Writers Workshop of Horror 2 edited by Michael Knost
Hydra Publications (September 1, 2021)
Reviewed by Dave Simms
This master class of both giants of the genre and fresh voices cuts deep into every angle writers need to explore, both the necessary and the uncomfortable. Any guide that opens with Ramsey Campbell signals to the reader that a journey into the shadows will not leave one unscathed. Yet it’s the surprises within that make this purchase money well spent and a career improved.
There have been several writing books unleashed in the past year or two, some stellar, and some filled with reprints of the same old topics and retreads newer writers could find everywhere. The ones which shined have been edited by Joe Mynhardt, Tim Waggoner (represented in this collection), and now, Michael Knost, with his follow up to the Stoker Winner Writers Workshop of Horror (1). From the inventive cover that lists the contributors and forms a dark figure to the introduction, it’s obvious that this is anything but the same old workshop.
From the impressive list of names embedded into the cover creature, a keen eye will notice some lesser known names. More on that soon but do NOT skim past them.
Wherever the writer may be in their career or process, there’s a chapter for them. Reading through this book the first time, I heard a few essays call out, “Hey you, THIS is what you need for your current novel. Look here, dummy!” The second time, something else whispered, “Don’t forget about me later.” That’s where this book hits the bulls-eye and strikes gold. None of the essays preach but simply speak from the heart, knowing there are kindred spirits that will meet them where they’re at—and will be.
The standouts, besides Ramsey, are the sublime lessons and mental surgeries that John Langan and Laird Barron provide. Writers will without a doubt find themselves viewing fiction through a newly shaded lens.
Surprises that resonated were what doesn’t work (and simple rejection, which is never simple) from Ann Vandermeer and Vince Liaguno. Too many time, books such as these fail to touch on what writers shouldn’t do. These two essays are invaluable for those at any level.
True, the legends are represented here through insightful interviews (Robert McCammon, Stephen King, R.L. Stine, Bentley Little, Anne Rice, etc.) yet it is the incisive advice from upstarts Michelle Renee Lane and Donna J. W. Munro that leave a scar for those beginning their journeys.
“Horror is the genre of emotions,” speaks Lane.
None of the authors within shy away from the depths of the sensations that will carve new skills into the writers’ toolbox.
Highly recommended for anyone thinking of their first tale or submitting their tenth novel.