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The Survival Of Margaret Thomas Del Howison Main

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Written by Del Howison

“You need to write something besides horror,” my agent said.

Now mind you I was already fairly successful in the genre. I had been growing a career over the years, being nominated for multiple Bram Stoker Awards (and winning one as editor for best anthology) along with other shortlist award placements and I had short stories popping up in some very reputable horror anthologies. I felt I was doing okay.

When my agent said that to me it made me think about whether I was an author or a horror writer. Couldn’t I be both? Would it weaken my brand (my name) by spreading out into other genres? A lot of folks who started their film careers in horror have been successful in switching up categories and switching back. Other best-selling authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Graham Masterton and Stephen King have bounced around in different genres. It didn’t seem to have hurt them at all. I realized I could do it. My main fear was that I didn’t want to lose my horror edge by writing something else.

As the owner of the horror store Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA, I have fright in front of me every day. So, I didn’t think I would end up trying to write some gushy “feel good” story. But I truly wanted to write in another group, not just write a monster in space thing and pretend I’d written science fiction. For my first attempt, I wanted to stay with some genre I really knew. Two things I loved along with horror were the blues and westerns. A blues book seemed out of the question so western it was.

The approach for me is to write the story exactly the way it appeared in my head and start changing things after the first draft. I’m what they call a pantser. I don’t plot out the story with a long outline and meticulously decide on each move before working on the novel. I just write. In the case of The Survival of Margaret Thomas, I knew where I wanted to start and how I wanted it to end. I called this clotheslining – a clothes pole at each end of the tale. The plot would be the clothes hanging on the line. But when I started I didn’t know what the nature of the clothes was or in what order they would be hung. I knew one thing. I wanted it to remain true to my dark roots.

I knew, from decades of my kinship with horror, that nothing was scarier to me than humans, deviant behavior, and nasty, non-empathetic killers. No monster or mummy or creature could compare to the nightmares I achieved from misbehaving people. It’s always been that way, all through history. The most frightening thing in life to me is soul-stripping by a bad, bad person. When a person’s life and dreams are crushed, that’s it for me. It was at that juxtaposition – horror and western, that my novel The Survival of Margaret Thomas was born.

I was delighted by a review from B. J. Sedlock of the Historical Novel Society, in which he stated, “The horror genre holds no appeal for me, so I didn’t appreciate the graphic descriptions of torture or detailed appearances of dead bodies. But I did enjoy the western quest aspect of the novel...The story of how (Margaret Thomas) accomplishes the journey will be enjoyable for those who have a strong stomach for the gory parts.”

I knew I had hit my mark, horror and western. I hope it hits yours too.

Horror DNA would like to thank Del for sharing this insight with us. You can purchase his latest, The Survival of Margaret Thomas directly from Pandi Press by clicking here or at Amazon by clicking one of the links below.

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