Guest post by BENJAMIN KANE ETHRIDGE
Writing is an interesting endeavor because it can be done from an abject heart or it can be done right in the fiber of your being. In working on horror fiction, the subject matter can be daunting at times and can affect your mood and even your outlook on life. I wrote a novel called THE ENDING STREET which rolled over every bright spot in my life like a tank driven by angry nihilists. The experience was so painful that I haven’t returned to edit the story in years. I just don’t have it in me. I even think it’s a good story and probably should be read by others, but I need more time.
Since then, however, when I write I try to contain my emotions to the story process and not let them linger in my thoughts. If I’m writing a particularly difficult section of writing, I don’t leave the computer until it’s done and I keep writing until I find a safe place to exit the work. I don’t really do this consciously, but when I think about my process, that’s how I’ve dealt with these things when they come up. That’s how I can be positive in my life and still write things that are far from positive.
The best writing does come from the heart, but it has to be guided with the mind. If you’re writing a scene that should be emotionally difficult and you are completely detached from it, then I would suspect the writing will show that sense of detachment and the reader will not be engaged at all. So it’s important to invest your emotions but also pull away from them at the appropriate time. You must return to the real world without taking any scars along for the ride.
Writing is inherently a window into a person; even though the subject matter may not represent them at all, the way they handle the subject matter shows the connection between the art and artist. I tend to have some extremely cold, negative outlooks in my work because I can feel that way in my life at times, but rather than let those bitter little monsters consume me and define me, I’ve used writing and storytelling to purge all of that from my system.
In my latest novel DIVINE SCREAM, I had quite a challenge on my hands. I was going through many traumatic things in my own life and I was under contract to write a novel. I willed myself back into the process— slowly —and ended up writing probably one of the most positive pieces of fantasy/horror fiction I’ve ever conceived.
I needed that. I needed to have a story that didn’t necessarily require a happy ending, but at least could contain the notion that happiness is out there, that it is attainable and that people can still hope for it. DIVINE SCREAM is very important to me in that respect. Despite the savagery of the antagonists in the book and some underlying sadness of the characters’ lives, writing this novel kept my head above troubled waters, and without it, I can’t imagine having seen that beckoning light at the end of that very long tunnel.
Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel Black & Orange, Divine Scream, Nightmare Ballad, and other novels. His fantasy and dark fiction stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Most of the time he lives in Southern California, where his children roam.