Guest contributor: Jennifer Williams is an author, editor, cat lady and all around geek living in New England. Her fiction has appeared in various horror and erotica anthologies, most recently in Women Who Love Monsters edited by Lori Perkins. She is currently editing a collection of erotica, Dressed in Black, inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Circlet Press. You can find her on Twitter @JenWilliams13 and on Goodreads.
It’s in My Blood: How My Life of Horror Led to My Love of Horror
I have a confession to make. I’m not who you think I am.
Probably, you think I am educated. Maybe you’ve pictured me walking the halls of academia, coffee in one hand and laptop in the other. At the very least, you’ve likely assumed I once walked across a stage in gown and cap, crossing that bridge between adolescence and into adulthood, diploma in hand.
When you picture me in childhood it might be in a house with two capable parents and a dog and maybe even siblings. Love is a given, right? And when I am sixteen you know I must have gotten my learner’s permit and driven around parking lots with my father beside me. Maybe he would curse and grab the dashboard whenever I went over a pothole and then we would laugh about it later over pizza.
I look the part of these things. I like to think I wear the cloak of “normal” pretty well. You see me post pictures of books and cats and food on my social media. I spend most of my time online talking about pop culture: flailing over things I love and taking deep dives into the gender politics of film. Rarely, do I let you see who I really am.
Right about now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with horror. And I’m going to tell you. It has EVERYTHING to do with it.
I grew up in a horror story. We lived in a rotting, bug-infested apartment a few doors down from a junkyard. I watched as my father, consumed by his own very real monster —schizophrenia—terrorized my mother on a daily basis. I listened to her scream. I watched him chase her. Hurt her, even. Later, when I was older, his genetic curse turned its attention toward me. I stood in my very own haunted house, day to day unaware that it was anything outside of the norm. No longer the child, I became the final girl. First a victim, then a survivor.
Running parallel to this narrative is the place in which I found comfort: horror. In horror movies, then books, and then in comics. One of the side effects of growing up in such a chaotic household is that it gives you the freedom to run wild. No one is watching you because they’re too busy watching themselves.
I was raised on the teat of Creature Double Feature. I was fed werewolves and vampires and mummies for breakfast. King and Koontz put me to bed each night.
I sat, mesmerized, while Jack Torrance followed Wendy up the stairs as she feebly swung a bat at him. Wendy, who reminded me so much of my mother. Thin and pretty and meek. I could imagine what she smelled like. Coffee and cigarettes and sweat. Their home was bigger on the outside, but inside it was exactly like mine.
With the rise of the slasher I found my kin. Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and even Ellen Ripley all served as inspiration. Each of them terrorized. Each of them alive.
Horror became my sister, my sitter, and, later, my confidante. She showed me that girls like me could persevere. Girls with no one to help them and nowhere to hide. If I was quiet enough, if I was clever enough, if I ran at exactly the right moment, I could outsmart the monster and see the end of my story.
So, that’s what I did.
Eventually, my mother left my father but the damage had been done. Financial and emotional strains took their toll. A normal life was not to be had. I quit high school and moved out on my own. I met more monsters along the way. For a while, I wondered if something was wrong with me. Why did I seem to attract so many of them? But then a therapist explained it perfectly: They were wolves and I had the scent of blood on me, carried from my childhood. Simple as that. They were following a stench I couldn’t wash off.
I don’t have any magical transformation story to tell you. At least, not the kind that looks good on paper. I never did go to college. I don’t have any kind of career. I’ve never even owned a car. But I can tell you this: I stopped being afraid. I learned how to fight. And I started putting myself first.
Now I am the witch in the woods. I am a skateboarding vampire. I am covered in blood with an axe in hand. Horror is my mother, my lover, my past, and my future. My gender and my genre are intrinsically linked, a key and lock that fit snugly together.
I am a woman born from horror, a woman who has endured horror, and a woman who gives birth to horror whenever her fingers touch the keyboard. I am not just a month of celebration. I am a lifetime of creation.