Guest Blog: Journey into Darkness by Alyson Faye

Journey into Darkness

by Alyson Faye

I didn’t spring fully formed into writing for the horror genre; it’s been a gradual slither in that direction with side detours including children’s stories (albeit supernatural in plot) and poetry. However, the seeds were sown early on, for I was a voracious reader as an only child and trips to the local library where a highlight for me. I can recall vividly the covers of those Alfred Hitchcock Mystery compilation books and the Pan Horror paperbacks, which I consumed in vast quantities in my teens. Even now the mere sight or touch of one of those paperbacks makes the years roll back. Books are powerful. Portals to alien lands – including your own past.

Robert Westall’s oeuvre was raced through; two particularly stick in my mind:- ‘Scarecrows’ which sparked a real terror of the straw men in my heart, and his ‘The Watch Tower’ set in his own seaside hometown, Tynemouth in the UK. The creepy messages written in the dust really gripped my imagination. Another Northern British writer for teens was Robert Swindells, who doesn’t just write horror but when he does like his ‘Room 13’, it sticks with you.

I managed to trace a much-loved book (long lost to me) through the internet – joy!- It’s another time slip, supernatural haunting tale – ‘The Snowstorm’ by Beryl Netherclift, which I must have borrowed five times from the library. The children’s door to the past is via the snow globe in the library- hence the title.

No reading journey for a horror writer isn’t complete without nods to Stephen King and James Herbert. I read all of King’s early books, (particular faves ‘Cujo’ and ‘Carrie’). I did have a pet dog at the time which gave me concern whilst reading Cujo. With King of course the books were linked to the films/TV- so in 1979 the US TV movie of ‘Salem’s Lot’ starring a post- ‘Starsky and Hutch’ David Soul had me hooked and freaked out,  especially the scene where the vampire boy comes a-tapping at Mark’s window to be let in. Will he or won’t he gain admission? I slept all summer with my bedroom windows closed. Better to suffocate than be turned into one of the undead.

Let me not forget a nod in the direction of that TV staple, ‘Dr Who’. For me it was all about the Tom Baker years, which got surprisingly dark considering the show’s early screening time of 6pm ish. Monsters abounded in some cracking yarns:-  ‘Image of the Fendhal’ and ‘The Pyramids of Mars,’ especially influential though for me, was the classic show, ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’. I’ve watched it several times as an adult and it still gives me the creeps. That frisson of nostalgia and anticipation- I just love it. I relished the Gothic London Victorian setting and the demonic ventriloquist’s dummy equipped with the pig’s brain, which was in 1977, to an 11-year-old me, a real shocker.

Books and films have been my dual touchstones for all of my life; the two often being intertwined. The one leading to and feeding back to the other. I watched a lot of late night Hammer horrors on BBC2 growing up. Well, I watched a lot of movies, not just horror, period. I even used to review them in my diary and keep scrapbooks of cuttings and go to film memorabilia fairs.

In the days pre VHS and setting record on your TV- I know hard to imagine a world like that – you had to stay up late to catch something unusual- like John Barrymore in the silent 1920 version of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, and although special effects have come on a million light years since then there still is something visceral and feral in Barrymore’s transformation into the evil Hyde.

Lon Chaney’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (1925) mainly black and white but surprisingly for the year, with some sequences in two strip colour, was another stay-up till the early hours job. But oh the moment where the phantom’s mask is stripped away has stayed with me for 40 years. Chaney, in one silent close up, showed the pain behind the mask and the man within the monster. Brilliant. I’d watch him in anything.

One year BBC2 dedicated a whole season to the films produced by Val Lewton at RKO in the 1940’s- so in succession you could watch, 1942’s ‘Cat People’, then on the next night, ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ and so on through his film career. These were all low budget B films, short of cash but rich on ideas, photography and story. You never see the big cat attack the girl in the swimming pool in ‘Cat People’, it’s all shot with shadows and clever soundtrack effects, but it is scary as heck and put me off swimming alone for years. True story- I refused to swim in a basement pool in a hotel in Norfolk,UK until someone else got in- I was about 13 years old though.

I wrote an article on Lewton’s career which is up at https://womeninhorrorblog.wordpress.com/?s=alyson+faye.  (Thank you to Claire Fitzpatrick for encouraging me to write this piece and posting it).

