One of the interesting things about famous horror authors is that many of them have either written non-horror novels or they’ve moved into other genres. These non-horror stories can be really good, but this happens surprisingly often.
Whether it is Clive Barker writing several splatterpunk classics like “The Books Of Blood” and “Cabal” during the 1980s and then moving more towards fantasy and/or YA fiction (eg: the excellent “Abarat” books), whether it is when Shaun Hutson took occasional breaks from splatterpunk horror fiction during the 1990s/early 2000s to write several action/thriller novels (eg: “White Ghost”, “Exit Wounds” etc..) or whether it is when Billy Martin went from writing gothic horror and splatterpunk novels during the 1990s to writing comedy/drama/romance/food-based novels (the amazing “Liqour” series) during the 2000s, this seems to happen a lot with horror authors. Even Stephen King has apparently written several non-horror novels in various genres.
So, I thought that I’d offer some theories about possible reasons why this happens. These are just theories, based on my experiences with other types of creativity and limited experiences with writing horror fiction, but hopefully they’re at least vaguely interesting.
[Edit: Between preparing the first draft of this article and posting it, I’ve read up a bit more on the history of the horror genre and, apparently, one of the major reasons why horror authors wrote stuff in other genres during the 1990s was due to the mainstream publishing industry losing interest in the genre at the time. Still, there are other reasons why horror authors might write non-horror fiction and this article covers some of them.]
1) Inspiration: Simply put, making the same types of things too long can get dull after a while. Sometimes, in order to stay inspired, you have to make different things.
To use an art-based example, I made quite a bit of cyberpunk art last year and earlier this year. When I was making it, it was really fun to make, I felt super-inspired and produced some of what I consider to be my best paintings – like these:
But, after a while, I found myself drifting away from making cyberpunk art. I felt, for want of a better description, slightly bored with it. Yes, I still make cyberpunk art every now and then, and it’s still one of my favourite genres. But, if I’d have just stuck to only making cyberpunk art, then I’d probably have run out of enthusiasm for making art.
And, my guess is that the same sort of thing is probably true for famous horror authors too. As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life.
2) Emotional factors: Although I’ve dabbled with writing shorter, milder and/or more light-hearted works of horror fiction during the past few years (like these sci-fi horror stories, or this comedy horror interactive story), I once wanted to be a “proper” horror writer. And, it’s more difficult than it looks!
Simply put, writing proper genuinely scary/disturbing horror fiction can be quite hard on you emotionally if you’re doing it properly. Since you actually have to vividly imagine and plan what you write in a story, the horror is magnified considerably compared to just reading horror fiction. I mean, I remember leaving a short splatterpunk story I tried to write in 2009/10 called “Pulch” (where the narrator is slowly dissolved by a giant carnivorous plant) unfinished because I was just too grossed out by it to continue writing.
Likewise, when I wrote an unpublished horror novella in 2009 (mostly as an unofficial attempt at the “3 Day Novel” challenge), I actually found myself pulling back during one of the more grim scenes and implying, rather than showing, something horrific because I was just too horrified to keep writing the scene in question in any other way.
The thing to remember about horror fiction is that, if you’re feeling scared or grossed out when reading it, then the author probably felt those emotions even more strongly whilst writing it. As such, I can easily see why horror authors might take a break from the horror genre for the sake of their sanity.
3) Other interests: Simply put, most people have multiple interests. In fact, in order to create truly original things, you need to have multiple inspirations (and the more different they are, the more original your work will be). As such, a good horror author is probably a fan of other genres too.
So, horror authors that move away from writing horror fiction to write other types of fiction might just do this because they’re just as much of a fan of another genre as they are of the horror genre, and want to be part of that genre too. To see what their own unique interpretation of the genre would look like, and to have fun writing stories that they enjoy.
So, a horror writer moving away from horror fiction might happen because they’re also a fan of other genres too.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