Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Crow Man: Writing Feminist Horror


This blog post introduces you to my latest novel, 'The Crow Man' and there is a chance to win a signed paperback copy at the end of this post. 

This month has seen the release of my first adult horror novel, 'The Crow Man' and it marks the end of a labour of love that has seen me invest 5 years into this novel.

Horror has always been my favourite genre of literature right from my earliest reading habits; Dracula, Frankenstein, Point Horror, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lovecraft, Poe - we're all the foundations of my love of the written word.

Despite having found a comfortable flow in the writing of paranormal and occult, I had yet to make that final leap into writing a 'pure' horror novel because the responsibilities that come with writing horror are immense.

To me, good horror is one of the most moral, political vehicles there is. In my very personal opinion, for horror to be elevated from gratuitous pornography it has to have some kind of exploration of the human condition, of moral structures, and of state constructs. It is an incredible vehicle for exploring the ills of society and the wrongs of mankind - of course done in a way that excites, entices, scares, and thrills the reader.

There are conventions in horror that are long established and which work, but traditionally, mainstream horror in both literature and film have tended to be dominated by male influence and the male gaze. I knew when I finally plucked up enough courage to write a horror novel, I wanted to both work within a long tradition and to challenge some of the constructs that had been established. I wanted to write a horror from a very female point of view.

Hence the premise of The Crow Man - as most women will testify, one of the most horrific things that can happen to you as a woman is to be labelled mad or insane - to have every word and action questioned; to stand accused of crimes you have not committed and for the whole social structure to come bearing down on you.

One of the very worst nightmares I have ever had was that I had hit an intruder and that 'boy' had died. I was arrested and was facing a long time in prison. I wouldn't last two minutes in prison - or only in the way that Tyrion Lancaster might by a thread come out bruised and abused but still living. The very worst of that dream was no one believing my version of the story. Of everybody, the courts and eventually even my own husband swaying to the social constructs that surround female voice and behaviour. I woke shouting, tears streaming down my face. Never had I felt so afraid - and so the beginnings of The Crow Man were birthed.

To call it feminist horror does not mean that it is horror written for women and women alone - I would hope that  the readership of this novel is a 50 / 50 split. Just because it is a story about women doesn't mean that all horror readers can't access and enjoy it, just as I have read hundreds upon hundreds of horror books with very male focused protagonist and stories.

It was important to me with both of my female characters, Grace Waters and Camille to try and defy some of the tropes and stereotypes that female characters often fall into in horror novels - but it wasn't easy. I rewrote the ending several times as I discovered that I had fallen into established models that didn't sit right with me - but which were a form of horror convention. I wanted to move beyond those sometime two dimensional offerings of female motivation and experience that is so often portrayed in horror and offer, what I hope is a more 'real' more true conclusion to these events.

The writing  go The Crow Man took me to some pretty dark places when I was writing it. For me, there are elements that are extreme and cross my comfort zone, or at least they did when I was in the depths of writing certain scenes. Looking back, I know that by modern standards of gore horror and psychosexual horror, these scenes are perfectly within the mainstream - but in the way that a creaking door or a shadow is more terrifying than a body being carved up by a circular saw, the scenes in The Crow Man got under my skin and were a manifestation of my own worst fears.

I decided to set The Crow Man in the 50's purely because some of the issues that the women face were amplified, and because, as a form of historical piece exploring the progress of psychiatric care and practice, the 1950s were a radical time of change and advancement.

In the author notes at the beginning of The Crow Man, I have acknowledged that other great horror piece written about the pioneering advancements of the medical profession and where that placed humans and doctors in terms of gods and monsters - Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus'. Perhaps, if I were being arrogant, I could have named my novel, 'The Crow Man: The postmodern Prometheus' LOL. The Crow Man is very much in the tradition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and I hope that my humble little offering does that text and that heritage some justice.

The eBook of the Crow Man is already available here on  Amazon Worldwide exclusive  and can be read for FREE if you are a Kindle Unlimited User or for just $2.49 / £2.99 if you are a Kindle reader.

The paperbacks do not officially come out until January 1st 2018 but I have signed pre-release copies available for folks in the UK (And in the US if people are prepared to cover shipping costs.) To order your signed paperback for £7.99 (+ £2.00 p&p delivery before 25th October) please complete this google doc form. 

GIVEAWAY: UK Only I'm afraid. To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of The Crow Man, please leave a comment telling us what your worse fear is. One lucky winner will be selected and notified as a reply to their post. The winner will be announced a week today.

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