In the second phase of my writing life, post-40ish, I have turned my hand to writing flash fiction for the first time as well as writing longer stories. My natural tendency, it became clear to me, is to write dark, weird and haunted. So I people my tales with feral children, demons, ghosts, assassins, abused women, mermaids, killer teens and the occasional vampire (often for some reason called Vinnie). My début flash fiction collection came out in January this year from indie publisher Chapel Town Books and is called appropriately, ‘Badlands’. A title, inspired, yes you guessed it, by the Terrence Malick 1973 film, (another memorable late night TV viewing where Martin Sheen made quite an impact and I never looked at relationships the same way again.)

I kept writing and always kept reading horror/supernatural writers, following their stories through the small horror mags – folk like Alison Littlewood (her first novel ‘A Cold Season’ takes some beating but probably her latest ‘The Crow Garden’ is her Victorian Gothic tour de force), Simon Avery and Mark Valentine, whilst avidly consuming Susan Hill’s ghost stories and everything by Sarah Rayne.

I read all of Rayne’s back catalogue in less than a year; her novels are a mix of psychological terror/horror/history. Try ‘Ghost Song’, if you want to dip in, its one of her best. I even wrote her a (rare for me fan email) and she kindly replied. Happily I will be interviewing Sarah Rayne about her latest book, ‘Song of the Damned’ and her writing career, after I approached her publishers and she agreed, (hurrah) and the interview will go out on the Horror Tree site. I should mention that through another interview I conducted for Horror Tree a new name in horror came my way, Australian writer, Deborah Sheldon, whose prize winning short story collection ‘Perfect Little Stitches’, is very scary, original and well worth seeking out.

Currently I am reading Laura Purcell’s début Gothic chiller ‘The Silent Companions’ and I am happily revelling in the oh so familiar Victorian landscape of widows, diaries, mysterious deaths, creepy servants, attics, diamonds and those ‘Companions’ of the title.

Much of my own horror fiction, like ‘Mother Love’  is Victorian Gothic (Women in Horror Annual 2), https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Horror-Annual-Rachel-Katz/ and my latest story, all 6000 words of it, ‘Mr Dandy’ which I’ve written, on request, for an upcoming anthology, ‘DeadCades’ (to be published in October this year, by The Infernal Clock press, an indie co-run by Steph Ellis and David Shakes), http://infernalclock.blogspot.com/ has been influenced by many of the writers I’ve mentioned. ‘Mr Dandy,’ the ventriloquist’s dummy, is inspired both by Dr Who’s Weng Chiang and Ealing’s 1945 portmanteau horror/supernatural film ‘Dead of Night’ and the segment starring Michael Redgrave as the ventriloquist.

Tim Lebbon (especially his ‘The Silence’) and F. G. Cottam’s books require a mention too as significant influences. Cottam’s ‘The Colony’ trilogy are so well written you think it’s a real story happening to real people. Cottam is described, rightly as ‘one of the finest contemporary writers of supernatural horror.’ (Jan Olandese) I’d agree with that. He also writes real page turners.

One of the sites which published my horror drabbles and longer pieces regularly and thereby gave me encouragement, was The Horror Tree –  https://horrortree.com/. It is co-run by Stuart Conover (its founder) and the aforementioned horror writer Steph Ellis. https://stephellis.weebly.com/ It is a useful one- stop resource site for both reading horror fiction and for listing the many mags where you can submit. Lately the site has expanded into interviews with horror writers and book reviews.

I have watched a lot of horror films –some were seminal for me, like my first viewing of ‘Halloween’ and the 1980 version of ‘The Fog’ best watched at night, with drawn curtains in winter- I find. Remember Neil Marshall’s 2005’s ‘The Descent? where that foolhardy group of women cavers go down into the earth’s depths and you just know it will go pear shaped, they had no idea did they? I love the moment in a film/book where you know the characters’ world is going to topple into chaos, terror and death. It’s a hold your breath and feel the shivers creep up your spine time.

My top three films, probably, which I’ve watched in the last couple of years:- 2017’s ‘Get Out’/ 2018’s ‘A Quiet Place’/ 2017’s ‘Annabelle: Creation’. I often write about dolls in my stories, and have a habit of going to Museums of Dolls and Dolls houses in my spare time. I never liked them as a child, and I still don’t. Some girls do not play with dolls, ‘cos they know the dolls are watching!

I am a huge Guillermo del Toro fan, but it is a TV series he co-created, more than his movies which gripped me for 4 seasons – if you haven’t seen ‘The Strain’ ? Well you’ve not seen the best ever vampires/zombies post apocalyptic thrill ride of a show. So rush out and buy those DVDs now! Like I did. I was hooked. There were  human characters to root for and others to hate- each episode is in itself a mini movie (the supermarket zombie siege while just doing some grocery shopping is the best ever)- you’ll never late night shop at Asda alone again. Each episode had a horrifying jump scare every 10 minutes.

