Writing Horror as a Christian

Heather posted On Writing as a Christian on her blog today as well as a discussion at Intersection called Bubble or Patron. This sparked my comment on her blog and since I’ve not talked much about it here, I thought I’d copy and paste it.

I can only speak for myself.

When I figured out God was telling me (and not so politely) to write; instinctively, I knew I had to write horror. Psychological horror is my bent, not the gore-fest mainstream horror has become.

It was interesting, to say the least, to watch expressions of those attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in 2006. When I said I wrote horror, they looked at me as if I had said I was a prostitute at 5th and Broadway. The little name tags they handed out had everyone’s genre listed under they’re name. They changed mine from horror to thriller. Nice.

There were two things that made me understand that wasn’t the place for me. A very popular, well-respected agent telling a class (I’m paraphrasing) that Christian horror was a stupid idea and it would never work. (I shook his hand and told him we’d never work together. LOL) And the Holier-than-thou attitude most people had at that ACFW conference.

I tried, though. Because I thought maybe God was trying to convince me I needed to change. But I was depressed and my stories seemed fake. And forced. And the more I tried to manipulate the story to fit into the rulebox of the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) the more I understood that it wasn’t me they were forcing into the box, it was God. I prayed a lot about making the first step towards the ABA (American Booksellers Association) and when I did, God was right there to shower me with his love and acceptance and let me know, without a doubt, that I was doing what he wanted me to do.

I was working on a Bible study (the sheep one, H) and I read a book called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. It is such a simple book, but I had a paradigm shift while reading it. It may be that God meant for me to understand MY journey this way and it may not apply to others, but as I was reading about how a shepherd has to take his sheep through hard places, the dark valley. Usually people refer to this psalm when dealing with death, but I read that I walked THROUGH the valley. (and I understand the implications when dealing with death) but it applied to me, at that time in my life, to life not death.

Reading this book, having this shepherd explain to me that during movement of the flock to higher ground, going through the valley was a very intimate time, the sheep depended on the shepherd, the shepherd had gone the route beforehand and since a trust had already been established, the sheep trusted the shepherd and stayed close. The route through the valley is the most well-watered route. It is in the deep valley that you find the springs of crystal clear water.

Of course, I want that mountaintop experience with God. But what I really crave is the intimacy and refreshment of trusting him in those dark valleys.

And that’s when I knew what he wanted from me. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” As I explore horror and all it represents, I will fear no evil. He is with me.

That’s when I started believing that I should follow His rules instead of the rules of man (the CBA) So I’ve been writing the stories the way they come out. And since then, doors seem to be opening all over the place.

I’m not saying that this is what God has for everyone. But this is how I came to know and understand that the CBA was not for me.

I Wonder.

I wonder.

When God starts moving and I start really listening, I wonder what it is he’s trying to say. I have my ideas, these grandiose versions of The Plan, these little dots splattered on the atlas of my life, but they really hardly ever lead where I envision.

I go to a place like Calvin for their Festival of Faith & Writing and know within seconds that I’m somewhere I totally don’t belong. Please don’t get me wrong. It was a great conference, and I met fabulous people. But I’m not all that.

I can’t say for sure the exact reason I went. Coach said the Relief team was going and it’d be great if I came and represented The Diner. So I did.

My worst habit is that I find a million things that bug me. I do it all the time. I’m relentless and ruthless in my head. Sometimes out loud. Most of the time in my head though. Things that bug me about conferences like this are (in no particular order):

  • People who are fake.
  • People who pretend they’re listening but aren’t.
  • People who won’t tell the truth.
  • People who are pretentious and pompous.
  • People who act differently in front of different people.

I guess those things are probably all related. They drive me freaking nuts. And the people who have those attributes probably want to smack me to Ohio. We don’t get along. At least I see it.

Maybe they don’t because they’re too busy putting on a smile and watching that prospective agent from across the room. They can’t read the sarcasm in my remarks because they’ve stopped listening, they’re reading the lips of the editor that’s talking with that prospective agent. They laugh that fake laugh like they’re paying attention to me because I laughed, but I said that my grandfather was my least favorite person because he was fake and they didn’t even catch that I was cutting them down. They push me aside with a tart, “Excuse me,” as the agent makes his way near us. They push out their hands, shake with enthusiasm the agent’s hand while speaking of high brow literary bullshit. And it’s always funny to watch the agent regard them in the same way they just did me while the agent jokes with me about writing horror.

Or something like that.

And then I wonder what God meant by that.

It’s Not Much

But it’s something.

I haven’t looked at my novel since December. Right before I went to be with Jill before she died. I don’t know if her death shut me down. Death has a way of doing that to me. I don’t know what it was. But I got it out last night and I decided it was time to finish it.

I read part of it last night… I dumped my brain on a Word Document this morning and then I read the last chapter I had finished before Jill died. It’s hard to even say she’s dead. I find myself wanting to call her often. I re-read that chapter and then I wrote 149 words.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

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