What is Horror? Let’s forget about the dictionary definition here. I will ask you again. What is Horror? What makes us scared? What scares you the most? What is your personal horror? Let me ask you this– what would you be most terrified of? It’s a dark nightand you are walking home from work. The wind is shaking the trees, and birds are calling. It is darkening further every second. You feel someone walking behind you; you can hear them breathing in the darkness. You break into a run and turn the street corner. You see your house straight ahead. You see the lights burning out into the darkness. Your chest pounds from the pain of prolonged exercise. You throw yourself through the gate, through the door. You are safe.
Horror could be a fear of the unknown? You will never know what was behind you, what was breathing?
Enter Alex Laybourne, writer. The man who brings horror to your neighbourhood.
Q) So, Alex, you have written several books most notably “Highway to Hell.” You have also written interviews and promotional materials. What do you think you are achieving as a writer?
A) That is a tough one to start with! I would like to think that I am starting to achieve a base level of understanding with regards to how the industry works. More than that is just wishful thinking. I’m selling a few books, but not enough. I am learning the basics of promotion, but do not do enough for myself. I have ten bodies of work available and would like to bring another few out before the year end, but, titles a writer does not make. I have yet to begin to define myself as a writer or as an artist.
Q) But you are growing as a promoter–you are learning the tricks. Would you say promotion is important to you?
A) Promotion to me is an extension of being a writer. I think too many people, especially when starting out, think that the two are mutually exclusive, when in reality they are one and the same. Promotion is generating interest in you as an artist and in your work. To increase interest, you need more work. So you see, in my mind, writing is promotion, and promotion is writing. Running a website and blogging comes down to writing.
Q) So, which is more important to you? Writing or promotion? Businessman or artist?
A) Promotion is interest, it is about working for each and every sale. Not a mass spree of purchases or a big campaign that draws a lot of attention, it is about every single sale as a single event. I am of the firm belief that every sale is a triumph, for it only takes one sale to create a groundswell. One person to read or see your book and mention it to a friend and momentum is suddenly gained. I have ten items available for sale–nine of them are short stories, chapter books if you will, that when put together form one novel. I guess I have promoted them the heaviest, but more due to their numbers than anything else. When my novel Highway to Hell came out, I promoted it like crazy. I went a bit tweet-happy for a while. I spammed a little you could say. I learned my lesson and reeled myself in.
Q) Highway to Hell is an important book to you, correct? What’s the deal with that one?
A) Highway to Hell was my debut novel, and the first in a trilogy of novels. It is a good, old-fashioned horror novel. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno and the writing talents of Stephen King and Clive Barker, it chronicles the journey of six strangers who die at the start of the novel and find themselves unjustly sent to Hell.
The first half of the novel is not for the faint hearted. The novel sets up the story for the second instalment, which actually comes out in the next few weeks; however, when viewed on its own, it is a novel about sin and forgiveness.
Q) Do you think that there’s still a market for the kind of horror you write? Traditional horror?
A) I think there always has been, it’s just rebranded as thriller. Thrillers are easier to sell, and over time, horror,real horror, got edged out by what I call torture porn. It started in movies, thanks to films like Saw, and the reputation of horror soon spread. Horror is the greatest genre, because it gives complete freedom. There are no constraints in horror, or at least, there shouldn’t be. As a writer, I see an image in my head and describe it in words. There are taboos, there are rules and lines drawn in the sand, which I will cross and leave for dust if they help me tell my story. That is the difference between what you call ‘old-fashioned horror’ and the current crop. Torture porn breaks taboos for the sake of it, not because the story or the vision requires it.
Q) You mentioned “Torture Porn” back there in your last answer. Would you ever write that kind of horror fiction?
A) No, I would not. I would write body horror, and I have done so in the Highway to Hell series, but it is all for a point–for a vision other than for the simple need to show naked women and blood.
Clive Barker is my idol when it comes to horror. His visions and the epic scope of his imagination are frightening. He is not afraid. He writes and makes his art. That is what I hope to emulate, but it is a far cry from torture porn.
Q) Many people say that horror is only a small part of the fiction market. What do you think of that statement?
A) Horror is everywhere and can be incorporated into everything. In what other type of fiction can you allow your imagination to run wild. You can create a decadent word filled with romance and lust, and with a few tweaks, turn it into a nightmare, a place of terror. You can utilize everything at any time. Withhorror, the only limit is you, the writer. So, to answer your question, there are limitless forms of horror writing, and at the same time, only one: horror.
Q) Do you think that readers sometimes go for what they can understand, rather than what writers may call “great writing”?
A) Yes, I think that there are some great stories out there that are overlooked because they are too intense. I view writing as art, and art is something that does not need to be explained. It is there to inspire, to captivate and to invoke all manner of feelings and reactions. The artist him or herself are the only ones who ever need to know the true meaning behind their work.
Q) I have one final question. A biggie. What is horror? Can you define it for me?
A) Horror is unique. It is something, some part of us that we all have. It is a memory, a notion, a concept; it is a fear.
The real question is what does horror do?
What horror does is capitalize on that specific entity within each person and magnifies it. It twists it and turns it into something bigger and badder. To quantify horror is impossible. The closest I could come would actually be IT by Stephen King. The monster not the book – as great as it is. If you look into it, there is an entire mythos behind IT, and that is what horror is in my book.
It has no form, yet is everything; it is everywherebut we never see it, not truly. Horror is what happens in the corner of our eyes, in that instant when we blink. Horror doesn’t lurk in the shadows as many people think. It is broad daylight, it is all around us, waiting.
Horror is the best thing in the world because deep down, everybody likes to be scared.