sci-fi · THE WITCHING HOUR · Writing

Genre-Hopping & Close Encounters

I wrote a blog post back in February about how I was experiencing a bad case of writer’s block which seemed something more akin to a weird apathy towards writing that I didn’t really understand. That apathy has haunted me so much this year, to the point where despite doing a good job of making it look like I’m working on new projects, all I’ve really been doing is creating aesthetics for each new idea in the hope that it might inspire me to write. Because every story must have an aesthetic before you start, right?

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The reality is that I haven’t really been working on new stories at all. Every time I’ve opened a new WIP or notebook, I haven’t been able to think straight to even start writing, let along manage a single paragraph. The longer this has gone on, the more I think I’ve allowed myself to make excuses about why I can’t write eg. okay, maybe I’m done with it, maybe it’s done with me, maybe I’m not really a writer, blah blah blah – you know, all the woe-is-me shite that gets to us all at some point.

At the weekend, however, I had one of those rare epiphanies (I don’t get them that often, trust me): I realised that I’d convinced myself so much that I couldn’t write that I had started to believe it and that, in essence, I was failing myself. What if instead of not being able to write, I had just made myself think I couldn’t do it, thereby allowing myself to give up before I’d even tried?

So, I went back over all my new story ideas and decided I would just pick one and start writing something. Anything. It really didn’t matter what to be honest.

The result? The one I ended up choosing was by no means the story that I ever thought I would write.

Why? Because it’s a genre I’ve never written before.

Now, I know many writers who hop genres. I know writers who hop genres to jump onto an emerging trend or because it’s a more lucrative and popular option. I know writers who hop genres because they’re just bloody good at writing anything they choose to write. I know writers who hop genres because they want to experiment with something different and end up finding they’re in love with writing that new genre. I’ve always looked at those writers with something close to awe, because I’ve tended to stick to the same genre – urban fantasy with a touch of horror or just horror.

I read far more genres than I write, and the older I get, the more genres I discover I like. There are definitely genres I’ve always wished I could write in based on my reading choices. Fantasy is one, thrillers and domestic noir are also genres I love. However, I never thought I would be drawn to writing sci-fi and yet, that’s the one I picked. It was definitely a late-runner in the new story idea stakes and came about mostly from my love for sci-fi films. I’ll be honest here, I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but I love sci-fi movies, particularly anything alien-related. The Alien movies are some of my all-time faves. I was obsessed with the TV series, Taken. I grew up on a diet of Spielberg and stories of little grey men. I loved anything remotely linked to alien abductions and yes, I loved that cute little alien and his best mate Elliott. DO NOT JUDGE ME!

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Of course, I’m not writing about cute little aliens, but I am strangely excited about this new project despite it not being the one I ever thought I would opt for. I started writing at the weekend, making brief starter notes, then managing to get one very short chapter down that I surprisingly felt really good about. I have no idea whether this one will work out and whether it’s the next big project, but, right now, it feels right and it’s given me the kick start I needed to not only write something, but to also feel inspired about writing again.

Are you a writer that swaps genres? Are you a writer that wishes they could write in a different genre? If so, what genre would you like to write in? Are you a reader who’s recently discovered a new genre that you really love?

Drop me a comment and let me know!

 

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Films that shape me….

So tomorrow is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve or That Night We Turn Out All The Lights And Pretend We’re Not In, depending on how you view 31st October.

And as is typical of this time of year, the TV channels start throwing all manner of classic horror films our way; Halloween is an ultimate given, of course and if you’re lucky they might chuck in a good dose of The Exorcist and maybe a spattering of Poltergeist or Nightmare On Elm Street.

Also as is typical for this time of year, I shan’t be busting a gut to watch any of them.

‘What’s that?’ you say ‘a horror novel fan and paranormal/vampire fiction writer and you’re not into horror films?’

Well as disgustingly shocking as it is, I’m not honestly a HUGE horror film fan.

Now there are some exceptions. I adore 30 Days of Night. As vampire films go, it’s definitely one of my favourites and in this age of sparkling vampires, it’s good to see the vamps so unrelenting in their evil. They even look like nasty bastards from the arse-end of Hell. No fabulously bouffant hairstyles in sight and you certainly wouldn’t want to snog any of them.

Poltergeist II is still a favourite, although maybe these days it does seem quite dated but no clergyman has ever given me the jitters as much as Reverend Kane. I can still hear the song now….’God is in….his Holy Temp-le’. Urgh.

But generally I just wouldn’t go out of my way to watch a horror film. Maybe that’s because no horror film can ever really capture what you envisage using your own imagination and that’s the beauty of books. It comes from you, with a little help from the author, of course, but you will picture a character very differently from the next reader, you will imagine a place very differently from the next reader…and that’s the way it should be.

Now, if you want to talk about what films have shaped me, chuck an alien in there and I’m all over it. I’m not sure anyone would pin me down as a sci-fi fan but I am seriously into all things extra-terrestrial. My favourite film of all time?

E.T. Yep you heard right. E.T or ‘that little wrinkly poo on legs’ as my husband used to call him. I can’t even put into words how much I LOVE that film. I quote from it constantly. I’ve watched it so many times I practically know the whole script. And I STILL cry every time Eliot says ‘I’ll believe in you all my life, every day’. I’m not too ashamed to say I have often sobbed at that part.

My second favourite film?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I literally wet myself the other week when the uncut version was aired on UK TV. No joke.

I couldn’t necessarily list the others in any order but the Alien series is up there. As is War of the Worlds (the Tom Cruise version). And Independence Day is my guilty pleasure.

I’m also a big Star Wars fan. Growing up my older brother was a Star Wars fanatic and used to build these amazing towers using my Ladybird books and he would place a Star Wars figurine in each ‘tent’. It used to piss me off that he wouldn’t let me play so I’d take great delight in kicking the side of the tower and watching it come tumbling down. He thought I was just being the annoying little sister, but Hell I just wanted to play with the Star Wars toys.

Anyone ever see Spielberg’s TV series ‘Taken’ with Dakota Fanning? Seriously good and I always dreamed I would write something as amazing as that. I was addicted to that series and loved it so much I bought the DVD box set which sits pride of place next to the Star Wars, Aliens, Jurassic Park (yep am also a dinosaur nerd) and the Underworld (confessed vampire nerd) DVD’s.

So you see, I’m pretty much a sci-fi nerd in the guise of a horror fan. I’m a fake, a fraud, a nerdy charlatan who pretends she’s tough liking all these horror stories yet I’m never happier than when I’m watching a small, squishy alien whose finger lights up, eats M&M’s and says ‘ouch’ quite a lot.

Alligators in the sewers, my friends, alligators in the sewers.