We've all read the warnings and yet we still walk deep into the dark without a flashlight. Whether it be true life horror, fictional horror, supernatural, paranormal, thriller, dark fantasy and beyond, somewhere deep inside us (most of us) there is a desire to be creeped out. Only in the safety of our homes of course. But what if that horror hits home, invades your home, your daily routine, or you very being? Author MEGAN CREWE brings us a dark tale of speculative fiction that is very much based in the real life terror of what if. THE WAY WE FALL released earlier this year by Disney-Hyperion is Megan's second book and it's about a virus outbreak on an island that brings terrifying results. I recently reached out to Megan to chew her brain about her writing and what scares her.
|Photo credit: Chris Blanchenot|
Megan Crewe - I've always loved making up stories. I was the sort of quiet, introverted kid who could spend hours just hanging out in the worlds I imagined in my head (and, er, I'm not so different as an adult). As soon as I could, I started writing those stories down. I got progressively more ambitious--I wrote my first novels in my teens. At that time, I wrote about teenagers because that was what I knew. I figured as I got older and more experienced, I'd start writing older and more experienced characters. But as I got into my twenties, I realized that I wanted to keep writing about the teen years. It's just such an intense and complex time in people's lives, when they're going through so many firsts and making decisions about what kind of person they want to be. There's so much possibility, and that makes for fascinating stories.
What made you focus on writing thriller/horror/suspense? Can you talk to us about some of your influences in this genre?
MC - To be honest, I don't think of myself as a thriller or horror writer. Pretty much everything I write falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction--which includes horror, but also science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, etc. I can enjoy reading completely realistic stories, but when it comes to writing, I find it hard to get really excited about a story unless it has some sort fantastical or futuristic element. And sometimes those fantastical or futuristic elements are scary. ;)
And one of the first adult fiction writers I got into was Stephen King. (I have vivid memories of reading FIRESTARTER in sixth grade.) I was (and still am) incredibly impressed by his ability create tension and suspense, to the point that I could be glued to the page for a seven paragraph description of something as simple as a character opening a door. I'd say one of my goals for every book I write is to make it as difficult to put down as possible, and King is the master of the page-turner.
What scares you the most and do put those fears into your writing as a cathartic way of dealing with them?
MC - I find the idea of death in general very frightening. I'd imagine the fact that I seem to write a lot of stories involving ghosts (my first published novel, and two others not yet sold) has something to do with that. And disease has always seemed to me to be one of the scariest ways you could die. Most things that threaten you, there are ways you can fight them off. But a virus can get right inside you without you even knowing it's there, and then wreak havoc on your body that you're helpless to stop. I wrote THE WAY WE FALL because I'm afraid of viruses and epidemics. I think we write the best stories when we're writing about something that really gets to us emotionally. I'm not sure how cathartic it was. While I was doing research for the book, I think I made myself even more scared than I'd been before!
Why do you think people love reading dark books and in your opinion what draws them to the "fear factor"?
MC - Well, I think catharsis does come into play there. When you read about something dark or scary, and about the characters surviving it, you almost feel like you've been through that struggle yourself, without having to actually be at risk. It gives you a sense that even when things are horrible, it's possible to survive and to have hope. I suspect some people also enjoy frightening books (and movies) for the same reason people enjoy roller coasters--there's a thrill and an adrenaline rush to provoking that panic response in yourself.
I feel that current horror and thriller films have pushed the envelope as far as brutality - losing the element of true horror. How do we bring that audience to books and keep them scared?
MC - I don't know if we necessarily can. Not everyone who loves movies is going to be engaged by a book, they're such different mediums. But I think as long as there are a variety of horror books being published--those that are more suspenseful and psychological, those that include their own sort of brutality--and we get word out about them, the people who'd be interested in reading them will find them.
|Terrifying reads await...|
What has changed for you being a writer now that you are published?
MC - Well, I have deadlines. Heh. I've found the biggest change after being published is the amount of outside involvement in your writing. When you haven't been published yet, you can write whatever you want, on your own schedule. No one's reading your books other than your critique partners and some of the agents and/or editors you may be submitting to. No one has any expectations of your work. Once you're published, you have to write at a certain pace if you want to have new books out regularly. You become aware that it's not just agents and editors you need to appeal to, but editorial directors and acquisitions meetings and marketing folks. And readers. Now there are all these readers you could potentially reach, and when you do reach them, you're seeing them posting what they think about your book online. It's both thrilling and worrying. Suddenly there are a lot more voices in your head when you sit down to write a new book. You know there are people out there eagerly looking forward to seeing what you write next, and you don't want to disappoint them. You have to learn how to shut the worries out and get back, as close as you can, to that place where you wrote just because you loved what you were writing.
The Way We Fall is part of a trilogy, correct? Can you give a snipet of the next book? When can we get our hands on it?
MC - Yes, THE WAY WE FALL is the first in a trilogy. Unfortunately, I'm not sharing anything from book 2 (THE LIVES WE LOST) until the publisher puts the book description out there, because it'd be pretty hard not to give away major spoilery facts about where the story's going in an excerpt. We don't have a definite release date yet, but it should be published next winter!
Can't blame us for trying to get a little sneaky-peek.
And - finally - when people ask you what is a great scary book to read, what do you tell them? Why?
MC - Right now, I would probably direct them to Richard Preston's THE HOT ZONE, which is the true story of an Ebola outbreak that almost made it out of quarantine in North America. It's written like a great work of fiction, but ten times as scary as any made-up story because it actually happened--and could again.
Yes, I remember that book and how horrified I was. True life horror cleverly disguised as a fiction book and I read it. Couldn't leave my room for a week. Germs everywhere! GERMS! (sprays Lysol, composes self).
Thank you, Megan, for hanging with us and bringing your brand of terror our way. I'm very interested to see what happens in book two. To learn more about Megan you can visit her here http://www.megancrewe.com/index.html