Title: Scary Out There
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
I had the great opportunity to pose some writing prompts for Jonathan Maberry to choose from and answer for all of you and he chose to answer
"What is your favorite horror/thriller topic to write about?"
And guys, his response is beyond words. He gets so deep and real with his response.
I mean, just check out what he had to say:
"People always ask me why I write about monsters.
The thing is…I don’t. I write about people who fight monsters. It’s a big difference.
You see, some people really dig Count Dracula, but I always rooted for Professor Van Helsing. I rooted for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not the demons she fought. I like the band of kids on shows like Stranger Things, or the kid in the wheelchair who went up against a werewolf in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet.
My life has been about fighting that kind of fight.
You see, I was raised by monsters. And I grew up in a horror story.
I was born into poverty and we lived in a very violent neighborhood in Philadelphia. Drugs, gangs, gunfire, knifings. These were part of my daily life. SWAT teams kicking in the doors of other families on my block. Ambulances and police cars showing up with alarming regularity. Screams and shouting.
Inside my home it wasn’t any better. My father was a criminal and a very bad person. He ran the local chapter of the KKK, the white supremacist hate group. He hated people of color. He hated Jews. He hated anyone who didn’t fit his narrow and damaged image of the world. He force-fed that kind of hatred to his kids. At the same time he abused us. My four sisters and me. My father was a very large, powerful, dangerous man who liked to hurt with words and fists. Even the other fathers in my neighborhood were afraid of him, and they were all like him.
So, yeah, a horror story.
I wasn’t allowed to own books. My father said that reading that ‘junk’ was just me trying to ‘get above myself’. No, actually I was trying to get above him. Above, past, whatever.
So I kept my books and comics at my grandmother’s house. She was amazing. Imagine Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books as an old lady, and that’s my Nanny. A little weird, deeply intelligent, kind, wise…and knowledgeable. She read everything, and she read very deeply into subjects that interested her. She read folklore and mythology because she believed in the ‘larger world’; but she also read anthropology, history, archaeology, and science books because she believed that the supernatural was actually just another aspect of science that we hadn’t yet learned how to measure. Maybe she’s right.
Long before I read horror books or saw horror movies, Nanny was telling me stories about monsters. Weird versions of vampires and werewolves, evil mermaids, demons and imps, ghosts and goblins. She knew so many stories. But as she became aware of what was happening to me and my sisters, she began telling us different kinds of stories. Or, maybe it was that she began telling us those stories from a different point of view. Instead of stories of ogres eating unsuspecting travelers and old witches baking children into pies; she told us about children who turned the tables on those monsters. She told us hero tales, even when the hero was an ordinary person who did not have special gifts or magic weapons. Knowledge, she insisted, was the true super power. Many years later I saw this reflected in the writings of J.K. Rowling, because when Harry, Hermione, and Ron were faced with dark magic, they did research and consulted books and found solutions.
When I finally began reading horror novels and watching spooky movies, I was always drawn to how the heroes overcame what at first appeared to be insurmountable odds. I never liked it when luck played too big a part in victories over darkness, because I didn’t see much evidence of luck in my life.
Granted, I had my Nanny, so maybe I was lucky after all! But that’s a different story.
I was scared a lot as a kid: of my father, of the dark, of things that might lurk in the dark. I had a personal boogeyman who I called Doctor Nine (for no reason I have ever been able to discover). The more afraid I was, the more I read stories about people who were forced to fight monsters, to oppose darkness. Some of it was superhero stories, but let’s face it, there’s no real tension when Superman faces an enemy –he’s actually invincible. Batman and Daredevil less so. But I wasn’t a young billionaire with enormous resources and I didn’t have super-heightened senses. I was a kid.
I did a couple of things to try and launch my own guerilla resistance against the montsers in my life. First I started taking martial arts lessons on the sly with the father of a friend from school. I stuck with it, too, and I got physically tougher.
But the more important thing I did was read. Like Nanny I read all kinds of books and I read deeply into subjects I thought would be important to me. I wanted to educate myself out of that neighborhood. I wanted to think my way past the dragon that was father. I wanted to know enough so that I was armed for the coming battle –armed with knowledge, with understanding and with optimism.
Those are the tools for fighting monsters, you see.
And I got out. By the time I was fourteen I’d gotten tough enough to put an end to the cycle of violence in my house. I defeated my own monster.
I spent a good chunk of the next thirty years teaching self-defense to women, to children, to the elderly, to the physically-challenged, to LGBT groups, to pretty much anyone who gets bullied or abused because they are perceived as weak.
I never stopped reading books about people who fought monsters. I never stopped watching those movies and TV shows. If anything my dedication to horror has deepened considerably. My bias toward siding with the good guy against the monster is reflected in the stories I find most appealing –the ones where there is at least a chance of fighting back the darkness. I have friends who write very monster-centric stuff, and although I may enjoy some of that writing, it’s never been my thing.
I also like horror stories with a redemptive quality, where a monster becomes self-aware and tries to change, tries to not be defined by darkness any longer. I get that. When I was young I used the same hate words that I’d been taught, because it was all that I knew. Once I learned the truth about that kind of skewed thinking, I had to make a choice: let that make me into what my father had become; or choose a better road and define myself as I wanted to be. My friend Mike Mignola created the character of Hellboy, a demon destined to destroy the world but who dedicates his life to fighting evil. He gets it, too. Others among my friends do as well. Often for the same or similar reasons. We’ve seen monsters and we don’t want to see one looking back from our bathroom mirror. No sir.
I wish my story of why I like horror was a happier one. But it’s become happy. And it’s funny, because the other members of the Horror Writers Association –including all of the contributors of my new anthology, Scary Out There—are kind of normal. They’re not what people expect when they hear that someone writes horror. We don’t wallow in the darkness. We hold a flashlight. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘better out than in’; maybe we draw the venom of personal darkness out through the instrument of our laptops and the process of telling stories about facing the big, vast, impossibly threatening monster and taking a stand against it. The horror writers are the happiest, most well-balanced subgroup within the writing community that I know.
Scary Out There isn’t a book about monsters. It’s not a book about darkness. It’s not even a book about fear. It’s a book that explores those issues, those qualities, those phenomena. Some of the stories end well, some don’t. None of them, though, were written to celebrate the darkness.
We don’t write about monsters.
We write about people who fight them."
Del Mar, California, August 12, 2016
Thank you Jonathan Maberry for you real, in depth, and honest answer to the question. And thank you for your time in answering it and letting me post it onto my blog :)
And thank you Hannah at Irish Banana Blog Tours for letting me a part of this fantastic tour!
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Don't forget to follow the rest of the tour!
8/29: Kara the Redhead - Q&A