Interviewed about the state of the Horror genre

November 30, 2007

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

The Augusta Free Press recently printed an interview of me and Beth Massie talking about the state of publishing.  Here’s how it opens:

Horror Authors Talk about Ups, Downs in Business
by Chris Graham (11/27/07)

I go into any discussion of the book industry presuming that sales are down, down, down, reader interest is even worse, the prospects for improvement are dead in the water. And then I talk to my friend the horror author Matthew Warner, and I start to get depressed.

“I’m trying to break into the paranormal-romance genre, and I’m working on a manuscript there – and that’s only because I think there’s better money in it,” Warner told me.

That, I hope, explains my glum feelings – that my friend the horror author Matthew Warner is aspiring to be my friend the paranormal-romance author Matthew Warner.

His books make it so that I have to sleep with the lights on at night – and he’s thinking of jumping ship?

“Horror’s going away,” said Warner, who relocated to Staunton a couple of years ago from Northern Virginia. “There’s not as many bookstores using horror as a label, and I’m kind of tired of fighting against the whole perceptions of the genre. I get up and give speeches and give talks at libraries and in schools, and I’m realizing that they’re all running along the lines of apologias. And I said to myself, Everybody understands romance, and they’re buying that up.”

Yep, I really said it.  You can read the article here.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the horror genre.  (And when you see the title of my next book, currently in negotiation, you’ll realize how much.)  It’s just that I recognize there are market forces at work in publishing that are beyond my control.

That’s not to say I won’t continue writing about horrific things.  As I stated later in the article, I think there’s room in the paranormal romance (PNR) subgenre of romance for people like me because it’s making use of the tools and symbols I’m already conversant with, like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demons.  The only hurdle preventing many of us from crossing over is a largely psychological one, painted with the following words: “I’m a guy.  You kidding?  I can’t write that stuff.”

It’s a hurdle I don’t think is in my path.  I have a PNR manuscript in the works, yes, and I intend to sell it to a PNR publisher one day.  And I’m also putting my money where my mouth is: reading in the genre I’d like to write in, titles like Angela Knight’s strange, genre-mixing Master of Swords (Berkley), which I enjoyed a great deal, and Lynn Viehl’s If Angels Burn (Signet), which I also enjoyed and which I maintain is indistinguishable from a horror novel except for the label on the spine.  It all runs the gamut of subject matter, like I said, and I look forward to seeing where I might fit in.

I also gagged on Mary Lyons’s The Playboy’s Baby (Harlequin Presents), which was the source of my negative comment about Harlequin in the article.  Yes, that comment was unfair of me, so I wish to put it into context.  Harlequin wasn’t the problem; it was that one awful book.

I’ve read other Harlequin novels I’ve thought were fine, by the way.  It’s just that this one really hit the gag reflex.  And truthfully–although I don’t expect anyone to believe me when I say it–I didn’t dislike the book because the millionaire tycoon’s name was Matthew Warner (really my reason for picking it up).  It was because of passages like this one:

‘For God’s sake!’ he breathed thickly, his hands sweeping erotically over her trembling figure.  ‘Are you really asking me to stop making love to you?’ (p30)

I mean, every page was like that.  We’re told no fewer than three times by this point that he has “hooded” eyes.  Lots of heavy breathing and trembling and exclamation points dripping off the page in torrents of purple saccharin.  I would go on, but I’m afraid Mary Lyons would launch a ballistic missile at me from across the Atlantic.

So, anyway, that’s full disclosure.  I’m not jumping the horror ship, just whistling at other cruise lines.  Because ultimately, it’s all about finding readers, and if nearly 27% of all books sold are romance, then someone like me would do well to scratch his chin and think hard about the lay of the land.