The Misconception of Writers like Dan Brown and Stephen King

As a horror author, I often delve into all things dark and creepy with the intent to entertain. Some writers, like myself, dig deep, researching human history to explore “real-life” events, (like this short story I wrote, a “Queen of Crows” zombie fiction piece inspired by the tragic events of Bosque Redondo in the 1800s. For some of us, it may not be crystal clear “when” we were attracted to the genre. For others, like myself, I can say that “it feels right” to me. My first horror fiction piece was at the age of 9 winning a community contest; and both Poe and Hitchcock were early influences that left a long-lasting impression.

Never, in all my years researching and reading horror did I stop to think whether or not Stephen King was “Christian”-enough as a person to offer tales like “The Dark Tower” series or my favorite, the unabridged version of “The Stand.” Whether it’s because the spotlight has turned on Christianity or not, however, myself and others have been scrutinized under this lens so much so that for some, it has interfered with project completion.

The thing that I don’t understand is: Why would you ask this question in the first place? Some writers offer their personal beliefs through their work; others, like myself, do not. Our primary goal as authors is to sell our work to the largest audience possible; in order to that, we sometimes write within certain tropes or horror stereotypes in order to provide an entertaining story that readers can relate to.

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code is a prime example of this phenomena. You may recall that his best-selling book was made into a movie. But did you also know that people were so entertained and influenced by his work (which is not horror, btw, but plays around with historical and religious themes) that many readers believed his story to be true? The BBC conducted a poll to see how many readers believed that Christ had a child, after reading the book, and the response was overwhelming “Yes.” Newsweek featured a huge article on “debunking” the story; there have been dozens of products that scream something to the effect of “The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code.” (A really, great website offers its take on this phenomena; I highly recommend this overview at Religious Tolerance and the Da Vinci Code.)

Well? Whether or not you want to admit it, Dan Brown did his job as a writer and did it phenomenally well. He provided readers with a setting so entertaining that they believed his fiction story to be true. Did you catch that last bit? That’s right. Fiction. Somehow, that distinction got missed by readers to the point that entire, additional works had to declare that the material he provided “wasn’t true.” When of course, it never was.

A similar occurrence takes place whenever I mention the word, “Necronomicon.” How many people believe that book to be an actual demon-summoning guide to all things dark and powerful? Did you know that it is a fictitious book? Did you also know that it was written and created by H.P. Lovecraft, who is considered the father of modern horror?

The point I’m trying to make here, is that writers, like any other profession, often have an insulating layer between us and our work. If every writer took every review personally, we would stop writing. If we choose to write horror or children’s stories or about drug addiction, it’s because that’s what we feel we write best and can market to. Horror, just like any other genre out there, is a market. Plain and simple.

So the next time you read a book, remember that there is a human being that created this work, and that person has a job to do. Afterward, if you believe (even for a fraction of a second) that fairies are real and things really do go bump in the night? Then sit back and let yourself be entertained.

For that, dear readers, is what all writers are trying to do.

2 Responses to The Misconception of Writers like Dan Brown and Stephen King

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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