Hello! Welcome to my stop on the Big Bad Me Blog Tour! I want to start by thanking Little Island for including me. (I do love a good blog tour, don’t you?) And I hope you’re ready for a stupendously creepy, horrific and, at the same time, pretty funny book.
BIG BAD ME by Aislinn O’Loughlin tells the story of Evie, a teenage girl who’s just an ordinary teenage girl; just trying to get on with her life…and she’s just found out she’s a werewolf. So much for the ordinary. Her adopted scientist-mother has just disappeared somewhere on a research trip. When Evie and her older sister, Kate go to search for their mothers’ where-abouts, they get pulled into a paranormal, drawn-out battle involving werewolf hunters, vampires and a very strange small town packed with action, blood and dark humour. A riotous, raucus, Buffy-esque tale of sisterly devotion as they navigate their own little Hellmouth, filled with tension, twists and turns and general mayhem. Have I got your attention, yet?
I am thrilled to welcome Aislinn to FallenStar Stories with her guest post. Let’s hear what she has to say….
Humour and Horror
All the best horror stories include a babysitter, right? So, how’s this:
I was eight years old, happily watching The Famous Five on TV when my babysitter – my big brother, Seán – came in holding a VHS, and said: “I’ve got something better.”
What he had was Predator, or the last hour of it anyway. He’d started watching the night before, so I was shoved straight into the action, and horror! I remember sitting slack-jawed in front of the screen – wholesome Enid Blyton adventures well-forgotten – gasping: “Who’s that guy? Why is he upside down in a tree? WHERE DID HIS SKIN GO?”
When I tell this story, I usually get one of two of reactions: laughter, or this … look. This horrified concern, like “oh God! The trauma.” I wasn’t traumatised. In fact, that afternoon sparked a life-long love of horror that led here; to me writing a guest blog for Fallen Stars Stories as I celebrate the publication of my debut YA novel Big Bad Me – a funny urban fantasy/horror about a girl who finds out she’s a werewolf and then, along with her sister, gets pulled into a blood-soaked supernatural showdown with a body-count so high even I lost track (although it’s mostly a cute sister-story with lots of quips and awkward flirting).
But those two reactions do nicely illustrate the fine line between horror and comedy – and how sometimes the only real difference is your own perspective. After all, both comedy and horror writers tend to look at the world through a rather twisted lens, picking out the oddness, ironies, and contradictions, then amping them up to eleven and seeing what happens. Then it just depends whether you focus on the ridiculousness or unsettling awfulness of it all.
Or you could do both.
Sam Raimi famously remade his 1981 indie horror, The Evil Dead, as a black comedy semi-sequel: Evil Dead II. This reboot/sequel kept the original’s jump-scares and gore, but filtered it through a very different version the main character – Ash – who went from a relatively meek everyman to a brash, trigger-happy action-hero with a chainsaw-hand and seemingly endless supply of quips. It was a really good call.
More recently, we’ve seen plethora of comedy alumni turn their (still-attached, non-chainsaw) hands to horror. For example, Jordan Peele might be synonymous with smart horror now but, until 2015, he and Keegan Michael Key were winning Emmys for their hilarious sketches on The Key and Peele Show – which tackled everything from systemic racism to parties that Just Won’t Stop Even When You Want Them To (look it up, you’ll be glad you did). In the UK, Charlie Brooker was renowned for his work on satirical shows like Brass Eye and Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe long before he disturbed us with his scarily accurate speculative dystopias in Black Mirror. Even writer/actor Danny McBride, probably best known for appearing in Seth Rogan stoner comedies, has proven his horror-writing chops – tackling the scripts for recent Halloween reboot trilogy.
At first glance, these funny guys being secretly terrifying feels some kind of Shyamalanian plot twist. But, of course, it’s not. Horror and comedy writing require a lot of the same skills – in particular, the ability to elicit an immediate, intense reaction. And, whether that’s a belly-laugh or a jump scare, both depend good timing and a knack for subverting audience expectations. In other words, whether you’re making folks scream in terror or with laughter, you need to surprise them.
But there’s another reason horror and humour pair so well: if you can get someone laughing, you get their guard down. And if their guard’s down, you can really scare them. That’s why the comic relief characters tend to make it to the end (or, almost-end). They’re not just fun. They’re great for breaking tension, relaxing the mood and getting you really attached – not just to them, but to the characters they interact with, which ups the stakes for everyone.
Kathryn Foxfield’s books, for example, are jammed with doomed characters who are either knowingly funny, or who make you laugh with their unself-aware ridiculousness. Josh Winning’s fantasy-horror The Shadow Glass intertwines hilarious characters and scenarios with nightmarish imagery, for some proper gut-wrenching terror. And Grady Hendrix’s self-aware, tropey horror novels are given real heart through moments like a character desperately trying to save her possessed friend by yelling Phil Collins’ lyrics at her.
It’s not easy, striking that balance between horror and humour. Veer too far one way or the other and you risk losing the impact of both (you should see how many of my favourite jokes wound up in the Big Bad Me “deleted” folder) but when you get it right – the payoff can be scarily brilliant!
Thank you so much for that, Aislinn! Great stuff, altogether! BIG BAD ME by Aislinn O’Loughlin is out NOW! Little Island Books (October 2022); ISBN: 9781915071040 https://littleisland.ie/books/big-bad-me/