Welcome back, guys and ghouls! This is Day 3 of Coffin Hop, a mad event created by Axel Howerton and Julie Jansen in 2011. Spanning from October 24 until Halloween, the Coffin Hop features over one hundred writers who absolutely delight in scaring their readers and each other right out of their coffins! (With much trash talk involved, of course, for the latter…)
Today we have author Jessica McHugh, who is a fellow hopper, taking part. In her own words, Jessica is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy… so naturally I made her talk about what scares her out of her coffin. Stick around for more prizes!
Things Aren’t Right
by Jessica McHugh
When I was nine years old, the right side of my face was torn to meaty ribbons, thanks to a gravel road and a loose bicycle wheel. The face wasn’t that great to begin with, so it wasn’t a huge tragedy to anyone else, but to me it was the impetus of a prominent fear in my life.
I was on Martha’s Vineyard with my family, most of which were out for the day while I helped my grandfather repair an old bike. I took great pride in helping him, as my brothers were usually chosen for those types of tasks. In truth, the only repair I really had a hand in was the screwing on of the front wheel.
(Have you figured out whose fault the accident was yet?)
After I got the wheel in place, I took the bike out for a test ride. Everything was going great—until I popped a wheelie and off popped the wheelie. The bike fork crashed to the road, throwing me face-first to the gravel. I skidded a few feet and the bike toppled behind me. I lay there for several minutes, disoriented, afraid to touch my burning face. I finally worked up the courage to dab the wounds, drawing back fingertips covered in blood and gravel. I screamed and cried, but no one came… except for my grandparents’ cat, who soon realized the bawling, bloody child in the road did not have food and pranced away. My grandmother eventually heard my cries and came to my rescue. In hindsight, I probably could have walked inside and saved myself the sore throat.
My face healed perfectly, but disfigurement became a worry that penetrated my sleep and made me gasp at movies when other might giggle. Whether it’s tooth loss, eye gouging, or a simple flaying of the face (and in many of my horror stories, flaying is simple) I find facial disfigurement to be one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person. It’s the sub-category of a fear that I believe to be universal: the “Things Aren’t Right” fear. Whether it’s a facial deformity or otherwise, I think everyone fears when things just don’t look “right” or “normal”.
There are three main characters in my YA horror novella “Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things” that fall under that category. 1. The Rabbit without a Face, 2. The Legless Clown, and 3. The Cat with the Broken Teeth. These disfigured characters came to me during a night of terror-induced insomnia. After watching Guillermo del Toro’s “The Orphanage”, I had terrible nightmares (despite the fact that the movie wasn’t that scary). The worst part about having such a vivid imagination is the unconscious ability to turn something that was only slightly creepy into a sleep-stealing horror show. Nightmares used to wreck me until I started writing horror. That’s when I learned that if I could find a way to make fear playful, I could conquer it. When I was a kid, the evil book in “The Care Bears Movie” terrified me, so I had it tattooed on my leg in vibrant colors. Likewise, I play with my fears through my writing. Even when half my face is hamburger and “Things Aren’t Right”, I can turn fear into whimsy. I can make it playful and personal.
I keep my terror close. That way, it can’t sneak up on me.
Wise words, Jessica… very wise indeed. Now… to take the edge off the scary, how about some prizes? Oh yes, there are more prizes, and I’m upping the ante today. The (gory) details:
- Leave a comment on the post and tell me about something that scares you!
- Follow me and Jessica—@theJessMcHugh [link]—on Twitter, and leave your Twitter handle in your comment for an extra entry!
- That’s it! And what do you get as a prize? Wellllll…
The prize today? A print copy of Pins, Jessica’s newest release! Here, have a blurb to whet your appetite:
Telemarketing is a drag, and serving jobs are exhausting. Luckily, strip clubs are always looking for new blood.
Eva “Birdie” Finch is fed up with the slim pickings in local employment, and the gentlemen’s club/bowling alley called Pins seems to be the only option left. But learning how to strip for strangers isn’t Birdie’s only obstacle, especially when fellow dancers start turning up dead.
From Jessica McHugh, author of the steampunk adventure “The Sky: The World” and the bestselling psychological thriller “Rabbits in the Garden,” “PINS” is a post-modern coming of age thriller certain to titillate as much as terrify with a candid look at a dancer trying to find herself on a blood-drenched stage.
Excited yet? I am! All right, gang, get to commenting. Who knows, I might yet throw in some additional goodies… I may hate getting surprised, but I love giving out little jolts! Bwahahaha!
Keep on Hoppin’, folks, and check out the other fabulously scary writers here. Until next time… I am your hostess with the mostest, Head Weirdo in Charge…