Michael Aronovitz, author of The Witch of the Wood.
I would have to say that my influences for writing horror fiction first came from Carpenter’s Halloween. Michael Myers was simply the most frightening figure I had ever seen, and since my first viewing at a drive-in theater in 1978, I have had the opportunity to watch it many times more on VHS, then DVD. Carpenter did not utilize earth-shattering dialogue, and while it might be ironic to praise the film from a writing standpoint and criticize the writing, I always felt that hiding the monster was Carpenter’s first agenda. Every scene uses dialogue not for meaning or even necessarily plot, but rather a rhythmic build-up to a Michael Myers sighting. We begin mostly out of doors, and as the movie moves forward we get closer and closer, finally ending up in the climactic claustrophobic scene in the closet with the victim. This taught me more about writing, pacing, and scare-factors than any fancy wording ever could have.
The first scary book I read was Stephen King’s Nightshift. This opened me up to the concept of character like I had never seen before. Quickly following this, I devoured Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, and Christine. Never has there been an author who captures the kernel of a character so completely and in so few words. In this, Stephen King is a prodigy, and while I would hope my own characters retain their own sort of original spin, it is King that provided the blueprint.
Along with the foundation of image and timing, and the support structure of strong characterization, there will always be plot as the conduit, the piping and the wiring that help a work become something of influence. Of course the idea of clever foreshadowing is always appealing, yet in the horror biz it is usually combined with an epiphany that drops your stomach three stories. In this, I must go back to film and claim the best plot-lines belong to a lone three, two in the “thriller” category, and one everyone would agree is straight “horror.” I would even go so far as to say that the two former films are in fact horror movies, they just hide behind the guise of “the detective story” (Poe’s old trick). The Silence of the Lambs has the best foreshadowing up to a clever, bloody, and resourceful prison escape that I have ever seen. Seven has the best twist imaginable (What’s in the box…) and I don’t think anyone would argue that the ending of SAW has to produce the biggest WTF moment in the history of slashers. Interestingly, the three aforementioned movies all had excellent timing and fully drawn characterization as well.
I suppose now that I’ve made these bold statements, I might as well stick with the building-the-house metaphor and talk about window dressing. What are artists doing of late that make this wonderful haunted house on the hill stay special and timely? In terms of books, I would hope my own give the current kettle a new flavor, along with the work of Caitlyn Kiernan, Tamara Thorne, Alistair Cross, Richard Gavin, and John Shirley. The film maker leading the way comes from the independent ranks, and her name is Ursula Dabrowsky, whose latest film Inner Demon gives us a startling interpretation of the hybrid of ghost and killer through beautiful raw visuals and striking soundtrack. Of course, there are many more who have been an influence to us all, in this dark and delicious genre we love. It takes a village…
Michael Aronovitz published his first collection titled Seven Deadly Pleasures through Hippocampus Press in 2009. His first novel Alice Walks came out in a hardcover edition by Centipede Press in 2013, and Dark Renaissance Books published the paperback version in 2014. Aronovitz’s second collection, The Voices in Our Heads was published by Horrified Press in 2014, and the above featured novel, The Witch of the Wood, came out through Hippocampus Press recently. Aronovitz’s first young adult novel Becky’s Kiss will be appearing through VinspirePress in the fall of 2015 and his third hard core adult horror novel titled Phantom Effect will be published by Night Shade Books in the fall of 2015. Michael Aronovitz is a college professor of English and lives with his wife and son in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Visit him on the web at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelAronovitzAuthor and http://michaelaronovitz.weebly.com.