posted on September 30, 2014 by Carolyn Haines

A Case for a Good Chill

By Carolyn Haines/R.B.Chesterton

The Hanged ManA lot of recent posts on Facebook have asked for lists of favorite books, books that changed your life, best books, etc. I think a lot about books and the influence they’ve had on my life, and the wonderful adventures they’ve taken me on. I love stories, and because of that, I read all kinds of fiction, from mystery to horror to romance to general to short and sometimes even non-fiction (but don’t tell anyone!). And I write in all of those genres. The joking term I’ve heard applied to such a writer is…genre slut. And I wear the title proudly.

While I wouldn’t try to create a list of only 10 books that have impacted or influenced me, I’d like to talk about one genre that I love and sometimes despair of. Memories for me and my entire family have been built around this genre. Horror. We read it and watched it and planned holidays around it. But it is a very specific kind of horror that we love.

The DarklingHere is another confession. I am a horror snob. I am not a fan of dread or torture porn or splatter punk or any of the sub-genres where the focus is horrific acts of violence or mayhem or cruelty. I don’t like to feel dread while reading or watching. I like a little chill, a sense of something caught just in the corner of an eye, the possibility that yes, maybe that statue did move just a little bit! There’s a big difference to me between an edge-of-the-seat read or viewing, which I love, and the cringing and not wanting to read forward or view-the-screen dread.

To that end, I write the kind of scary stories I like to read.

The SeekerThe Hanged Man” is a short story much in the tradition of one of my favorite spooky writers, Daphne du Maurier. And I can tell you that Rebecca had a huge impact on me as a young reader.

The book was published in 1938, but I didn’t read it until the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, it was a “moderate” bestseller with nearly 3 million copies sold between 1938 and 1965. The book has never gone out of print. It’s classified as a gothic romance rather than horror, but it certainly scared me, as I read it late at night in my bedroom in Lucedale, Mississippi.

I was also a huge fan of Mary Stewart and several other gothic writers who entertained me during the ‘60s and ‘70s.  As I was graduating college, I ran across a slim little book by a guy from Maine. Carrie was Stephen King’s first published novel, released in 1974. King delivered a one-two punch with the theme of bullying and a young girl who has telekinetic powers and decides she isn’t going to take it anymore.

King decidedly changed the world of horror with his stories of everyday people plagued by supernatural forces.  King, Robert McCammon, Peter Straub, John Saul, Thomas Tryon, Dean Koontz, and a handful of other writers owned the late ‘70s and ‘80s horror market.

I’d come to horror from the classics–short stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. In both horror and mystery, Poe greatly influenced my writing. Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is not considered a horror writer, The Hound of the Baskervilles gave me many a delicious chill. As did The Secret Garden, which also isn’t horror. Both are creepy books that hint at the supernatural.

Shirley Jackson The LotteryI owe a lot to Shirley Jackson, whose chilling short story, “The Lottery,” demonstrates what a great short story can accomplish. In a time before horror became filled with severed limbs and torture porn, Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House, was a finalist for the National Book Award. (Philip Roth won that year but other contenders included William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Morris West, and Robert Penn Warren—all writers I admire.)

I guess by now, you’ve gotten a better idea of what I classify as horror. And if you want to read a contemporary writer who turned out a chilling tale set in England after WWII, give Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, a look. This is another book that impacted my writing. For a great haunted house tale, try Bliss House by Laura Benedict.

Pirate CarolynHorror wears many faces, and some of them I don’t care to stare upon, but I love a good chill. In the past three years I’ve published two horror novels and a short story (under my pseudonym R.B. Chesterton). The Darkling was published in 2013 by Pegasus Books, followed this year by The Seeker. Some would describe them as “old-fashioned” horror, or gentle horror, or British horror. Not a lot of blood and gore, but hopefully a lot of suspense and a good, twisty plot with some surprises.

I love that short stories are making a resurgence in popularity again, and I really loved writing ”The Hanged Man” set in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. I hope you’ll take a look. If you’re a fan of creepy stories, leave a comment and tell me what kind of chill you like.

