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Horror and Romance: The Evil Twin by KJ Charles (plus a giveaway!)

Want something a bit different for the holidays? Horror has never looked this enticing! All in Fear is a gorgeous collection of horror tales from some of the hottest names in queer fiction. Be prepared to be titillated…and terrified.

(The authors are giving away three ebook copies. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.)

Back in the day when I worked at Harlequin, various editors including me were sent to a massive cross-global-company ideas brainstorming meeting. This entailed having to come up with ideas for a bunch of new lines to present to the assembled most senior people of the entire company, one of which had to be wild and “out there” and “outside the box” and “blue-sky thinking” and probably involved moving your cheese in order to get all your ducks in a row oh my god I hated corporate life. My personal horror novel would basically be me in a meeting and every time it got to the last agenda point someone would say, “Just one more thing…” FOR EVER.

Anyway, there we were trying to come up with new romance series ideas (this, in case you’re wondering, tends to be how Motorcycle Club or NASCAR romance or whatever explodes out of nowhere) and I thought, well, you asked for different. So I proposed a horror line–which I might today have named Killer Clown–using an image of an evil jester rather than the old harlequin logo, and introduced it as Harlequin’s evil twin.

It makes perfect sense, honest. Horror is a mirror image of romance, albeit a distorting mirror where your reflection moves when you’re not looking. Romance is about the delicious thrill of something exciting going to happen, first uncertainty, then increasing expectation, teased with a will-it-won’t-it possibility before glorious consummation. Horror does the same thing, but the emotion isn’t hope and love, but instead dread and fear, and the consummation may involve someone getting consumed.

Both genres aim to evoke a very deep physical response in the reader along with intellectual and emotional ones. Romance gets the endorphins flowing, setting off those magical sensations of excitement and happiness and often sexual charge. Horror goes for the lizard brain, the part of us that’s terrified of skittering things in the corner of our eye and whatever’s waiting outside the circle of firelight, outside the cave, watching in the dark. Both of them aim to give us goose pimples, though for very different reasons.

Consider also how much horror is about the people we love, or live with, becoming monsters (The Shining, the adored Lucy Westenra becoming a vampire in Dracula so the men who love her must now penetrate her with a stiff wooden stake SYMBOLISM KLAXON) and how much romance is about finding love out of fear or loathing. The Beauty and the Beast narrative—a man inside a monster—is the obverse of Jekyll and Hyde, a monster inside a man. There isn’t always that much separating the thing under the bed from the people on top of it.

Romance and horror belong together like light and darkness, kisses and bites. Harlequin didn’t pick up the Killer Clown idea at that meeting (it’s possible they may not actually have wanted blue sky thinking to deliver a full Gothic thunderstorm; I’m not very good at corporate stuff) but there’s no shortage of books where romance and horror overlap and interact. One of these, in multiple ways, terrifyingly or deliciously, is the All in Fear anthology; I hope you enjoy it!

KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, and a cat with murder management issues. KJ writes mostly historical romance, mostly queer, often with fantasy or horror in there.


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