When I’m asked what I do – I say I write, and folk go ‘oh that’ s nice’ etc etc but when they ask what I write? That’s a different scenario- say horror, and their eyebrows go up and that look of surprise tinged with distaste creeps in. Know that look? For every horror fan out there and there are millions, there are just as many folk who really don’t like it. Yes my fiction might disturb or raise shivers, great! I want it to, but it is fiction, a story and a way I think of putting our fears out there and then putting them to bed in a story box. I think it is a genre which calls to you, why write it otherwise? You’ve got to love it to want to put in the hours, sweat and blood. Creatively speaking, not literally.


Badlands by Alyson Faye is up on amazon :- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Badlands-Alyson-Faye/dp/1910542253

My blog:- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

 

13 Questions with Michele Roger

Hello, Horror Addicts and welcome back to another installment of 13 Questions. This week’s author is Michele Roger. “She is the creator of the Wicked Women Writer’s group on emzbox.ning.com.” This is Michele’s second time on Horror Addicts. “Emz was very gracious when I first started writing short stories and podcasting. She gave me feedback and hosted my first story, “Taste of the Dead” the first year I started out.”

“Wicked Women’s Writing Group was a group I created because it seemed as if the genre for sci fi and horror was dominated by men. To my suprise there are a boat load of talented women who write horror and have joined. Its a place to network and help one another. Admittedly, I’ve not been working with the group due to fighting some legal battles (writing is intellectual property I discovered). But the group has really taken off and I hope it will be a hub for new talent as well as established writers.”

For Horror Addicts episode 43: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Roger has written a story called Hyde. “It’s meant to be a play on sound like a homonym. It’s a post apocalypse story about the entity of Death. He has evolved along with humanity after surviving WWIII and all of its fall out. He is the reason for a new plague spreading throughout the city of Detroit. Victims are found often screaming “Hide”(Hyde). A famous doctor, Jake Hayle is said to have the cure and that’s where our heroine comes in to seek him out to help her lover who has fallen victim to the sickness.”

Here’s a little sneak-peek into Hyde:

The average person might think that the sight of the inflicted is what one first notices. But in all actuality, it’s the smell. Since the Third War, heightened senses and the ability to see both real and dark

matter are not the only evolutionary leaps humanity has made. Those victimized by the Madness can survive even though their hearts have literally been torn from their chests by those they love most. The body clings to its genetic past and begins to rot but only up to a point. That’s where the evolutionary leap comes in.

There is a young woman sitting at the pie counter. She’s wearing a black mini skirt and fishnets like most college age girls at Wayne State university wear. Her hair is fashionably tied back in a loose pony tail. She is or rather ‘was’ a beautiful twenty something with the world by the tail. Tonight, the corners of her mouth show the signs of the Madness setting in. The outline of her lips and corners of her mouth have begun to turn black. Her tear ducts are grey and the color is creeping to the lids of her otherwise, sparkling blue eyes. I walk in and sit down next to her, accidentally letting my oversized hand bag bump her. That’s when the seeping starts. Just above the third button hole in her white cotton shirt is the black inky liquid that was once her blood. It soaks a 3 inch diameter spot like breast milk from a new mother. In my haste, I grab nearly half the contents of the chrome napkin holder and hold them to her chest. The slight movement of my hand just above her breast reveals the gaping hole where her heart once beat. All that remains is its empty socket.

“I’m new,” she explains apologetically. “They tell me that my body just hasn’t learned to stop sending my blood back to my heart?.or where I once had a heart.?

I choke back tears as I try to hide the depth of my sympathy and admiration for her. She refuses to give up, dressed in the latest styles, searching for the doctor who might give her the humanity back that she once knew.

“Do you remember anything?”

“One minute I was walking from the bar on Anthony Wayne back to our apartment and the next thing I knew I was in the side alley.”

“Do you remember anything of the attack?”

“It was a man, I remember that much. At least he had the face of a man. He was wearing some kind of long dark coat and a red scarf. Not a winter scarf though, it was more like a silk one, something out of the Victorian era. I saw the flicker of the blade of the knife and started running. Then it comes back to me in flashes. There is the sound of my feet in the puddles as I headed back to the closest street light. Then, the sense of falling overcomes me and I am surprised to land on the top of a garbage can. I tried to get up but his giant hand held me fast down over the can. At

this point, I was sure he was about to rape me. His other hand reached into my blouse. And then,,” the girl chokes a bit and black tears pour down her thin, onion skin like face.

