Friday, March 12, 2021

Beautiful Horror: A Guest Post by Meghan Arcuri

Hello Friends and Fiends--

Today in the Madhouse, I'm honored to host author Meghan Arcuri. I feel like I've known Meghan forever, and she's one of the sweetest, kindest, most welcoming people I've met in the business. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting or reading her work yet, Arcuri is a fiction writer whose short stories can be found in various anthologies, including Borderlands 7 (Borderlands Press), Madhouse (Dark Regions Press), Chiral Mad, and Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards). She is a Bram Stoker Award® nominee and is currently the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association (yay!). She currently lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley and you can visit her online at,, or on Twitter (@MeghanArcuri).

I asked Meghan today to sit down with me and chat about what initially drew her to the horror genre and have she navigates her space within it. Her response--as expected--was beautifully written and a breath of fresh air, honesty, and vulnerability. I have no doubt you'll enjoy her words, and likely will find some of yourself in the essay below.

Until next time,

Stephanie M. Wytovich

Perfectly Imperfect
by Meghan Arcuri

Can I let you in on a little secret?

Horror didn’t always grab me.

In fact, when I was younger, I hardly read any at all.

So when Stephanie asked me to write this blog, the following thoughts jumped into my head:

You don’t know as much as anyone else.

You’re a fraud.

You know nothing.

Say no.

Similar thoughts crept in when John Palisano asked me to be the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association:

You don’t have anywhere near the same horror background as these people do.

You’re a fraud.

You know nothing.

Say no.

I grew up in a stable home with supportive, loving parents. I felt safe. I had my health and a great group of friends. My biggest worries involved getting good grades and deciding whom to ask to the prom. I enjoyed stories with good heroes and happily ever afters. I hadn’t the time (nor the stomach) for scary things and ambiguity; I was too busy trying to be perfect. To be a “good” girl who always did the “right” thing.In my quiet, sheltered life, I had zero perspective.

Then I grew up and started living a little. Although I didn’t experience anything I couldn’t handle, the bumps along my journey opened my eyes, broadened my view.

And that perfection I had wanted? Unattainable. Striving for it unsustainable. It was downright exhausting, in fact. (Pro tip: parenting and perfection don’t mix.)

I started writing about the time I came to this realization. A lame, tame urban fantasy that brought me to Borderlands Boot Camp, surrounded by horror writers.

Try writing horror, they said.

It’ll be fun, they said.

And you know what?

They were right.

I listened. I read more horror. I tried writing my own.

And a whole world opened up to me.

I’m drawn to horror because it is the antithesis of what I was drawn to as a child, the antithesis of who I was (and even who I still kind of am).

Complicated, messy, and raw, horror gives you characters you love to hate, or characters you love and hate. Like the perfect gentleman who quietly sizes up your innards (Hello, Hannibal).

It gives you magics, dark and mysterious. Maybe that magical forest (or person, or object) will provide you with the answers you need; or maybe it’ll unleash something more sinister. (See Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste … please.)

It gives you endings that at first seem neat and tidy but—look out—the rug gets pulled out from under you on the last page, the last paragraph, the last sentence, and all that remains is a guttural sound or a “What the f—?” emanating from your lips. (Brian Keene’s DarkHollow and Paul Tremblay’s A HeadFull of Ghosts come to mind … thanks, guys).

The contradictions, the darkness, the ambiguity are all incredibly refreshing to someone who has always tried to stay on the straight and narrow.

Horror allows me to play, to be someone I’m not, to experience the dread, the despair … all within the safety of the pages of a book.

So why didn’t I read much horror when I was younger?

Simply put, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t have enough perspective. But now I’m a little older, a little wiser. Sure, I’m still the same rule-following, goodie-two-shoes I always was. If I’m being honest, I still like my good guys and happily ever afters, too. But I have more experiences, more sorrows, an expanded world-view. I know life isn’t perfect, and it’s not supposed to be.

And this is what draws me to horror: its beautiful imperfections.

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