Thursday, February 11, 2021

Tentacles Through the Darkness: The Connection of Horror With Laurel Hightower

Hello friends and fiends:

I've been thinking a lot about what horror means to me: why I'm drawn to it, why I write it, why I enjoy being scared, being uncomfortable. It's a loaded question/answer for sure, but as I sit here and meditate on it, especially during the throes of Women in Horror Month (WiHM), I'm realizing more and more that horror is my safe space, my happy place, and the place where I feel most at home with myself.

As such, I wanted to reach out to some fellow genre writers and see what their experience has been like finding and working within the horror community and so today in the Madhouse, I've invited fellow horror writer, Laurel Hightower, to chat with us about what horror means to her. 

More soon, 

Stephanie M. Wytovich

Tentacles Through the Darkness: The Connection of Horror

By Laurel Hightower

It has been said of writing that it’s a solitary endeavor. For many of us, that’s been a welcome truth – time alone in our heads and our imaginations are how we got here in the first place. Over the last year, that solitude has become enforced, and for most folks has involved increased responsibilities, stress, and little to no relief. I find myself craving connection more than ever, and that’s where horror fits into my world.

Ultimately, it’s about that connection. With other writers, as I read their deepest fears set down on the page, reaching within myself to find those same fears echoed. With the readers I’m lucky enough to have connected with – private messages, heartfelt reviews, and conversations that tell me what I’ve created has touched someone, made them feel seen or less alone. And with myself. It’s only been recent that I’ve delved into writing short fiction, and I’ve found it an effective vehicle to convey what I’m afraid of. I’ve surprised myself at the feelings I’ve uncovered by translating them to horrors on the page – the struggles of motherhood, body image, and the deep-seated and sometimes internalized threads of misogyny I fight against to be seen as a whole person, worthy of respect. The bleak landscape of alone that I’ve felt since long before the pandemic, that I’d pushed to the back of my memory with the excuse that such times were behind me.

That’s the thing about fear. We may think we’ve conquered it, but the scars are always waiting to remind us, to build dread in our bellies when we feel the hairs stand up on our arms and realize the monster isn’t done with us. But these days I can look to my right and my left, form a ragtag band of scrappy horror folks, and turn to fight. We’re each other’s cheerleaders and the ones who reach out and say it’s okay not to be okay. We give advice, we beta read, we provide each other platforms. We teach one another both formally and informally and provide inspiration. Reading horror poetry has inspired my own language and seeing how other writers tackle genre and style has made me stretch my own capabilities. Reading diversely has taught me how much more there is to the world, and to horror than my own little corner of it. All new fears, all new voices, and all new warriors to stand with.

I have no doubt I’ll always be an introvert, and that when things begin to settle out, I’ll be seeking that solitude, as I always have. But for now, and I hope always, horror is the dark and bloody road I follow to find my people, my purpose, and myself. 

Author Bio

Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee

before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son, and two rescue animals, Yattering the cat (named for the Clive Barker short story) and Ladybug the adorable mutt. She definitely wants to see a picture of your dog, and often bonds with complete strangers over animal stories. A lifetime reader, she would raid her parents’ bookshelves from an early age, resulting in a number of awkward conversations about things like, “what does getting laid mean?” She loves discovering new favorite authors and supporting the writing and reading community.

Laurel works as a paralegal in a mid-size firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she's a fan of horror movies and true-life ghost stories. Whispers in the Dark is her first novel, though there are always more in the pipeline, and she loves researching anything horror related. She can usually be found working on the next project into the wee hours, sometimes as late as ten at night, as long as her toddler allows. Follow her on social media, even though she’s really bad at it, and she’ll follow you back. Plus you’ll be rewarded by pictures of cute dogs and kids.

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