Meet author Marie O'Regan @Marie_O_Regan #HorrorLounge
Tell us about your latest book
I have a novella, ‘Bury Them Deep’, due to be launched in September, through Hersham Horror Books. It’s a story of a woman trying to evade a monster that’s chased her all her life, and her mother’s determination to save her, even from beyond the grave. ‘Bury Them Deep’ also contains two short stories: an original, ‘Sshh’, which is a Halloween story, and ‘Can You See Me?’ a story of revenge that was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for Best Short story when it was first published.
First memory of reading horror
When I was nine, I discovered an anthology called Thin Air in the school library; a big thick book with a blue cover and a skeletal hand on it. It was an anthology of some classic horror fiction, including ‘The Ash Tree’, ‘Monkey’s Paw’, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, to name but a few. I was hooked from then on, and renewed the book every week until – on leaving primary school – I was given it by the head teacher as a prize for coming top in the year. I still have it, although it’s a bit fragile these days.
Which 3 horror books do you keep returning to?
Limiting it to just three is hard! There are so many books I’ve read and re-read, but if I have to limit it to just three then I’d say:
1. Bag of Bones, Stephen King
2. The Great and Secret Show, Clive Barker (cheating a bit, I’d include Everville with this, its sequel)
3. NOS4A2, Joe Hill
For readers new to horror which 3 books would you recommend?
I would say probably Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, which is a brilliant tale of how evil infiltrates a small town almost by osmosis; I love Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game, and an oldie but goodie, Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. All three are great reads, in very different ways.
Who do you consider the King and Queen of horror fiction?
I’d say the king of horror fiction, for me, is Stephen King. I was hooked by Carrie at the age of 13, and have read everything by him since. The queen of horror fiction? Oh that’s hard; do I go with one of the classic female authors or more recent? I think if pushed, I would have to say Shirley Jackson. We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House (to name just two) would be very hard to match.
Greatest horror film (adapted from a book) & why?
I like The Thing, by John Carpenter; adapted from the novella Who Goes There by John W. Campbell. It’s tense, claustrophobic and filled with a real sense of paranoia.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
I would love to see Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 made into a movie; it has all the elements of a classic – a great premise, a larger than life bad-guy/monster, and a great setting. I’d go and see that in a second.
Best horror TV?
There have been a few, over the years. My all-time favourite would have to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer; it started when my daughter was two, my sons eight and ten – it was a show we all watched together, and its strength was that Buffy grew along with the viewers. Today, I’d have to say that my favourite recent horror TV show was the latest incarnation of The Exorcist. I’ve yet to see Series 2, that’s just about to start, but Series 1 was amazing.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
I went straight to horror. I have to say that that’s a broad church – for me it covers everything from psychological horror, where the monsters are human, to supernatural (ghost stories, which I love), to out and out horror, such as zombies, demons and the like. And although I write a lot of ghost stories because I love them, I also write psychological horror, and more obvious horror from time to time.
Tell us briefly about your route to being published
I started writing when my kids were small; it was something I’d always enjoyed, and that was just for me. When I felt I might conceivably stand a chance of being published, I started sending stories off to ezines and print magazines, the guidelines for which I found on sites like www.ralan.com. I also joined the British Fantasy Society, and met a lot of writers, fans, publishers etc. there. After a year or so I sold a short story, ‘Suicide Bridge’, and it just went from there, really. I started to sell more stories, to be asked to contribute to anthologies… and as part of the BFS I co-edited an anthology, BFS – A Celebration – with Paul Kane. At that point he was a friend, we’ve now been married for ten years. These days, Paul and I co-run the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association, and spend time trying to promote the genre – holding events for established writers and newbies alike, where and when we can. People like Stephen Jones, editor of so many anthologies, among them the Best New Horror series, were very good to me when I started out; I like to do what I can to help others in the same position.
Tell us about your fans
I think a lot of people enjoy ghost stories, and know me because of that – and thankfully seem to really enjoy my work. I’ve also met a lot of readers through Paul, who’s passionate about Hellraiser and all things Barker (as am I, I have to admit), and has a lot of fans who love that side of his work and have found his other work, and mine, as a result.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as well respected as other genres of fiction. Why do you think that is?
I think it was, until the boom of the eighties inevitably went bust. As with everything, when a subject is popular, everyone rushes to write it, make the films etc. When you have that much, and saturate the market, people move to something else – in horror’s case, I’d say that was the thriller market. Since then, a lot of people mistakenly think that horror means splatter – and it doesn’t. There is that element within the genre, of course, and that’s as it should be; but there’s so much more than that. As I’ve said earlier, horror can cover everything from gentle ghost stories to psychological horror to the full-on splatter that people associate it with now. You just have to open your eyes to it.
Do you think horror is ready for a renaissance?
I do. Horror films are perennially popular; and over recent years the surge of films such as The Conjuring, Annabelle, Sinister and the like have brought a whole new audience to horror. At the moment, horror novels tend to be marketed as thrillers, but I can see that there are more out there that I’d class as horror, and can only hope that that continues.
Tips for new writers of horror fiction.
1. Keep writing. Don’t let yourself be put off; it’s hard, and it takes time. No one’s great straight away, so give yourself permission to learn, and to take time.
2. Finish what you’re writing. It’s so easy to give up when a story’s not working, but you can’t fix a blank page, and you can’t fix structural problems in a story if you never finish it.
3. Don’t be put off by rejection. Everybody gets rejected; it’s not a rejection of you, it just means that story wasn’t right for that market. Dust yourself off, see if any of the feedback rings true (and if you get feedback, you were close), and rewrite/send back out. You need a bit of a thick skin when you learn to deal with rejections. They sting, but then you get back on the horse.
4. Meet people. Go to things like the British Fantasy Society Open Nights, or the Horror Writers’ Association events; join up, go to their conventions. You’ll find yourself surrounded by people who share your interests, and often work in the genre. It’s a great boost to your enthusiasm to go to these things, and you meet and make friends with so many people.