An article by Claire L. Smith

Writing, drawing and creativity, in general, have always been an outlet for people to express themselves, but the horror genre has always stood as a beacon for creatives who want to tell their story through the genre’s powerful yet terrifying themes. From books to film and other media, the power the horror genre seems to give creators is undeniable.

As both a writer and visual artist, I employ themes of horror in my work almost religiously due to the empowering feeling I get by adding my monsters, creepy houses and other spooky aesthetics to my creations. Having secretly loved the genre from my mid-teens, I only began to discover this feeling of empowerment when I actually started to write it. I realised that I could hide pieces of my trauma, depression and other overwhelming emotions/thoughts into my stories (both written and visual), making metaphors out of my experiences in order to process and make sense of my traumatic experiences.

I had always enjoyed watching/reading about characters in horror overcoming terrible circumstances that at times reflected or portrayed the horrors of everyday life. I found comfort in those stories, especially when they reflected my own experiences with trauma or as a woman or a member of the LGBT, but actually creating within the realm of horror allowed me to find a voice that I never thought I’d have.

For example, my upcoming novella When We Entered That House from Off Limits Press (coming October 2021), can be defined as a coming-of-age horror. I feel as if coming-of-age and horror narratives go so well together because childhood is rarely a fun walk in the park. Writing that book, like my previous works, gave me a way to use my voice when, in the past, I had been afraid to do so.

Writing horror, in my experience, helped make my trauma less confronting or triggering to process, allowing me to tell stories from behind a wall of gore, blood and the supernatural, almost as if I was facing my own fears and personal demons/monsters through the use of the horror genre.

I found this to be the case in my first book, a gothic horror novella entitled Helena as well, but it seems that I gave away more than I intended. As a bisexual woman, I didn’t know until recently how much I feared my own sexuality until I started getting feedback for that book.

During a discussion with a reader, I was asked if I intended to make the titular character to be a closeted lesbian, or at the very least bisexual, given her perceived attraction to other queer characters in the narrative. I was stunned by this take on my book as I had originally thought of making the character queer but was in the closet at the time and too terrified accidently ‘out’ myself. However, it seems I did subconsciously add a level of queerness to my character that I didn’t see until someone pointed it out to me.

Although I, now openly bisexual, find my closeted self’s lack of subtlety hilarious, the fact that I, without meaning to, pushed my fear of coming out and my own sexuality into the character was still rather confronting, if not validating. It also proved to me that horror and writing created a safe place for me.

Overall, I owe a lot to the horror genre as an inspiration, escape and tool to better my craft and my healing journey. The potential the genre has to empower people continues to astound me, but it also helps that it has a highly supportive and diverse community of fellow creators fueling it.

Claire L. Smith is a writer and visual artist from Australia. Her first gothic horror novella, ‘Helena’ was released from CLASH Books in 2020 with her upcoming horror novella, ‘When We Entered That House’ due for release from Off Limits Press in October of 2021. Her horror-inspired illustrations can be found in various spooky places such as her Instagram and the hardcopy edition of Haley Newlin’s ‘Take Your Turn, Teddy’. Follow Claire on Instagram, Youtube, Twitter and Amazon.

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