Lest you think our scary stories launch bash is a little North America-centric, allow me to tag in award-winning author and editor Lee Murray, who is based way, way across the pond in New Zealand. She brings some welcome lesser known works to our list of literary scares.
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31 Days of Halloween… with Lee Murray
Describe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you or caused you to turn on all the lights.
It’s by Australian novelist Greig Beck in his horror-thriller Beneath the Dark Ice. Beck’s story involves a ragtag recovery team inserted deep beneath the Antarctic continent in search of a missing plane. But things don’t go to plan and soon they’re scaling cliffs and crawling on their bellies in a desperate race for the surface, which would be horrific enough, without an entire food chain of monsters lurking in the depths, including one capable of squeezing its massive body into a crawlspace. Naturally, the beast has acquired a taste for human flesh.
“The cave was dark, and when the faint glow from the cold bioluminal light was blanketed by the creature’s huge bulk it was almost total. Even in the near complete darkness Alex could still see the leviathan and was glad only Tank could see what he could ‒ just outside the cave, and enormous eye began to peer into the gloom where the group had taken refuge.”
Reading this, and the narrative leading up to it, was as if someone had dug up Poe’s heart and buried it under my bed. My husband was away at the time, and I was catching up on some late night reading. Bad decision. I got up, checked on the kids, made myself a cup of tea. It took me close to an hour to get up enough courage to turn out the light. New to me at the time, Beck’s become renowned as a master of creature horror. There’s an equally terrifying trapdoor spider scene in his Valkeryn series, one to liquefy your insides. His newest novel, Fathomless, is coming out soon: I plan to read it in the daytime.
In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest short story?
All time scariest short story is E.A. Irwin’s Justice Through Twelve Steps which appears in Fresh Fear: An Anthology of Macabre Horror, edited by New Zealander William Cook. Already this is an incredibly creepy volume, but Irwin’s story made my blood curdle. Caveat for those who might be tempted to go looking, this story includes scenes of extreme violence of a sexual nature. Plus, once you have this story is embedded in your mind, it’s impossible to look away.
That’s the scariest scene and/or book you yourself have written?
Readers tell me there are a few sphincter-clenching moments in Into the Mist (Cohesion Press). One or two have reported feeling unsettled reading Peter and the Wolf, a flash fiction piece in the charity collection Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror, perhaps because the protagonist is a child. In fact, when the anthology was released, a member of the public found Peter and the Wolf so objectionable, they complained to the publisher. For myself, I find it hard to determine how successful my writing is at provoking fear, I think because it is conjured out of my imagination, I’m able dissociate it from reality. Certainly, any writing steeped in reality takes a harder edge. Perhaps that’s why the scene I believe to be the scariest I’ve ever written occurs in a work that has yet to be published. It involves a woman and her two small children who are caught unawares by the tsunami which struck the coast of Minamisoma, Japan in 2011. It’s a short scene, but I found researching and writing it so harrowing that I have had to put the novel aside.
List your top three fears.
Losing my children.
Small dark spaces.
You can visit Lee Murray at www.leemurray.info