Guest Post - The Wonder of Horror in Children’s Literature

Mark Matthews provides a guest post talking about the wonder of horror in children's literature. You also have the chance to discover his own writing at the end of the post.

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The Wonder of Horror in Children’s Literature
by Mark Matthews

“I have only one subject. The question I am obsessed with is: How do children survive?” ~Maruice Sendak

Books we read as children leave a psychological imprint on our psyche. The stories soak into our veins, run through our blood, and shape our schemas forever. Since you’re reading this blog, you’re certainly a reader of some sort and can think of a book that shaped your childhood. It’s a tattoo you can’t cover up. You’re stuck with it. Forever.

Mr. Roald Dahl is a children’s author who helped shape me. He taught me about expansion of consciousness and psychedelia before I even knew what it was, as well as about the trauma and trials of childhood. My latest release, MILK-BLOOD, steals enough from James and the Giant Peach that I am expecting Dahl to rise from the grave to take me to court. He would win, too.

Childhood is an age of wonder and magic. The empty spaces from lack of knowledge and experience are filled in with the power of imagination. This can make it a fantastic yet terrifying place. Adults are supposed to be the Gods who are in charge and will save us. For me, Jesus was just my dad wearing a toga sitting on a throne, passing out moral judgments and making sure everything was safe and okay, while my mom sat by as the blessed mother Mary.

But ah, it’s not long until that myth gets shattered. ‘Grown-ups’ can’t explain it all, nor can they make everything okay. Children ask Why? enough and realize nobody understands this thing called life. We’re on a ship of fools but pretending we know what we are doing and where we are going. We don’t. Children have every right to be scared.

It is not easy for a child to survive the hardships they face, and James and the Giant Peach is a great example. James’ parents tragically die and he’s left to fend for himself, forced to be raised by parents other than his own who are nearly torturous. This is every child’s fear, but James is rescued by bizarre, magical forces and his own genius. He is lifted from his terrible land to great adventures, and in the end, writes about it.

In MILK-BLOOD, the torturous place for the child is the blight of Detroit, and the savior is also found within the confines of another living entity that carries the child away. (I’m doing the non-spoiler dance here). I not only had James and the Giant Peach in mind as I wrote MILK-BLOOD, but the actual book makes a guest appearance.

MILK-BLOOD is the second book I wrote with a childhood favorite book of mine playing a key role. My novel, On the Lips of Children is, in many ways, an adult version of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

To me, this all seems a natural fit. Anytime we write horror, we are standing on the shoulders of giants, and the giants are those who wrote stories for the kid inside of us. What is horror but tapping into the child inside of us who is still trying to make sense of a dangerous world and wondering how we can survive. The terrors can be faced, and magical wonders await, and often times it is stories that help guide us through. 

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Mark Matthews is the author of 4 novels. MILK-BLOOD is his most recent and was called “one of the most anticipated reads of the summer”by The Horror Bookshelf. On the Lips of Children , from Books of the Dead Press, is a semi-finalist for the 2014 Best Kindle Book Awards.

You can reach him at or follow him on twitter at @matthews_mark

MILK-BLOOD is available on amazon for just $2.99 for kindle, $6.29 paperback.

“The originality and tension of the urban horror story, Milk-Blood is evident on every page. Matthews takes you to some very dark places, twists and turns, with the rabbit hole going deeper and deeper, until there is no way out. Not for the faint of heart, this story of love, loss, family and acceptance is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.”—Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss

"This is a helluva story. MILK-BLOOD is a discomforting story of true inner city horrors, told by characters so real they pop off the page. But when Matthews adds the supernatural to the mix, the story really leaps out and grabs you by the throat. It's a bleak, bleak piece, with some really horrible (in a good way) scenes. I read it in one sitting. Very much recommended!” —John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths and The Bell Witch

Click here to buy Milk-Blood from Amazon (UK)