“And then the pain like I’ve never felt before.”

She looks at me and yet she looks past me as she relieves the scenes in her head. Her eyes meet mine again.

“The days that followed, it was clear that I had it. I lived without a heart. And with it, all of the misery that comes with it. I can’t feel anymore. I don’t care for anyone. I struggle just to care enough about myself to keep on living. But each day, I wither away. Everyone I’ve ever loved has given up and I don’t care. My last hope is Dr. Jake Hayle. I need him to cure me if I’m ever going to get my life back.”

I was curious as to how Roger got into horror and became an Horror Addict. “I’ve been a Horror Addict since the time I could read. My mother hated that I read horror. She would buy me teen romance novels. So I didn’t keep hurting her feelings, I cut the covers off of the romance novels and glued them onto my Stephen King, Andrews, Rice and Koontz novels. That solution made us both happy. When I moved out to go to college she discovered my deception and just gave up on me. She likes my writing though now that I’m an adult.”

Michele’s novel, “Dark Matter is her first full length novel. It’s recently been published as a book as well as in digital format for the Kindle. It’s still and always will be a free podcast as well. Dark Matter is the story of a woman who finds herself one of the undead in the world that we as humans cannot see….the world made of anti-matter or rather by its popular name in science, Dark Matter. She gets thrown into the mix with a vampire and a dead librarian in a last ditch effort to save the world from its final end and in the mean time discovers she has a lot more to offer the world than just music lessons. Its cosmology, its sci fi, its horror and its a bit of romance and erotica (sic).”

She is a music teacher who enjoys playing the harp. “Before I was a teacher, I was a parent. I used to make up stories to tell my son when he was in the hospital with asthma problems. Thinking up the plots kept me awake and helped take his mind off of everything that was going on around him.”

“My harp’s name is Aiden. He has a soul all his own. I’m not sure if I was a harpist in another life, but I know Aiden has lived many lifetimes. I’m just a vessel for the stories he has to tell.”

Roger believes that, “[m]usic and writing are completely different avenues and outlets for what’s going on in my life. One does not influence the other. They CAN work together though. I’ve written and recorded some of my won music for my latest work, “The Conservatory”. In Conservatory, the main character is a music teacher who takes a job at a private music school infested, unbenounced (sic) to her with monsters who feed on flesh and are controlled by the headmaster with an evil plan to make the school famous as well as rich. The setting is based on the real haunted school experiences of the Oakland Community College, Highland Lakes campus, not far from where I live.”

When asked which she enjoys more, music or writing, she replied, “They both have a place in my heart. I like writing because I can hide away somewhere and get lost in my own world where I am in complete solitude. I like music because I get lost in the energy of my audience as I play. In both aspects really, I like the exchange of sharing my world whether it be made of notes or words and in return knowing that I’ve taken at least one other person away from the mundane, even if its just for a little while.”

Not only does she write horror stories, but Michele also has a published children’s book titled Winter Solstice and the 1,000 Pancakes. “[It’s] a children’s book that I wrote and illustrated myself. It’s based on a true story of a winter solstice night where people from all kinds of walks of life and religions got stuck in a bad Michigan snow storm and headed to the only light they could see…my old farm house. Everyone who came had different food, different beliefs and it was the best “Christmas” my family and I ever had. The story is told from my dog, Lulu’s perspective so the creative side of this book is that all the illustrations were done from her perspective…meaning I walked on my knees for weeks to get the right angles!”

I wanted to know what differences did Michele notice in writing a children’s book compared to your novel Dark Matter? She told me that, “[w]riting children’s books is way more stressful. You’d think it would be easy but one must think of every word and how it relates to picture without being complicated. With a novel like Dark Matter, I could wear a bunch of different hats, become the characters, write from their perspective and never have to worry about offending anyone. It was great.”

Look forward to Michele’s current projects: “I’m presently finishing The Conservatory for my editoring the hopes that it will come out in print for Halloween. I’m trying to finish a music CD as well over this summer (one I started writing and recording nearly a year ago). Then, in the fall, after the CD and new book are released, I’d like to finish to write a sci fi play called “Portrait” that combines high tech, digital props with a series of inter-connected short stories. There isn’t much live theatre that has horror or sci fi for its audiences. I’d like to change that…and of course, score the music for it while I’m at it.”

For more information on Michele Roger please visit these websites:


http://www.micheleroger.com
http://www.myspace.com/micheleroger