Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Estep and Things that go bump in the night

BS Chick: I know what you’re thinking, a day late and a candy bar short, chickie. Halloween was yesterday! Oh, how wrong you are. The Day of the Dead falls over the first two days of November so I’m totally in the clear, and therefore forgiven for my inability to properly plan these things without factoring in life (and a whooooole lotta book boxes). So, give a warm welcome to Jennifer Estep, who talks about the scariest thing of all: real life.

Jennifer Estep: I don’t like to read scary books. Don’t like to watch scary movies either. By scary, I mean traditional horror by the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and others. Or movies like “Child’s Play” or “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Now, give me a steamy paranormal romance about sexy vampires, and I’m in.

Shape-shifting werewolves searching for their soul mates? Totally cool.

Epic fantasy? I’m so there.

Serial killers? Sure.

Heist books and spy thrillers and mysteries? Love ‘em all.

But true ghosts and goblins and blood-sucking ghouls who eat people’s brains? Not so much. And don’t even get me started on aliens. Shudder.

So why don’t I like scary books when I’ll read just about everything else? My reason is this – there are plenty of scary things in the world already. Things that are real. Things that could actually happen. Today. When I sit down to read, I want to escape. I want to go to an entertaining world where the good guys win, people have terrific sex all the time, and everyone gets exactly what she deserves. Or some version thereof.

I just don’t want to read about psychiatric experiments gone bad and cursed souls being tortured for all eternity and rabid dogs who want to rip out my throat. I have enough to worry about without wondering whether my old stuffed animals are actually maniacal puppets who are going to invade my brain when I go to sleep. Hmm. Now that I think about it, their beady little eyes seem to follow me wherever I go …

But sometimes, the scary stuff sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Like Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard. I read this about two years ago. It’s about a rogue CIA assassin who uncovers a scheme to release a deadly strain of bird flu on the world. It was an entertaining read, although I found the plot a little far-fetched. Bird flu. Yeah right. Like that could ever happen.

Then, a couple weeks later, I start hearing that word again – on CNN. Then, on the evening news. Then, people in my hometown are talking about it. And doing drills to prepare for it. Now, everybody knows what bird flu is – and Howard’s book doesn’t seem so far-fetched any more. And that makes it scarier than anything that Stephen King could ever write. At least, to me.

Some people like being scared. They love the feel of goose bumps rippling up and down their skin. Love the adrenaline rush. The heart palpitations. The sweaty palms. Some of them even like to scream. I’m just not one of those people. I like romance and action and adventure – not being scared out of my mind.

For me, Halloween isn’t about chills and thrills and things that go bump in the night. It’s about something much more important – candy. Hershey kisses and M&Ms and Snickers, oh my! And lollipops and gummy bears and everything else that’s sugar-filled and oh-so-bad for me.

But wait. I’ve just had a thought. An idea for a book. How about a novel where there’s no more Halloween candy? There’s none left. It’s all been eaten. It’s all gone. Every last M&M. Every last Hershey kiss. Every last bit of Godiva. Gone. Forever.

No more candy? Now that would be really scary.

Jennifer Estep is an award-winning journalist. Her first book, Karma Girl, will be released in May by Berkley Books. It’s about a newspaper reporter who exposes the secret identities of comic-book superheroes – until she falls for one. It’s not the least bit scary – unless you have an aversion to spandex.


David de Beer said...

I wonder if there's a gender thing involved as well? Most of the people I've met, whether writers or readers, the girls like paranormal romance, and the boys want blood and gore.
Grils mostly call a happy ending "good", and will dislike a good book because the ending was unhappy.
Most men I've met class an unhappy ending as "a good story".
You know - where the boy and girl don't get together after all?

Well, i was just wondering...

Jennifer Estep said...

I never thought of the gender thing. Maybe it does play a part in it.

I don't mind blood and gore at all. Some of my favorite books are heavy on both, like the "Parker" series by Richard Stark or the "Jack Reacher" series by Lee Child. Lots of people die in those. I just don't like ghosts and aliens and demons that much.

I also don't mind an unhappy ending, if it's appropriate for the book.

What I hate are cliffhangers, where you have to wait six months or a year or even longer to get the next book in the series to see how things turned out.

Robert Jordan kills me because sometimes two or three years go by before he releases another book in his "Wheel of Time" series. Although, the wait isn't as hard as it used to be. Not much has really happened in the last few books, which are long on description and short on action.

Michelle said...

I've also really loved books with a lot of blood and gore, thrillers, dectective fiction, some science fiction, but like you, Jennifer, I cannot read horror. And for the same reason, as well as the fact that I have a vivid imagination and like to sleep at night :). Sorry, David, your theory is shot to hell ;).