Where do you stand? Is horror more a of the Hallowe’en genre, or do you come down on the side of cozy paranormal mystery as the true seasonal read? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
With the kind permission of Books Go Social, here is an article they have just published in their Hallowe’en magazine. It’s choc full of new books ripe for the pumpkin weeks as well as short stories and extra treats.
Meanwhile, dear readers, here is my case on the crucial question of …
“The True Hallowe’en Genre
Go on .. guess …. Horror, right? Are you sure? Sure you don’t see the one standing behind it, lurking in the shadows, breathing quietly in the night ….
The rival contender is none other than the comparatively new kid on the block: the cozy paranormal mystery. If you haven’t yet investigated its delights, here is a brief summary:
There is a mystery, customarily murder. The sleuth is most likely an amateur female, usually a witch. There are ghosts. There is no explicit engagement of a romantic nature. The untimely death typically takes place off-stage. The language is inoffensive, and descriptions of fatalities and casualties are not graphic.
Here’s a rundown of horror from literary historian J. A. Cuddon: ‘A piece of fiction in prose of variable length … which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.’ The cause of extreme unease is often, but not necessarily, supernatural in nature.
Hallowe’en Story Roots
So which of these is most faithful to where Hallowe’en comes from? Where is that? Closely allied to the Feast of Samhain (sah-oo-wn) that celebrated the turn of the season, it was a time to remember the dead. First, saints, then everyone. Presumably, not everyone had fond memories of those who had passed, or had reason to suspect that the deceased had less than fond memories of them! Consequently … the moment had come for some anti-phantom action. Time for a costume change and to see if you could out-ghost them with a scary makeover, and send them scurrying back to the Netherworld.
On the other hand, there was a useful aspect of the three-day spectre-fest. As the veil between the human and spirit worlds was thought to be thinnest at that point in the calendar, what better time to tune in for the inside track on where your future was headed? What you need, then, was a diviner. In short, a witch.
See where we’re going with this? There you have it: witches and ghosts. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that those were the two focal points of the stories that were told on the three nights of the Hallowe’en celebration.
You might appreciate a word on the subject from M R James, a giant of the genre, of what makes a ghost story: ‘A pleasing terror’, no ‘explanation of the machinery’, set in ‘those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day,’ with an absence of gratuitous physical intimacy or exsanguinations.
Surely cozy paranormal mystery is the closer fit with that list. So, if it really is the grassroots and culture of the Hallowe’en story, how did it get hijacked by horror?
The Horror Connection?
Here’s my theory. It’s all because of a film. A film called … yes, that one: Hallowe’en. Made in 1978, and in case you’re not au fait with the cult classic, here’s a brief summary.
On Hallowe’en night, a 6-year old takes a knife into overly close quarters with his sister, resulting in a fatality. Thought to have some mental health issues, he is delivered into the hands of a secure facility, where he becomes resident. Fast-forward 15 years. He is being transported to a court hearing. It is the same night of the year, please note. He escapes and goes off to stalk an intrepid teen (Jamie Lee Curtis), littering the plot with bodies along the way, and provoking much screaming.
It did well at the box office and has been the subject of analysis over the years. The result for our purposes is that, because of the title and the popularity of the movie, the season became linked with themes associated with horror.
Is Cozy for Horror Fans?
So, even if cozy paranormal is more Hallowe’eny, what if you are a fan of more hardcore speculative fiction, would you enjoy a walk on the perkier side? You’d be surprised how many horror and dark fantasy readers do enjoy a break with a taste of something lighter. You’ll find that cozy paranormals are not less, just different: surprise rather than shock, with puzzles, riddles and laughs out loud. Maybe even making the experience of your favourite genre that much more enjoyable by contrast.
Where to start? The top-selling authors currently, according to the latest K-lytics statistical report on the genre, are Annabel Chase, Amanda M Lee and Tegan Maher. You can check them out on Amazon.
So this year, why not get back to our Hallowe’en story past, dig up a cozy, something not too grave, let it spirit you away to a mystery in a charming village and entertaining characters witch you will love, without a ghost of a chance of a sleepless night afterwards.
I hope you enjoyed the article and, if you are an author or feel you have a book in you, I can highly recommend Books Go Social to ease your path in creating and promoting your book. Highly affordable and tremendously helpful, they have attracted a community of kind, caring and supportive members of the publishing community, writers of both prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, bloggers, reviewers, editors, and most importantly of all, readers. There is a special group just for them. You can check them out here: Facebook – authors, Facebook – readers, Twitter.
Cat adorer and chocolate lover, Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not writing. Holly lives in the UK and is a mixture of English, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh, among other ingredients. Her favourite cat is called Bobby. He is black. Like the hat in her cupboard. Purely coincidental.
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