You can find my review here: CLICK
And my interview with Alexander Gordon smith here: CLICK
THANK YOU so much Gordon for visiting Bookish again! It's always so fantastic to work with you and I am looking forward to the sequel to The Fury! :) And wow! What an inspiring, thoughtful guest post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences with us!!!Hi Evie! It’s so awesome to be back on Bookish! I am still wearing the hat that I bought for the Men in YA photos! J
I wanted to talk a bit today about fears, which makes sense, I guess, as I am a horror writer! People often ask whether I write about things that scare me, and the answer is a resounding yes. I think it’s one of the best ways to approach horror, by looking at what truly terrifies you. In fact, when I do writing workshops now, especially with teenagers, that’s where I get them to start, by looking at their worst fears. It’s the perfect place to look for inspiration, because the more things terrify us the more, I think, we actually want to talk about them.
I’m in a fortunate position (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) in that I’m a little bit afraid of everything. I always have been, I think. It’s because I always tend to see the worst possible outcome: if I get on a plane, of course it will go down in flames. If I speak in public I will forget all my words and my trousers will fall down. If I go out into the garden I’ll get attacked by a mutant slug (yes, slugs are one of my greatest fears). I’m scared of being accused of a crime I didn’t commit and sent to the world’s worst prison – which is what led to the inspiration for the Escape From Furnace series. I’m also really scared of being attacked by a mob, or being turned on by the people who are supposed to love me, which is where the nightmare premise of The Fury originated. Thanks to my imagination, everything is a potential life-threatening disaster (and a potential book)!
When I was younger I used to shy away from thinking about things that scared me – better to ignore those fears completely than confront them. Better to stick your head in the sand and pretend that everything is okay. Then one day, following quite a traumatic experience when I was eleven years old (nothing serious, just an attempt by a friend and me to spend a night in a haunted house – we lasted seven minutes before running away screaming), I sat down and tried to use the somewhat embarrassing events in a story. And wow, it was a breakthrough. Forcing myself to actually face up to the fear – more than that, really, as when you write about something you relive it, you experience every element of it over again – I tapped into a huge emotional resource. It had never before occurred to me that using those fears in my writing could make it better, but suddenly I was discovering ways of telling stories that I didn’t know existed.
There’s something about writing about your worst fears that makes you a better writer. I’m not sure if I can even identify exactly what that thing is. It makes you more considerate, because like a person navigating their way through a nest of vipers you take your time, you think about every movement and its consequences. At the same time, though, it makes you fly by the seat of your pants, because you want to get the hell away from whatever it is you’re writing about before it gets you. Writing about your fears is like lighting a fuse under your backside – it propels you along, too scared to stop for breath, too scared to think about anything other than driving that story forwards and finding a way out. The fears I had writing Furnace and The Fury – especially as both books have characters very like myself, characters I felt I had to save if I was going to be saved – are what made those stories so fast and furious. Those fears were so close behind me, so terrifying, that I couldn’t have stopped writing even if I wanted to.
It’s a version of that old chestnut ‘write what you know’, I guess. Write about what scares you and you almost can’t help writing some seriously terrifying fiction. It’s contagious, too. If you’re writing about something that scares you then readers pick up on that. They sense that the terror is genuine, and it starts making them afraid too. If you know that something has caused the author legitimate distress then you can’t help but empathise with them. Their fears become your fears in a weird, almost viral way. I guess it’s like huddling round a campfire at night, suddenly one person’s terror is everyone’s.
There’s another element to writing about your fears. A very healthy one, I think. Back when I was a teenager I was plagued by a huge number of insecurities. I was scared of everything – not having friends, not being successful at school, not being seen as a child any more, not being able to handle responsibility, not liking what was happening to me physically and mentally. It’s a time of your life when everything changes, and that is petrifying – literally, I remember being scared into a kind of life paralysis. I didn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone because it was far better to just stay in my room and be by myself. Those fears were like weights around my ankles.
