The Heart of Darkness
Hello. I’m Jeannie Holmes, author of the Alexandra Sabian series, and first, I’d like to thank Emily for hosting me and my new book, Blood Secrets, today. Secondly, a little background on the series: Alex Sabian is an Enforcer with the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, who’s assigned to police the vampire population in Jefferson, Mississippi. She faces all types of adversaries—serial killers, drug dealers, psychopaths, and ex-fiancés—in her quest to live a somewhat normal life. Because the series does touch on some fairly heavy topics, I’d like to discuss darkness in fiction and why we’re drawn to it.
Why write dark fiction? The simple answer is that all writers have a natural “voice.” Some are naturally gifted to write romance. Others are gifted with a mystery or thriller voice. Some have a naturally comedic voice. And yet others are blessed with a darker voice—Stephen King being a prime example. Brian Keene, Sarah Langan, Alexandra Sokoloff, and Joe Hill being even more examples. (Yes, I’m aware that Joe is Stephen’s son, but that’s not really an issue here.) The common thread with each of these authors is that they all write dark fiction, specifically horror.
However, urban fantasy has its share of dark authors as well. Vicki Pettersson easily comes to mind. Charlaine Harris has taken the Sookie Stackhouse series to increasingly dark places. Kim Harrison has taken Rachel Morgan into some serious darkness in the past. Other authors who haven’t been afraid to venture into the dark: Laurell K. Hamilton, Jeaniene Frost, Jim Butcher, and Kelley Armstrong to name a few. I can’t say why these authors write about darkness. You’d have to ask each of them why they write it. I can only address why I choose to write it.
I said, writers are given a natural “voice” and mine is geared toward the Dark Side. (We have cookies! Sorry, couldn’t resist.) I don’t write about violence, murder, and creepy psychopaths because I enjoy such things. In fact, I abhor violence of any kind, especially against children and animals. In my daily life, I try very hard not to harm any living creature—except for spiders. Those eight-legged freaks don’t count. I write about darkness in order to understand it. I include it in my fiction—I actively seek out its beating black heart, in fact—because I want to understand how it is possible for someone to hate another so badly they want to cause maximum suffering and damage to another’s physical being and/or soul.
For that reason, I created the Dollmaker to challenge Alex and Varik in Blood Secrets. Fair warning to all: The Dollmaker is, in a word, brutal. He is one of the darkest characters ever spawned from my twisted imagination. I tell you this, dear readers, because I want to avoid any possible confusion. I have said from day one that the Alexandra Sabian series is dark urban fantasy that dances toe-to-toe with horror. Yes, there are romantic elements to the series, which provide some of the much needed light, but it is not a romance series.
But why are we, as writers or readers, drawn to dark fiction? Again, I can only speak for myself and in generalities because the reason is different for each individual. That being said, I personally believe that we’re drawn to it because of an innate human fear of the darkness. How often have you stood outside at night and wondered if the noises you heard were real or just your imagination? The second you ask yourself this question most of us begin to imagine the sources of those noises, and they’re not always logical. Chirping crickets turn into signals between alien goon squads. A car backfiring in the distance morphs into gunshots between rival vampire gangs. A deer moving through the shadows becomes a rabid werewolf intent on ripping off our faces. Admit it. You’ve had these thoughts or some very similar when you’re hauling the trash to the curb late at night because you forgot to do it earlier, the neighborhood dogs are barking, and then for no reason you can discern, everything…goes…silent. That’s when you say, “Screw the trash,” and run back inside with imaginary urban Sasquatches nipping at your heels. (Or is that just me?)
I believe we’re all drawn to the Dark Side for one reason (other than the fabulous cookies): We want to conquer our primal fear of the darkness. Why else would Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, or more recently, Saw be successful movie franchises? Facing our fear with others, both in a theater or through reading, creates a shared experience and strengthens our very human desire to belong to a community. Plus it’s easier to face the Big Unknown with one, one hundred, or one thousand other people at your side (even though it means sharing the cookies later).
That’s why I write dark fiction. I want to know if the Good Guys are going to win. (I also want the cookies, dammit!) But most importantly, I want to understand the darkness because understanding it is the key to conquering it.
So, dear readers, you know why I write what I do. Now I ask you: Why do you read dark fiction?
Many thanks to Jeannie for stopping by today! Now, on to the giveaway! Jeannie has kindly offered up SIGNED copies of both Blood Law and Blood Secrets to one lucky commenter! Also, this giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!
To enter, leave a comment answering Jeannie's question from her post: Why do you read dark fiction? Entries that don't answer the question will not count so please answer the question! Random.org will select the winner. The giveaway ends on Monday, June 27th at 11:59 pm EST. Please refer to the WBiT? Giveaway Policy prior to entering. Good luck!