Halloween draws ever closer. Do you have your costumes? Your candy? Your party tickets? Are you ready?
Or are you more like us denizens of the Library, where it’s Halloween all year round?
No matter if you’re a part-time or full-time devotee to the spooking season, Halloween expert Lisa Morton is a name you should know. She’s the author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, A Halloween Anthology: Literary and Historical Writings Over the Centuries and Ghosts: A Cultural History.
Lisa is also a screenwriter, a novelist, and a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. And she’s the president of the Horror Writers Association.
We’re absolutely thrilled to have her take part in our 31 Days of Halloween launch month festivities. Now, onwards…
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31 Days of Halloween… with Lisa Morton
Describe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you or caused you to turn on all the lights.
Can I use a short story instead of a novel? First off, I was quite young – I think 14 – when I read Theodore Sturgeon’s “Shottle Bop.” The story overall is playful and whimsical, but it still has a creepy undercurrent of building dread, and the image of the protagonist – who has gained the ability to see ghosts – seeing ghostly disembodied limbs floating around really got to me. By the climax of the piece, dusk had fallen (my eyes were SO much better then!) and I really did have to get up and turn on the lights.
In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest horror novel or short story?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one, so I’ll just arbitrarily choose one for each category: for a short story, Dennis Etchison’s “The Dog Park” is just incredibly disturbing – I really love how it subtly mixes a sort of class warfare subtext into a deceptively simple story of two people meeting in a dog park in one of L.A.’s canyons. It’s a little masterwork of craft and technique, with perfectly-honed language and description. It’s also an ideal example of the kind of story that you find yourself still pondering several days later (those are my favorites!).
For novel, I’ll go back to Dracula, which I’ve re-read a number of times and still love. The book’s characters are so well drawn, the sensuality is present almost throughout, the settings so extraordinary (I mean, c’mon – Dracula’s castle may be the most iconic setting in all of horror literature)…it really is a tremendous book and still genuinely scary in parts.
What’s the scariest scene and/or book you yourself have written?
I think it might be a scene in my novel Netherworld, in which my heroine has captured an incubus that has tried to trick her by taking the form of her late husband. It’s actually the aftermath of that scene that’s scary, when she tortures the thing, ostensibly for information, but really for deeper reasons. I knew casting Lady Diana in the role of a torturer was risky and it made me anxious to write it…which is why I knew it belonged in the book.
What are your top three fears?
I hate being asked this, because (ironically, perhaps!) I’m really not a fearful person. I’m even one of those people who will move spiders outside rather than kill them. There are things I’d prefer not to deal with or things that worry me on a bigger scale, so let’s say: 1) weird fungi that sprout in my garden; 2) mob mentality; and 3) the idea that Donald Trump could be considered a viable presidential candidate by even ten people, let alone millions.
Learn more about Lisa Morton at http://lisamorton.com/.