Thursday, March 10, 2011

Author Fiona Dodwell Discusses The Nature of Fear

The Nature of Fear

I've been obsessed with horror since I was a child. I think I must have only been about six years old when I curled up on the sofa, hiding behind my hands, catching glimpses of Pet Semetary the movie. I couldn't let my parents catch me; they didn't want me to watch those films. Like any protective parent, they thought no child should be watching horror. But I loved it. I enjoyed being frightened. I did then, and I do now.

When people ask me why I write horror I have trouble answering them, because it's never really been a choice. Horror is the home of my heart. It's where I find escapism, it's where I lose myself entering another realm, find myself detached from the reality of daily life.
I suppose I can understand why people are intrigued. Fear in itself is not something we as humans normally crave. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We revel in feeling safe and secure, making sure our front doors and windows are locked at night. We don't want to face anything dark or uninvited.

So why, then, do so many of us enjoy horror? For me, it's the same as those queuing up at theme parks, waiting in line to jump on a fast and high-speed roller-coaster. People want the darkness, the thrill, the escapism – that ugly churning in the stomach when we're thrown around in unexpected realms. I feel that we, as humans, sometimes crave that darkness.
In a world where our lives are controlled, tightly scheduled – at times even monotonous - it is fun to switch to a place of fear, twists and turns, a place where we can safely enjoy a dark thrill knowing that, at the end of the day, we are able to step off the terrifying roller-coaster, switch off the DVD at the end of the horror movie, or slide the scary novel back onto the shelf.

Horror is a fun, safe way for us to explore a world we normally wouldn't. It gives us a taste of fear without having to be truly afraid. It gives us a chance to hide behind hands knowing that we can pause the show if it becomes too much. It can be, perhaps, a way to deal with darkness in our lives a therapeutic way.

When people blame horror (whether in film or literate) for having a bad influence, I strongly disagree. Life can be dark at times; that's a fact that can't be ignored. For many of us, at least, there is a great moral in much of the horror genre: we desperately wish for the character to survive. We desperately want to see the demon banished back to hell. We want to see triumph, goodness and light conquer evil. There lies the truth of it, in my opinion: horror is a thrilling journey from darkness to light. One will never exist without the other.

Here is an excerpt The Banishing:

It was laughter. Giggling. It echoed and bounced around the empty toilet, sending the hair on her arms straight, creating a carpet of goosebumps along her back. She straightened up and waited there, her ear pressed to the cubicle door.

“Hello? Is somebody out there?” she called.

Again, a small giggle from somewhere in the room.

Melissa felt her legs turn to fluid, her chest tighten in fear.

“Who is that?” she called.

A small voice, neither male nor female, replied, “I am the one.”

Melissa felt the blood drain from her face. She pulled herself out of her paralysis, unlocked the cubicle door, and stepped out into the main toilet area. She looked around her—all of the toilet doors were open, except one.

If you want to share a slice of Fiona Dodwell's darkness, you can find her debut novel, The Banishing at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Damnation Books.
Both e-book and print versions are available.

Book Description:
When Melissa first notices the change in her husband - subtle at first - she thinks it may be the stress of moving into their new home. Or working long hours. But soon her husband turns into something far darker, far more sinister. Who or what is the dark shadow living beneath her husband? What is haunting him? Melissa must quickly find the answer to these questions, because Mark is changing, and fast. Soon her fight will be for her life, as well as for her marriage.


Fiona Dodwell said...

A note from Fiona Dodwell:
The e-book of The Banishing is available now, with the paperback version following within the next week.

Su Halfwerk said...

You said "horror is a thrilling journey from darkness to light. One will never exist without the other."
Your words, stated simply, are the reason why darkness intrigues us. Without it, there is no light, no shadow, and no in between. We all need our in betweens.

Great post. Good luck with The Banishing.

Su Halfwerk

sashagirl said...

"We want to see triumph, goodness and light conquer evil." Bingo! That's what I always tell everyone when they question why I dare to write such a terrible thing as horror. The greatest books, horror or not, either tell a true heart story or is a good versus evil story...and the good wins (usually). It reassures us. Nice post, Fiona. Your friend, Kathryn Meyer Griffith

James Dorr said...

Interesting, thanks Fiona. Do you also see in horror the aspect of character subjected to extreme stress? Thus the attraction of striving, with the protagonist, to cope with situations or forces beyond one's ordinary experience--the triumph of courage and persistence (or if defeated, because the "monster" can win sometimes, at least the waging of a good fight). In this way, I think, horror at its best is highly character oriented, as opposed to adventure/thriller which may be more plot oriented (or science fiction and fantasy which, although in different ways, tend to rely more on external wonders than internal conflict).