This is a guest blog post by author of What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra.
“What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?” Woland questions rhetorically in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. The question pointedly implies that the categories of good and evil are subjective and that monsters, in whatever shape or form they come in, perhaps exist for a reason, if only as a counterweight to light.
Long before reading Bulgakov and contemplating the subjectivity of evil, I’ve been seriously addicted to all kinds of fictionalised monsters, whether those were obvious or subtle, truly evil or just confused. I blame my early (pre-Bulgakov) years during which I devoured whatever gory darkness I could get my hands on, the spookier the better. The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, Richard Donner’s Omen, An American Werewolf in London, and, of course, anything Stephen King (but particularly: Salem’s Lot and Pet Sematary). All of these continue to serve as my nightmare fuel even to this day.
Then I experienced the phenomenon that is Twin Peaks. I was fairly late into my teens then, but I was hooked for life because it was then that I had my first real taste of an ambiguous yet persistent kind of monster. There was no blood and gore in the eerie world David Lynch created in Twin Peaks, no mindless animal giving in to hunger and instinct. No, this was a methodical, determined darkness. Darkness with a plan. And I desperately wanted – needed – more of that. So, years on, I wrote my own version of this kind of darkness. The result was What The Woods Keep, my genre-bending contemporary dark fantasy YA debut.
The monsters of What The Woods Keep are like many-faced gods of old: depending on your perspective, on a certain slant of light, they may seem not that terrifying, maybe even reasonable. When they utter words, they speak to your heart; they appeal to your humanity before turning around and scaring your senseless.
When writing What The Woods Keep I had to dig deep into my mental trove of dark imagery to write what scares me – in hope that it has a similar effect on my readers. So I wrote my monsters razorblade smart and hell-bent on getting their way, but not all-powerful. I wrote them articulate but misunderstood, and also a little bit sad. I mean, do they want to be monsters? Do they really have a choice?
It’s not the definitive answer to these questions that makes for an interesting read though. It is rather the contemplation, the prolonged look into the mind of a so-called monster.
Because, if I were to dare and answer Woland’s aforementioned question of “What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?” perhaps , I’d say, you’d fantasize about monsters.