Ania Alhborn, the author of The Bird Eater gives us a glimpse into her childhood and her inspiration behind writing horror.
I recall watching a Stephen King interview on YouTube. It was one of those auditorium jobs. Fans were allowed to shimmy up to the microphone and ask their favorite author their deepest, most burning questions. Sitting at my computer, I patiently waited for the inquiry I knew was coming. It came like clockwork. “What happened to you?” a fan asked Stephen. The crowd erupts into laughter while Stephen looks bemused.
I can relate to that look. It gets tiring explaining that you’re as normal as the next guy, you just have a really weird imagination. Most people aren’t satisfied with that non-answer. They want trauma. They yearn for demons spilling out of childhood closets. But if the answer is always “nothing happened”, what is it about horror authors that make them write what they write?
To that I say: some people are born under a bad sign, and some are born under a dark one. For those of us who write in this genre, our imagination consistently leads us into the shadows. We see the gruesome possibilities other people ignore or are too afraid to dream up themselves. That’s simply the nature of who we are. It’s the way we were made.
As a kid, I was drawn to things like cemeteries and horror movies and abandoned buildings for no reason at all. My parents certainly didn’t encourage me to snoop around an ivy-covered shack that could have housed a hungry witch, and they didn’t pull back the chain link for me while I snuck into the cemetery that butted up against our yard. My mother didn’t know what she was renting when I slid The Exorcist across the counter at the video store. I still remember holding my breath on that one, hoping she wouldn’t notice that it was about demons and kids, praying that I wouldn’t be given marching orders to go pick out some lame Disney flick instead. I’ve always loved Halloween, even after being chased by a masked lunatic wielding a real, buzzing chainsaw over his head. You’d think that would have turned any kid off of the candy-grubbing holiday for good. Not me. I just started daydreaming about those crazed people, about demons and monsters and haunted cemeteries and what a kid like me would do if I had to face them alone. I had as normal a childhood as anyone else, but I remember those scary moments the most fondly. Horror, it seems, is simply in my blood.
Some say, “you must really like scaring people”. Yes, I do, but I also like scaring myself. Writing books like The Bird Eater takes me back to my childhood—the haunted house, the possibility of a sharp-toothed kid leering in the shadows. How I wish I could relive that single Halloween night. Perhaps that’s what we’re all dreaming of when we tuck into bed with a new horror novel. We’re hoping to relive misspent youth. We want to run from the ax murderer. We hope that he’s waiting for us, patiently poised with the edge of his blade glinting in the moonlight. We love horror because fear is an exquisite emotion. It makes our nerves stand on end and reminds us that we can still kick and scream. And as long as we can still do that, surely, we must still be alive.