A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I write thrillers from a place of adventure and I write horror from a place of curiosity, and both of those things are fantastic fodder for a slightly OCD writer. That’s where the psychological element comes in.
To say that I know exactly why I write the dark fiction I do is to tell you a big, fat lie, but I can definitely pinpoint a few things in my childhood that might have played a factor.
I was an only child, with an imagination too big for that one tiny brain. Sometimes it manifested in games with friends that were always a bit weird. I remember in more than one school being a source of fear and interest because my friends and I pretended to be in a secret and powerful element-based coven of witches (Hello, The Craft).
This could, perhaps, be where my obsession with Elemental Magic was born. I was always Fire, because I thought it was the darkest and coolest. These days I might be more inclined to say that I’d be Earth. That obsession and fascination with magical elements has grown with me through my life, to the extent that I use it in my everyday creativity and in my development of characters for my novels. (Kaitlyn is Air. Flighty, unattached, searching—powerful when enraged).
Another side of my love-affair with dark fiction was, unfortunately, some of the experiences I had as a child. I went to fifteen schools, had to learn to make new friends, often found myself to be very different and needing to adapt. That, coupled with a few difficult (and wonderful) years on the Dark Continent (I mean Africa—“dark continent” sounded Burtonesque and much cooler). There are other things that I prefer not to talk about, but sufficed to say that, yes, there is an aspect of exploring things I’ve gone through in my fiction. There is an element of seeking answers to the horrible things that happen to us sometimes.
As a girl without siblings, going to so many new schools, I met a lot of very different and interesting people. Because I wanted to have friends, I learned to study the people and kids I was with and turn myself into a sort of psychological chameleon. I never knew how useful that would be…
*drifts into reflective place*
Let’s talk adventure and curiosity. I was never one of those kids who could be given a box, told “don’t peek” and obey. In fact, if you’d said that to me, I’d have nodded and said, “Sure thing!” with a big good-girl smile, and then had a peek the second you were gone. I might have flung open the lid and declared, “reveal yourself!” I want to see what’s inside the box. The middle of the story is in there! (The beginning was, of course, getting the box (and the mystery of the box-giver) and getting the warning). I like to find the trail of a story, but more than that, I love finding the trail of a person. I was, and am, too curious about the motives of people and the weird world inside them for my own good. Who am I kidding? As a writer, curiosity is vital!
Thankfully, I have a brain and a healthy dose of fear. I can’t get rid of the fear, but I’ll let it protect me. (Me: Holy bananas, dude, we should look inside that crypt over there. Fear: I’m pretty sure they lock those things. Me: WE’LL BREAK IN!!! What’s INSIDE?! Fear: Have you ever heard of “POLICE” before? No? Then by all means, *sarcastic*, enter the crypt. *rolls eyes*)
Actually, my fear is more like: ZOMBIIIEEEEESSS!!!! DEAD THINGS!!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!!!
I’ve learned to trust Lady Caution in most—okay, some things. I let her moderate my over-zealous nature. But my curiosity remains. I love to take a (safe) little look into Pandora’s box. I want to see where the trail leads. I want to explore that creepy forest. I want to enter the dark cave. I’ll always want to, and I’ll always take the bait. But I might pack a hunting knife and a bazooka for the road-trip.
The cool thing about all of this is that it’s is all in my head. Where did it all come from exactly? Well… I’m not sure. And I don’t want to know. It would demystify it, and I’m nowhere done exploring. The OCD part of me needs to know, and that is wonderful, because we all want to know. I can explore my tiny little piece of this thing called creativity and adventure and curiosity—I can explore my little tiny speck of it and give it a world and a name and many moving parts, and then I can share it with you, and isn’t that the meaning of it all? Stories, fables, fairy and folk tales—all of it. It’s the way we share commonalities, the way we connect over cultures, the way we learn lessons and the way we preserve our identities—it’s the way we all explore ourselves.
Thriller and Horror just give me more tickles than anything else, because the spectrum of emotion is just that much greater. How much do we learn about ourselves when the stakes are as high as our lives, or our souls? The best of us comes out in those times, and the worst.
That is definitely worth exploring.
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Dawn Kurtagich is a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction, where girls may descend into madness, boys may see monsters in men, and grown-ups may have something to hide. Her debut YA novel, The Dead House, is out now from Orion/Indigo (UK) and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (US) in 2015, and her second and third novels The Creeper Man and The Trees Crept In will be out later in 2016.
By the time she was eighteen, she had been to fifteen schools across two continents. The daughter of a British globe-trotter and single mother, she grew up all over the place, but her formative years were spent in Africa—on a mission, in the bush, in the city and in the desert.
She has been lucky enough to see an elephant stampede at close range, a giraffe tongue at very close range, and she once witnessed the stealing of her (and her friends’) underwear by very large, angry baboons. (This will most definitely end up in a book . . . ) While she has quite a few tales to tell about the jumping African baboon spider, she tends to save these for Halloween!
When she was sixteen, she thought she’d be an astronomer and writer at the same time, and did a month-long internship at Cambridge’s prestigious Cavendish Laboratories.
She writes over at the YA Scream Queens, a young adult blog for all things horror and thriller, and she is a member of the YA League.
Her life reads like a YA novel.