New BFS member Sarah Elliott joins the 2023 horror spotlight to explain why she was lured back to the dark side after spending her adulthood saying she wasn’t into the supernatural.
I’m sitting at my desk right now and I feel a little on edge. I can hear a slight knocking sound to my right. I thought it was my cat but I’ve called her, and she’s not responded (could just be in a mood). I’m hoping it’s the radiator. I’m hoping the cat hasn’t brought a ‘friend’ in to play with. I’m hoping it’s not something else…
I’m curious though. I can feel my breath shift from my diaphragm upwards to my chest, becoming shallow and increasingly raw. Heightened senses detect the blood throbbing through my veins. The unknown and uncharted is a cocktail of fear and excitement, garnished with anticipation. I feel alive.
I never really considered myself to be into horror and the supernatural. It’s a pretty recent revelation. Before then I would have flat-out denied enjoying the genre. I was that child who could see faces in the patterned floral curtains and creatures in the whorls of wood. I was the one who was afraid of Daleks, the one who hid behind the sofa at Scooby-Doo and the teenager who watched The Omen with the sound turned down because seriously, that music? And anyway, I went to church and Sunday school and I was a good girl. Good girls aren’t into things like horror, are they?
Whilst my admission ‘My name is Sarah and I am into horror’ is new, a recent trip to a quaint tea shop prompted the realisation that this was not news, it was historic. On the shop shelves were those old 606D Ladybird books triggering a trip down memory lane. The illustration plates of many of those books are etched into my brain. When I showed my twenty-year-old goddaughter the image of Rumpelstiltskin, she commented that it was terrifying. Agreed, I had always thought it was a creepy image. It made me reflect on the much-loved stories I had read as a child. Those ‘fairy tales’ were not all goodness and light. The Brothers Grimm were well-named. Stories that pulled me in. The ones that were more than real life, the ones I could totally escape into, the ones that were full of the unexpected.
Inspired to write from reading those stories as a child, I’ve gone from creating handwritten, stapled-together books to typing pieces to submit for publication. I am a genre writer and proud! It became crystal clear during a conversation with a new friend about the types of TV series we liked. Suddenly it was obvious to me that I was most definitely into the spooky supernatural and horror stuff.
(Pictured right: one of child Sarah’s handwritten, hand-drawn ‘books’)
I’m just finding my way in this world as a genre writer. I’ve only recently learned about subgenres so whilst I say I like horror; it comes with a caveat – it’s not ALL horror. There is a draw to this spooky corner of the creative world and why not? If I can pack up my case of what ifs and imagine hows, then why not dive head-first down the rabbit hole of wonder? It’s a great place to visit.
If horror is for the weirdos, then weird me up already, mister!
Because the real world is both too hard and too easy (head tilt, bored now). It is too much and too little. It just does not hit that sweet Goldilocks spot. Venturing into another world is a blessing and not always a retreat. It is courageous steps into a new quest. To have curiosity expanded and realised. To be upside down, back to front and inside out all at once. To deny the norm and step into the darkness because we live there much of the time in real life anyway. We can take the reins or be led and spirited away to fire new neurons, feel new experiences, and simply transform.
Getting into the specifics, it’s about the characters for me. Supernatural beings and creatures who all experience change, deal with acquired power or loss of power and a spectrum of emotions. Sound familiar? It may not be ‘real’ but we can still relate because behind those characters is a writer.
A writer who lives and experiences and finds a unique way to channel it from their heart to their hand and to the page for us all to share in. What delight there is in sharing. Especially when despite the thrills, suspense, and scary images, quite often there is some serious eye candy involved, wicked humour, or both. A balance of imbalance – how gratifying.
I feel liberated. I’ve given myself permission to be the kind of writer I want to be. I’ve attended my first Fantasy Con (pictured right). I’ve enjoyed my first genre-specific workshops. I am at the beginning of my journey and I feel alive!
The knocking continues…I really don’t want to live the popular trope of the Black character getting killed first. Dare I investigate? What would you do?
Meet the guest author
Sarah Elliott is a published writer and poet. She is a regular contributor to the Nottingham spoken word scene and has self-published two poetry books (Warrior Wisdom Sun, 2022; United Under One Sun, 2023). Sarah also writes flash fiction and short stories often with a hint of the supernatural. She hosts a monthly flash fiction group as part of the London Writers’ Salon as well as being one of the hosts for the online Writers’ Hour. When Sarah isn’t writing, she is either coaching and mentoring teachers or chucking needles into people for acupuncture treatments! Sarah is currently writing a tarot-inspired collection of flash fiction, short stories and poems. The Substack newsletter A Writer’s Life chronicles Sarah’s writing journey, and you can also find her articles and author interviews on The Horror Tree website. More from Sarah here, or follow her on Instagram.