Twice recently, the mothers of my daughter’s friends asked me to recommend a book of mine to them, but they respectively specified that they liked “feel good” fiction and “uplifting” stories. I’ll let you imagine my pause … I missed an opportunity, however, and only later did I think of saying, “Oh, you might like my book, No One Gets Out Alive, it’s light romance with mystery, in which a young, aspirational It girl solves the riddle of a haunted house.” As much as it grieved me to do so, I actually told the mums that my books probably weren’t for them.
It did make me think about the expectations of general readers, though, and once again I came to the conclusion that I don’t ever set out to depress anyone, I try not to underestimate readers, and nor do I compete in the horrifying Olympics. But I have just as little interest in writing wishful-thinking into stories about horrible situations as writing about horrible things for the sake of it. If the horror in a book doesn’t “matter” to me, then I’d be going through motions, which is forbidden.
So, on balance, I’m delighted that David Barnett, of the Independent, found LOST GIRL “bleak, disturbing and terrifying – and horribly compelling” last weekend, because the story needed to be all of those things to work.