As the chilly fall season comes to us, rent a few Vincent Price or Boris Karloff movies. Perfect fun for the Halloween season. Trick or treat! ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ R.B. Chesterton

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Carolyn Haines

Carolyn Haines

USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Haines grew up with both parents working as journalists, and she was bitten by the writing bug at a very young age. Her three ambitions were to be a cowgirl, a mystery-solving sleuth like Nancy Drew, and a writer. Today, she has basically accomplished them all. She is the author of the acclaimed Bones mystery series and in addition, she works as an advocate for humane treatment for animals and operates a small rescue on her farm (7 horses, 9 cats and 6 dogs).

Haines claims to have had “the last golden childhood of the South.” She grew up in Lucedale, Mississippi, a town of 3,000 in the Southeastern Pine Barrens. She rode her bicycle all over the county with her wonderful dog Venus and employed her imagination to create adventures with her friends.

Her first job in journalism was at the local weekly, The George County Times, when she was in high school. She went on to work as a photojournalist at the Hattiesburg American while attending the University of Southern Mississippi to earn a B.S. in journalism.

She worked for nearly a decade in the news business, covering local politics, the state legislatures in Alabama and Mississippi, spot news, writing a personal column and her favorite—writing features and using photography to illustrate the story. With her mother, she ran a statewide bureau in Mississippi for the Mobile Register and the Mississippi Press. As part of her journalistic adventures, Haines covered an armed robbery on horseback, hopped a freight train, and rescued a young, injured bald eagle from certain death. She was the first female reporter hired on the news side of the Huntsville Times.

At the same time, she began writing short fiction for personal satisfaction. Under the sway of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Doris Betts, and Lee Smith, Haines wrote about the landscape and the people she knew. The end result was being accepted by an agent who urged her to “write a novel.”

Another huge influence was Harper Lee and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Haines’s first novel was SUMMER OF THE REDEEMERS, a coming of age story set in 1963 rural Mississippi and published in 1994. Haines was honored in 2010 with the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing.

In 2009, Haines was named the recipient of the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.

From general fiction, Haines drifted into mysteries, and THEM BONES, a humorous mystery with a wise-cracking ghost, was bought at auction. The stories center around Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends. The fourteenth book in the series, BOOTY BONES, was published May 20, 2014, by St. Martin’s Minotaur.

While writing the lighter mysteries, Haines has continued to write in the darker terrain of the crime novel. PENUMBRA and FEVER MOON (both St. Martin’s Minotaur) are historical crime novels.

In May 2010, an anthology she edited, DELTA BLUES, was released to critical acclaim.

Along with writing, Haines is the fiction coordinator at the University of South Alabama where she teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing. And she is president of Good Fortune Farm Refuge, an organization dedicated to helping animals and to educating the public on the need to spay and neuter.

She lives on a farm with her “critters.” They are the terror of the neighborhood.

Carolyn Haines Contest

Carolyn Haines is giving away a digital edition of THE SPECTER OF SEDUCTION, A Pluto’s Snitch Mystery #3.

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7 thoughts on “A Case for a Good Chill”

  1. Avatar mary kennedy says:

    These are wonderful selections Carolyn, thanks for sharing!

  2. Avatar DeWitt Lobrano says:

    You raised so good points, Carolyn. Also, good horror and good fiction share a common bond with good biographies. They paint a picture of their times, where readers, whether it’s tomorrow or 200 years in the future, can see that these are real people and how they functioned-or didn’t-in their culture.

    1. The classic horror writers are always fun to read.When we look at the things that scare us, we do see an intense image of our society, I think.

  3. Avatar DeWitt Lobrano says:

    Yes we do, and we feel the smothered rage of the protagonist who is being victimized and powerless to help themselves. When they turn on their bullies and abusers and destroy them, like in Carrie, it feels downright satisfying. We want to be able to do that, to use those supernatural forces to right the wrongs of this world.

    1. You know I want the power of smite. And no one will give it to me!

      1. Avatar DeWitt says:

        The Gods are terrified of giving you the power to smite, Carolyn!!!

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