This post first appeared on Quora on December 27, 2019. I have added a bit more to it after the split.
I do write books about my scary thoughts. I have limited fears but love horror and frightening things. Apparently people find my work quite scary. How scary? One reader told me my more mild works (my short stories are generally more weird fiction than horror) gave her nightmares for a month.
Depends on what you find frightening.
I say that horror is subjective quite often, because it is. Take, for example, the film Child’s Play. There are people who find that movie creepy and even terrifying. They hate dolls and fear them. Yet there are others who don’t think twice about it. Just toss the damn thing into the fireplace and be done with it. Personally, I am of the latter camp and didn’t find it particularly scary, although the film itself was done well with some jump scares and the horror from the eyes of a little boy being terrorized by his doll.
That can tap into a parent’s fear of being unavailable or unable to help their child through something nightmarish. Losing a child is a terrifying prospect for a parent. Again, horror is subjective.
Things I find creepy, unsettling, or otherwise terrifying make their way into my work. But I also like to write about what other people find frightening. One of my biggest challenges is to find the terror in something that someone else finds scary or creepy. I’m told I succeed at it.
One reader said she didn’t sleep for a month after reading Exit 1042. For me, that’s one I find to be more psychological and an homage to The Twilight Zone than anything else, but for her, it was truly terrifying.
When I write horror, I write for the challenge of taking something ordinary and finding the horrific in it. An old house, a large dog, a sexual encounter. These things on their own aren’t frightening (and in the last case, can be quite exciting), but putting that terror twist on it is something I enjoy.
I’ll take that challenge any day.