Until I started writing about them.I vividly remember starting to write stories about my fears. They weren’t autobiographical, not consciously anyway. They were about people who had to fight monsters and serial killers and ghosts. But these characters were often my own age, going through the same things, and in writing out their lives this way I was helping myself come to terms with my own anxieties. I didn’t even know it was happening until years later. At the time I just loved writing, and knew that it made me feel better about things. I had no idea it was a kind of therapy.
Writing gives you control over the things that scare you. It gives you power over the bits of your life that seem overpowering. When you write – whether it’s a diary, a piece of fiction, a poem, anything – it lets you decide the outcome. The fear is no longer in charge, the fear is at the mercy of your pen. It’s maybe not as simple as writing a fear into non-existence – although that can happen – but it gives you a kind of ownership over those phobias and those anxieties. They can’t have you any more. You’re the boss. It’s incredibly liberating.
The origins of The Fury took shape when I was a teenager, although I hadn’t really started thinking of it as a story back then. One of the things that always scared me most was the way people’s attitudes to me changed when I was a teen. Most people love kids, and distrust teenagers, which is so unfair. You go from everyone saying nice things to you to everyone eyeing you suspiciously when you go too near their car. I used to worry that everyone would turn against me, my friends and family, teachers and strangers. I think I even wrote a short story about it once, when I was about fourteen, although it has long since vanished. It’s funny how that fear has stuck with me through the years. But without it, without the driving force of trying to deal with that fear through writing, there might never have been a Fury.
So yes, I absolutely write about the things that scare me, and it has changed my life. I don’t worry as much as I used to, and the list of the things that I am genuinely scared of (and yes, slugs are still on there) has drastically shrunk. Luckily for me new fears keep cropping up, so hopefully I’ll always have stuff to write about! It’s funny how people often dismiss horror as a story that says ‘boo’ to us, that tries to exploit our fears, our uncertainties. I believe horror actually does the opposite, whether you’re watching, reading, drawing or writing it. It teaches us ways of controlling our fears, of surviving them. In writing about the things that scare us we let those fears say ‘boo’ to us. But we also learn how to say ‘boo’ back.
Unless, of course, they’re slugs…
Thanks again for letting me guest post on your blog!J
What you can win: One finished hardcover copy of The Fury
Open to: US/Canada
Ends: July 25th
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith
Hardcover, 688 pages
Expected publication: July 23rd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
From the creator of the Escape from Furnace series, a ferocious epic of supernatural terror, perfect for Stephen King fans
Imagine if one day, without warning, the entire human race turns against you, if every person you know, every person you meet becomes a bloodthirsty, mindless savage . . . That’s the horrifying reality for Cal, Brick, and Daisy. Friends, family, even moms and dads, are out to get them. Their world has the Fury. It will not rest until they are dead.
In Alexander Gordon Smith’s adrenaline-fueled saga, Cal and the others must uncover the truth about what is happening before it destroys them all. But survival comes at a cost. In their search for answers, what they discover will launch them into battle with an enemy of unimaginable power.
About the author:
Alexander Gordon Smith is the author of the Escape from Furnace series of young adult novels, including Lockdown and Solitary. Born in 1979 in Norwich, England, he always wanted to be a writer. After experimenting in the service and retail trades for a few years, Smith decided to go to University. He studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, and it was here that he first explored his love of publishing. Along with poet Luke Wright, he founded Egg Box Publishing, a groundbreaking magazine and press that promotes talented new authors. He also started writing literally hundreds of articles, short stories and books ranging from Scooby Doo comic strips to world atlases, Midsomer Murders to X-Files. The endless research for these projects led to countless book ideas germinating in his head. His first book, The Inventors, written with his nine-year-old brother Jamie, was published in the U.K. in 2007. He lives in England.
Author Website: http://www.alexandergordonsmith.com/
Follow Alexander Gordon Smith on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AGSmith_Author
Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlexanderGordonSmith
Order The Fury now!: http://www.macteenbooks.com/books/spring2013/thefury.php