my heroine

DeathI write horror and dark fantasy. For a long time, I honestly believed that meant I should be the brooding type, at least when presenting myself as an author. I mean, that’s what we expect of writers who ply their wares in sinister territory, right?

They should make wry jokes about morbid things, never quite cracking a smile. They should be cagey and distant, as though they’re one of the mysteries they write about. They should absolutely avoid silliness at all costs. Frivolity is for people who write children’s stories, romance novels and glib self-help books. Not for you, spinners of terror tales. You’re not allowed to be giddy.

Here’s what I say to that: pooh. Pooh and poppycock.

If that sounds silly, that’s because it is. Look, I write dark stuff, and I’m fond of dark things–from thematic elements to actual colors–but I don’t particularly want to be a dark person. I’d much rather be happy, even as I prattle on about zombies, corpses, buckets of blood, and other forms of gore. I’m over the idea that horror writers should be dour, and I have (among other things) one of my literary heroines to thank for that.


Specifically, Neil Gaiman‘s Death of the Endless. She’s the very personification of the end of life, but she’s nothing like the Grim Reaper. Nope. She’s a chipper little goth girl who’s practically always in a good mood. She should be the essence of darkness, but she’s all soft-serve ice cream and “You’re Grape!” stickers. (Remember those?) She’s happy, even though her cosmic job isn’t generally considered to be up-beat.

I love her for that. Hell, I want to be like her. There’s something wonderful about that mix of darkness and light.

Those of us who are writers have plenty of reasons to mope, regardless of the kinds of stories we tell. Writing is hard, often under-appreciated, rarely as lucrative as it should be, and almost always a heavy emotional investment. It’s easy to get down about it. Don’t. 

Life’s too fucking short for that shit. Pooh on your cynicism. You know what all that negativity is? That’s right. Poppycock.

Find a way to be happy. Fix your focus on something positive. Hold on to joy as tightly as you can.

And if, like me, you tend to write about dark things, that’s okay. There’s no reason why you can’t be morbid and chipper at the same time. In fact, I’ll go a step further. It’s fun to gleefully romp through a grisly first draft.

To paraphrase Gaiman’s Death, you get what everyone gets. You get a lifetime. Don’t waste it.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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