Darren Shan, Barry Hutchison and Alexander Gordon Smith talk horror
Creating terrifying tales for teenage readers at the EIBF
This article is from 2011.
As far as groundings in the horror business go, young adult writer Barry Hutchison knew exactly what fear was from an early age. ‘I lived in a perpetual state of terror when I was a kid,’ says the Fort William-based creator of the Invisible Fiends series. ‘I was scared of everything: all animals, being high up, confined spaces; I wouldn’t go outside because I was scared I would die horribly. Then when I started to get over that, aged eight or nine, I missed the adrenalin rush that being scared would give me. That’s when I discovered It by Stephen King.’
King was also a formative influence on Darren Shan, the Irish-based author of Cirque du Freak and Vampire Mountain, although both authors recall their early experience of the writer’s work (Shan’s was Cujo) as being a bit too dark for their young minds. Hutchison found himself just as gripped by a Choose Your Own Adventure book from 1983 named The Horror of High Ridge, while Shan loved Hammer films and British comics such as 2000AD. ‘One of the things I wanted to do with my own books was bridge the gap between Goosebumps and adult horror,’ says Shan, ‘because there used to be nothing for that age group.’
The pair are part of an accelerating market – as celebrated by this joint appearance alongside Alexander Gordon Smith – in crafting scary stories for teen audiences. ‘Just like adult horror, there’s no such thing as too scary,’ says Hutchison. ‘No matter what age you are, you pick up a horror book because you want to be scared.’ Both authors agree that the only thing off-limits is sex, but that some gore isn’t a problem. ‘It’s down to common sense,’ says Shan. ‘If I’d feel confident reading it to a class of kids and their teachers, it stays in.’
Darren Shan, Barry Hutchison and Alexander Gordon Smith Talk Horror, 20 Aug, 1.30pm, £4.50; Darren Shan, 21 Aug, 10.30am, £7; Alexander Gordon Smith, 21 Aug, 2pm, £4.50.