sheer fear or the constant adrenaline rush. Some may dislike my style yet others love it, again it depends on the reader. Even as an author there are some other writers that I personally can’t get into, that’s not to say I don’t rate them or their work, but I just can’t get into their style or “voice”. Maybe I am trying to over analyse the whole question, maybe I seek to find an answer that needs not be found or maybe I’m just losing the plot and should just get back to writing!
Within the horror genre there are many sub categories. From the ghostly supernatural tales to the extreme horrors from realms unknown, all of which have their advocates and their objectors. Regardless of the sub-genre there are plenty of authors plying their trade and reaching excellent sales figures, not to mention thrilling fans from around the world. These warriors of the written word appear to be dancing to their own tune and loving every minute, and quite rightly so. The level of effort and dedication it takes to weave such stories is immense.
Horror can come from anywhere; it can be the monster lurking in the closet, or the ardent serial killer next door. As authors, we aim to thrust our protagonists into life or death situations, thus taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride through a vast array of emotions, the need to make the reader gasp with excitement or terror driving us forward to push boundaries and delve ever deeper into what terrifies us.
When I was writing my first novel, Jackals, I can honestly say that I didn’t pigeon hole the style. I knew of course the level of brutality and violence would cause some to label it extreme but to me, it was just the story I “needed” to write. Each scene had to push the story forward. Of course, that’s not to say my future works may not be as gory or violent but rest assured they will always be intense and contain the visceral intensity I am rapidly gaining a name for. Fast forward to the present time and I am happy that people are calling it action / horror because I am a huge fan of both, not just in the written word but on the silver screen. It would seem I am fortunate to have found my place within the horror realm and my sole aim is to improve with each new book I release. Be it horror, or thriller, it will not diminish the rush the reader feels when they delve into the book.
The bottom line is that the lines are becoming ever more blurred when it comes to modern horror. A Thriller can easily give way to horror if pushed a little and vice versa. Some may argue that a thriller is the “threat” of something bad happening yet “horror” is the actual thing taking place and to some degree, I would agree with such a statement but when all is said and done who really cares? As long as the reader is taken on one hell of a ride and they are able to escape the modern world for a few hours then what does it matter what label is placed upon it? My idea of personal horror would be stuck in a room watching boy bands on repeat!
If you are an author then just write! Forget about labels and genres and write what speaks to you. If you are a fan, then explore what’s out there, don’t limit yourself to just a handful of authors, be brave and take a punt on that unknown who has just released their first novel. Share with your friends and spread the word because we authors couldn’t do what we do without you, the reader. There are so many excellent story tellers out there that you are literary spoilt for choice.
Thriller or horror? As long as it captures our imagination and forces us to sleep with one eye open then it matters not. Forget the label and get reading unless of course you are too scared.
Until next time…
Stuart R Brogan, Biography
Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.
Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.
Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”