Women in Horror Month is coming up next month, and since the publication of my first novel, The Harrowing,I’ve had the privilege of being included in lists of top female horror authors. But these days it startles me to hear myself called a horror writer.
It makes sense, of course. I grew up reading horror. Dad loved horror and suspense — books, movies, plays – the house was full of mystery and horror and sci-fi classics, so early on I developed a taste for being scared senseless (possibly in self-defense). It’s no surprise that when I started writing myself, I gravitated toward the spooky and supernatural.
Even this holiday week, when most people are pulling out the Christmas classic movies, in between family parties and writing, I’m binge-watching old seasons of The Walking Dead.
But I actually had a very short tenure writing horror. My first two books, The Harrowing and The Price, are really the only books I’ve written that I could classify as horror. My third book, The Unseen, was a mystery/suspense - with poltergeists. My fourth, Book of Shadows, was when I started moving into crime, although there is a strong possibly supernatural element in that book as well.
I deliberately moved away from horror as a genre because I didn’t feel comfortable being associated with a lot of the books in the genre. The horror genre – in all media - has been brought to a very low, base level by torture porn and rape, with overwhelmingly female victims.
I find it disgusting and harmful, and it doesn’t deserve to be listed with the true psychological horror of Jackson, Lovecraft, Shelley, DuMaurier, Poe, King – the great explorers of the dark side.
(I am often asked to blurb books and I find it surreal that I have had to start telling male writers up front: “I won’t read or review anything with rape scenes - unless you’re honestly exploring your own fear of male-on-male rape.” Same goes for torture. There is somehow not even the basic awareness that scenes like that would bother me.)
I love both genres, crime and horror. I went back and forth and crossed the two as a screenwriter, too. But I’m finding the crime genre a better fit for my own themes as a writer. My writing is largely an exploration of good and evil, and nothing supernatural could possibly be more horrifying to me than the evil that people do. And I mostly mean whatmen do: serial killing, rape, child molestation, torture, genocide, war crimes. These are largely male crimes – so why aren’t we being honest about that fact? How can we prevent and heal the ravages of those crimes without being realistic about root causes?
As a woman I’ve always been compelled to write about these subjects. Let’s face it – women have a lot to say about fear, and violence, and horror. We live with all of thosethings on a much more intimate and everyday level than most men (men in non-warring countries) do. A walk out to the parking lot from the grocery store can on any given night turn into a nightmare from which some women will never fully recover. I think security expert and author Gavin DeBecker got it exactly right when he said “A man’s greatest fear about a woman is that she’ll laugh at him. A woman’s greatest fear about a man is that he’ll kill her.”
Women know what it’s like to be prisoners in their own homes, what it’s like to be enslaved, to be stalked, to be prostituted, what it’s like to be ultimately powerless. And they know everything there is to know about rage, even when it’s so deeply buried they don’t know that’s what it is they’re feeling.
And if it weren’t enough that we have to face this everyday, in real life – it seems that every time we turn on the TV or pick up a book we’re confronted by the victimization of women on the screen or page.
The fact is, one reason novels and film and TV so often depict women as victims is that it’s the stark reality. Since the beginning of time, women haven’t been the predators — we’re the prey. But after all those years (centuries, millennia) of women being victims of the most heinous crimes out there… wouldn’t you think that someone would finally say — “Enough”?
And maybe even strike back?
So my Huntress Moon series turns the tables. The books follow a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer – who kills male victims. The interesting thing is that arguably, there’s never been any such thing as a female serial killer. Sexual homicide is a male crime. But that’s part of the mystery, and the dramatic question of the series.
Whoever she is, whatever she is, the Huntress is like no killer Agent Roarke – or the reader – has ever seen before. And you may find yourself as conflicted about her asRoarke is.
As one of the profilers says in the book: “I’ve always wondered why we don’t see more women acting out this way. God knows enough of them have reason.”
And the great, cathartic thing for me about good mysteries, thrillers, horror, suspense - is that you can work through those issues of good and evil. You can walk vicariously into those perilous situations and face your fears, and sometimes triumph. It’s all about the fight against everyday evil, for me, and about the deep connections people make with unlikely other people when they commit to that fight.
With the Huntress series I finally have an umbrella to explore, dramatically, over multiple books, the roots and context of the worst crimes I know. And at least on paper, do something about it.
- Alexandra Sokoloff
Alexandra Sokoloff is the Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Black Quill Award-nominated author of the supernatural thrillers The Harrowing, The Price, The Unseen, Book of Shadows, The Shifters, and The Space Between; The Keepers paranormal series, and the Thriller Award-nominated, Amazon bestselling Huntress/FBI Thrillers series (Huntress Moon, Blood Moon, Cold Moon), which has been optioned for television. She has also written three non-fiction workbooks: Stealing Hollywood, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, and Writing Love, based on her internationally acclaimed workshops and blog (www.ScreenwritingTricks.com), and has served on the Board of Directors of the WGA, West (the screenwriters union) and the board of the Mystery Writers of America.
Alex is a California native and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, where she majored in theater and minored in everything Berkeley has a reputation for. She lives in Los Angeles and in Scotland, with Scottish crime author Craig Robertson.www.Alexandrasokoloff.com
Blog URL: http://www.screenwritingtricks.com
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/alexandra.sokoloff
Amazon: The FBI Thriller Series: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011M9AOBM?keywords=huntress%20moon&qid=1451693113&ref_=sr_1_1_ha&s=digital-text&sr=1-1