I’ve had a lot of people ask about the level of scariness in the novels from my “Spooky Quintet” (yes, it’s a rubbish umbrella name, but it’s temporary until I can think of a better one).
As I’ve said in the past, I’ve been reluctant to label these novels as horror, purely because that term conjures up gory images of axe murderers stalking foolish teenagers. My horror stories have a rather different sensibility, and some are more horror-ish than others. In fact, I would argue they are more modern-gothic ghost story mysteries, on the whole.
Still, since I’m asked this question all the time by nervous, I-don’t-do-horror-but-your-books-sound-interesting readers, here’s a non-spoiler overview of how scary you can expect these novels to be, and where they fit within my psychological mystery/supernatural thriller/horror spectrum. I’m calling this the “SSS” – Simon’s Scariness Scale. I’ve also include one or two “comparison texts” so you can get an idea of not only the scariness tone, but the kind of scariness.
More psychological thriller/mystery than horror, and if it were a film, probably wouldn’t be rated stronger than 12A (that’s PG-13 for our American cousins). Yes, there is plenty of page-turning suspense, with our imperilled heroine wandering spooky corridors at night, but let’s put it this way; my notoriously easy-to-scare mother braved it, and managed to reach the ending unscathed. It’s only a notch up from something like Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.
SSS rating: 4/10.
This begins more like a whodunnit, develops into a supernatural thriller, and really only segues into horror during the finale, in quite a gradual slow-burn. Yes, the bodies do pile up a bit, but in scariness, only a notch or so up from The Birds Began to Sing.
SSS rating: 6/10.
A properly full-blown ghostly gothic horror mystery, most akin to something like an MR James short story, or The Woman in Black. It is a slow-burn, but it does build to a properly spine-chilling finale that will test the nerves, so I’m giving this one a higher scariness rating.
SSS rating: 9/10.
For the most part, I’d argue this is a supernatural conspiracy thriller. However, the final act is undoubtedly in clear horror territory, in a pretty full-on manner. Comparison texts would be something like Coma crossed with the more horrific elements of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom.
SSS rating: Most of the book, 7/10, the last bit, 10/10.
Despite the sinister (and rather brilliant) cover, this is much more a psychological mystery/drama than a horror tale. In fact, I’d argue it isn’t really scary at all. Suspenseful and gripping yes, but not scary (despite a violent sequence near the end). With this book, I was more interested in messing with your head than making you afraid. It is more unsettling than The Birds Began to Sing, but no more scary, if that makes sense. I’d also add Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger as a scariness comparison text.
SSS rating: 4/10.
Phantom Audition is published by Dragon Soul Press, and is out on the 19th of October. Click here to pre-order your copy now.