Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The horror! The horror! (Finally!)

On one of the hottest days of 2006, I trekked with several friends to Radio City Music Hall to hear John Irving, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling talk about their books and do a question-and-answer session. It was worth every penny of the ticket price, especially when one man got up to ask J.K. Rowling a question and OMG, it was Salman Rushdie. (Alas, Padma Lakshmi was not with him.) The best part of the evening, though, was not hearing J.K. Rowling, although she was wonderful and had on some incredible shoes. It was hearing Stephen King.

We should all love our jobs as much as Stephen King loves his. This man who has made a fortune on scaring us clearly takes great joy in life and in writing. He read an excerpt from "The Body" and at one point paused, looked up, and said, "Can you believe they pay me to write this stuff?" with a huge grin on his face. His editorials in Entertainment Weekly are always plain and observant, written by someone who takes himself and the craft of writing seriously and knows how to use just the right words to communicate with a wide variety of people.

Then this afternoon I was at the Mock Newbery discussion session at Closter, and I noted that horror is FINALLY making a comeback in children's publishing. I am a huge fan of horror books. It occurred to me during the meeting that for the past 7 years or so, no one except Darren Shan has really made a big splash in teen horror. Now, I adore Darren Shan's works. I think they're incredibly appealing. He writes great action and knows just how to hit his readers in the gut. I also had the opportunity to see him present at the Elizabeth Public Library a few years back and like Stephen King, Darren Shan speaks with an unbridled joy and pride in what he does. His presentation got the teen audience involved, and he jumped around and spoke with lots of exclamation points. The teens loved him, and he was very nice to the librarians who attended. A winning situation for all. It seems that authors are FINALLY starting to join Shan on his deserted island, writing stories about ghosts and zombies and not-glittery vampires. Horror is coming back in all its blood, guts, and cursing glory. And I, for one, am excited. Or scared. Whichever is the appropriate response. In short, I love reading horror as much as Darren Shan and Stephen King love writing it, and I hope a new generation of teen readers does, too.

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