Faith, Writing and a Horror Author’s Intent

This past week I had an in-depth discussion with my friend and author Maurice Broaddus. Maurice is an interesting writer because he’s up front about his faith and infuses it into his writing. I, on the other hand, am pretty private when it comes to my beliefs; they aren’t part of my writer’s platform. Even though we have different beliefs, both of us write genre fiction and enjoy writing horror.

After we finished our discussion, we both felt that you might be interested in following our exchange and commenting on it. I thought we brought up some good points about our “selves” as authors and what we intend to put into our work.

Our conversation started with my asking him a question about Halloween. While I love the holiday, I’ve run into several people who don’t for religious reasons.

MONICA: As an author who intentionally infuses Christianity into your writing, how do you feel about the recent criticisms that Halloween is a threat to Christianity?

MAURICE: Well, I don’t know if I see myself as intentionally infusing Christianity into my work as much as that’s simply my worldview and it naturally comes out in my work (at least, that’s what I hope is happening).

Halloween is always one of those weird times of year for me. I’m not that into Halloween (which sounds counterintuitive coming from a horror writer). It’s just not my thing. On the flip side, it’s my wife’s FAVORITE (except for Christmas) time of year. The house gets decorated; the planning of costumes is like laying out a battlefield campaign. She’s all in.

But we also have to navigate a certain church culture that instinctively reacts against Halloween. This culture reacts to Halloween the same way it does horror: after a cursory glance, it’s dubbed an embrace of evil and the satanic. The rise in Halloween’s popularity is seen as a threat, but yet they still want to have it both ways. So we get things like “trunk or treat” or “hallelujah night” where we can participate in all of the trappings of Halloween, but not truly partake of Halloween. Because that’s not what everyone else is doing – just using the occasion to have dress up parties and beg for candy.

I’m curious, what role does the supernatural, or even the idea of the supernatural, play in your everyday life or is it something to be dismissed out of hand?

MONICA: I tend to look at the world through the eyes of an amateur cultural anthropologist. (I wanted to “be” Indiana Jones when I grew up.) Having said that, I have an insatiable curiosity. I’ve read a lot of books on a lot of different topics – including the arcane. So, I’m of two minds on the subject. The logic part of my brain says that there’s a rational explanation for everything. There’s a lot of psychology and sociology that can be found in the supernatural. The other side of my brain says that I shouldn’t be so sure of myself all the time. I’m only human. How could I possibly have all the answers? Sometimes, extraordinary things can happen and there’s simply no “natural” explanation for them.

So I guess the straight answer is: it depends upon the day and whether or not I’m writing. To get that creative boost, I let my imagination run away with me. Sometimes, when things are clicking, it almost feels like I’m experiencing supernatural so I visualize or get inspired by different muses. Other times, when I can’t hear the voices and the world seems flat and gray, then there’s nothing there except billions of atoms smashing into each other. That’s a place I don’t like to visit very often.

Has anyone ever accused you of being non-Christian because you write horror? How do you respond to something like that?

Maurice will be picking up the conversation on his website, too. I’ll share that thread with you in a follow-up post. Feel free to chime in!

How the Media You Surround Yourself With May Affect Your Writing

Take a moment to think about what information sources you have access to. On a very basic level, you gather information from people or media created by people. Now, if we stop to think about where that media is coming from it’s usually from a group of people focused on a particular belief or a person who is regurgitating their interpretation of that belief. Beliefs that underlie information may (or may not) be transparent; try cross-referencing news sources sometime to see what I’m talking about.

Most people are shaped by the world around them, and there is no greater influence than what information they absorb. If someone only gets their insight into society from a select group of sources that has, at their core, the same set of beliefs, then really that person is only getting one view of the world. Great examples of this concept can often be found by researching the origin of superstitions, holidays, and modern myths: Did you know that frightening gargoyles were once created on the sides of buildings to scare away evil spirits and protect people from harm?

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The Other Side of Author’s Intent: The Writer’s World

In college, it wasn’t unusual to get involved in discussions about how important “author’s intent” was to a work. My “fondest” memory was of a professor who was convinced that it didn’t matter that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein on a dare; what mattered is that she was supposedly influenced by obstetrics manuals of the period.

Needless to say, I was pretty vocal in that class.

Now, years later I can see the other side to the argument about writer’s intent and that is, that the world the author lives in can shape a writer’s work as well. This can also determine how a reader responds to the work as well—especially those who heavily influenced by propaganda, reviews or “official” opinions.

Conscientious writers who understand both the business side of writers and the creative process typically have a singular intent and that is—to sell books. I’ll often read comments or hear other experienced writers say, “Well, duh! Monica, of course they want to sell books!” I may sound like I’m beating a tired drum, but consumers, reporters, fans, and those who romanticize what writing is all about really don’t. Grand Theft Auto, for example, typically draws a lot of controversy but here’s the thing about that: Don’t you think that the intent of that game is to create a buzz to sell more product?
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Monica Valentinelli >

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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