"How can you write this shit? I mean, doesn't it ever bother you to write about horror all the time?"
That question was put to me recently, and after I recovered from my surprise (I was expecting the traditional "Where do you get your ideas?"), I realized that I had no ready answer.
It seems like a simple enough question at first glance, but if you think about and examine it closer, you might find some disturbing implications. I know I did.
One possible answer might be, "Yeah, sure, it bothers me sometimes. I wish it were in me to write something more humorous and genteel, something like The Wind and The Willows or Sense and Sensibility or the Dortmunder novels of Donald Westlake, things that would appeal to a wider audience and not clear the room of humans every time I announce what I do for a living, but I can't; my particular point of view won't allow me."
That's one answer.
God, if only it were that easy.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the purpose of all good horror fiction (aside from its duty to entertain) is to explore the relationship between violence and grief while trying to reconcile the existence of those things with the concept of a Just universe, and to do so in a manner that will disturb the reader in such a way that maybe they'll come away from the story or novel a little more able to deal with the suffering and injustice that exist in the real world.
That horror fiction deals with subjects of a dark and unpleasant nature is a given; so too is it a given that the writerof horror fiction spends a decent portion of their waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours thinking about and exploring these self-same dark and unpleasant things in order to strengthen and enrich their fiction.
The horror writer has to accept that darkness, pessimism, anger, violence, loneliness, grief (and all the other more unpleasant aspects of life that no one else wants to talk about) will always be a part of their daily thought processes, and therefore, to an extent, their own personality. This eventually becomes something of a necessity, because any combination of those darknesses has to be available to them at a moment's notice when the story or novel demands they make an appearance.
The result (and I'm basing all of this on my own personal experiences) is that all of these darknesses exist a bit closer to the surface than they do with most folks. In order to make their fiction as rich as it can be, in order to ensure that the bigger-than-life events they portray on the page are still very much in touch with life, to some degree or another, the horror writer has to make these darknesses a permanent part of their psychological make-up.
Admittedly, that's probably an oversimplification, but I think you get the point.
That's one implication of the question "Why do you write this shit?"
Here's another: Is it possible that the horror writer can end up disturbing him/herself just as much, if not more, than the reader?
Think about it: If something gets too ugly or too intense or too real, the reader has the luxury of putting down the book and returning to the story at a later time, when they've had the chance to rally.
The horror writer has no such luxury. Sure, we might stop the physical act of writing for the day, but the thoughts and emotions of the work are still there, churning around inside our teeny skulls in an effort to shape themselves into something worthwhile.
That led me to the following question: Can writing horror fiction have an adverse effect on your life? Can it eventually begin to poison you?
Hell, yes. We've lost too many good writers to suicide and alcoholism to think it can't happen.
But it can also enable you to produce powerful fiction, if it doesn't kill you.