A good friend of mine, J.H. Moncrieff, has exciting news this month—her novella The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave just came out through Samhain Publishing as part of their Childhood Fears Series.
I almost postponed blogging about it, however, because of bitter, terrible news. My brain tries to skirt it. I feel sick to the point of nausea and wanting to vomit when my mind presses even lightly on the tiniest shards of it. I can’t imagine—and I can. And I hate it and would do anything to change it. Would trade my limbs, my life, if I could. There are types of pain that the brain doesn’t know how to process.
So why on earth post a blurb promoting a horror story right now of all times? Well, for the same reason I write and read. Good stories delve into those most tender parts of the human psyche—parts that, to me at least, seem inexorably linked: what we love and what we fear. When we’re suffering (and we all do at various times in various ways), they offer a much-needed escape—but even more so, they acknowledge and spend time mucking about in the things that hurt us most and can be a form of catharsis.
In an English Lit course once, studying Ann-Marie MacDonald’s amazing but brutal Fall On Your Knees, one of the students—a woman who was so quiet I had literally never heard her voice until that day—spoke up when a bunch of other students were whining and griping about some of the novel’s content, how “dark” it was, and how they shouldn’t “have” to read it. The prof was understandably disheartened by their attitude and said something like, “So why do you think there might be value or a point in reading stories that are hard emotionally?”
The quiet woman held up her hand and even the professor’s face registered surprise. “Yes?” she asked.
“For me . . . ” The woman spoke with a slight accent and turned red the minute she opened her mouth. “When I read stories of what other people have survived through, it makes me think I can survive too.”
Then she dropped her head, picked up her pen and busied herself writing something down. The whole class was stunned silent for a moment.
And her words have stayed with me because she summed up, so concisely, one the reasons I have always read so voraciously. It makes me think I can survive. And it gives me a bruised and bleeding hope that people I love can too.
I’m sorry that my introduction to J.H. Moncrieff isn’t cheerier—but I do sincerely hope you’ll pick up her novella, whether it’s just for a thrill and escape, or whether you have something you wish to forget for a bit, or even if you, like me, have your own demons you’re wrestling with right now.
In a weird coincidence with my thinking about why I write and read, when I was chatting with Holli earlier this month about her book, I asked her if she’d care to share what draws her to horror as a reader and a writer. Here are her thoughts.
J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring people with her books, and she blogs about the supernatural, the creepy, and the mysterious on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In her “spare” time, J.H. travels to exotic locales, advocates for animal rights, and practices Muay Thai kickboxing.
Once I learned to read, I couldn’t stop. I was a veritable book addict, and pretty soon I’d worked my way through the children’s section at my local library.
My mom was a reader as well, and her collection kept me going. I loved it all—racy Sidney Sheldon mysteries, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Rosemary’s Baby, even her Jackie Collins bodice rippers. I read anything I could get my hands on, and one thing I’ll say for my mom—she never censored what I read.
In spite of the presence of Rosemary’s Baby on her bookshelves, she claimed to hate horror. It was strange, then, to find a few Stephen King paperbacks among several garbage bags full of books that were hidden under the basement stairs.
I’d always been titillated by scary stories—there was something irresistible about reading books and watching movies that were considered “off limits” for someone my age. Who can resist the forbidden?
Mom claimed not to know where the paperbacks had come from, but as usual, she didn’t care if I read them. So my very first King experience was Different Seasons, and I couldn’t have chosen a better book. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption…Apt Pupil…The Body. They are still some of the finest stories I’ve ever read.
From that moment on, I was hooked. My first published story was about a vampire who ran around devouring everything (I’d recently learned the word ‘devour’ and loved it.) As an adult, I initially preferred to write mysteries and psychological suspense, but all my novels had one thing in common—they were dark. Very dark. I decided to embrace the darkness.
Done well, horror can make us question our preconceived ideas. It presents the worst-case scenario so we can think about how we’d deal with the same situation. A thrilling horror story will grab us and hypnotize us, forcing us to turn page after page until it’s finished. (I’ve lost many nights of sleep to Stephen King.) And there are no guarantees with this genre—horror writers never promise their readers a happily ever after.
Sadly, there is quite a bit of crap cluttering the genre, and it’s given horror a bad name. But there are writers who grew up reading the masters, who truly love horror, and who are determined to keep elevating the genre. So within all this darkness, there is hope. [Emphasis mine.]
Her newest release is The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave:
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy, and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things happen.
Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth — Edgar will always get even.