Review: The Horror Writer: A Study of Craft and Identity in the Horror Genre edited by Joe Mynhardt

cover of The Horror WriterThe Horror Writer: A Study of Craft and Identity in the Horror Genre edited by Joe Mynhardt
Hellbound Books (January 2020)
216 pages; $14.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Books on writing have been churned out by the dozens, and while many have been worthy reads, few have been standouts. In the horror genre, even fewer come to mind, although there are a few classics.

Joe Mynhardt has compiled a wonderful, useful, and frightening insight into the minds of some of the best dark minds writing today. It’s like someone tore straight into the souls of these authors and culled their best, and darkest secrets.

This isn’t just a book for authors, though. Fans of the genre will find plenty to love here, as over twenty authors bleed their dark thoughts onto the page for readers, and fellow writers, to enjoy.

Inside, there’s the president of the Horror Writers’ Association (and a past one), several best-selling authors, Bram Stoker winners, and legends of the genre. But there’s more—plenty of writers who might be unfamiliar to the masses are included, with everyone adding something crucial to the collection.

Whether the reader is just starting out in writing, a veteran seeking improvement, someone learning how to promote their work, or just a diehard fan, there’s something for everything here.

Everyone will have favorites here, so here are some standouts from this reviewer’s perspective. Lisa Morton dives into increasing productivity—something we all need—and it’s a giant kick in the creative rear. A must-read for anyone needing a boost, especially in this weird new world. Jess Landry tackles the benefits of the horror network in her chapter. For those who aren’t in the field yet, connecting with other writers, publishers, reviewers, and other professionals is a must, both for the career and for mental well-being. Don’t miss this one. 

Stephanie Wytovich delves into “Women and Violence: The Evolution of the Final Girl.” This is an eye opener for everyone and examines how the stereotypes from schlock horror movies and books has morphed into the creation of stronger females in fiction. It’s a beautiful piece that’s helpful for anyone seeking help in characterization. Kevin Lucia’s “Hiding in the Cracks Between Things” examines how he found his own voice in horror and stopped trying to step in the well-trodden steps of the legends. Writers need to find their own niche and be true to their stories. This resonated deep in a dark soul that needed a stab of reality. 

Another standout is Ben Eads’ “Writing Effective Scenes in Three Acts,” which examines how stories evolve, grow, and build upon each other, finding that motivation within characters, and how that conflict is the engine that drives the best stories. Without this, it could just be a blood-soaked waste of paper. 

Also included are wonderful interviews with Tim Waggoner, Mort Castle, Steve Rasnic Tem, Stephen Graham Jones, and David Owain Hughes, culminating with Ramsey Campbell’s analysis of Lovecraft’s tales.

There’s plenty more within and all have strong merit. This is pure horror gold that is destined to find an easy to reach spot on every writer’s shelf.

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