Tag: ShirleyJackson

Five Books to Help You Write That Novel You’re Always Talking About

Is there a killer idea for a novel gnawing at the back of your mind?  Are you stuck inside with some extra time on your hands?  While quarantine isn’t exactly conducive to creativity with all the anxiety and lack of privacy it can bring with it, it is a good time for self-evaluation and getting some extra projects done.  Here are five of the best books on writing from some of the world’s top authors to get you inspired and FINALLY at work on that novel you’re always talking about writing!


1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing Book Cover
image via goodreads

Where else could we start than with the King himself?  The master of horror keeps things thoroughly down to earth in this engaging memoir about writing and life.  King’s advice is simple; sit down in the chair every day and do the work. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world,” he says.  “The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”


2. Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman

Daemon Voices Book Cover
image via goodreads

Most famous for His Dark Materials, Pullman writes books for children that appeal just as much to adults. This is a rambling book of essays on everything from art and religion to German marionette theatre and fundamental particles, but most of all it is a book about stories that makes you fall in love with them all over again.  Pullman says that writing “feels like discovery not invention.  It feels as if the story I’m writing already exists, in some Platonic way, and that I’m privileged from time to time to gain access to it.  The curtain twitches aside for a while; the moon comes out from behind a cloud, and illuminates a landscape that was previously invisible.”


3. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

The View from the Cheap Seats Book Cover
image via goodreads

This one isn’t technically a book on writing but it shows Gaiman’s love for stories and approaches art in a fun, comfortable way. It reveals a lot of the anxiety that comes from sitting in front of a blank page. It’s a motley assortment of articles from various publications and it’s a grab bag of treasures.  Go ahead, reach in.  Did you get a piece on how porn and musicals are basically the same thing? A touching essay on how to deal with pain through making art? A strange, dreamy tale about Gaiman’s future wife dying over and over again? (It’s not as dark as it sounds, I promise.)  Whichever you pick, you will be vastly entertained and hopefully inspired.



4. Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Let Me Tell You Book Cover
image via goodreads

The writing section of this book doesn’t come until page 374 and only lasts for forty-two but those contain enough good advice to fill a library.  The essay ‘Garlic in Fiction’ alone is worth the price of admission.  Jackson is one of my favorite writers of all time and an absolute pro at creating subtle suspense and gut-wrenching twists.   “I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again,” she says. “A writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.”


5. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer

Wonderbook Book Cover
image via goodreads

This one is geared specifically towards speculative fiction though much of the advice applies to all genres.  Entirely illustrated and thoroughly fun, this one is a bit bonkers in the best way possible.  VanderMeer uses other authors plentifully to map out (literally) the process of writing.  Full of writing exercises and ideas that will call out to the child inside you, this is an excellent way to get those creative juices flowing.



Featured Image via Hindustan Times

Woman With a Haunted House for a Face

‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and the Literary Tradition of Horror

Happy Halloween! If you are a horror fan and you haven’t watched the Netflix adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House, I highly recommend you sit down for the ten hours it takes to watch it all. If you have read the book the series is based upon you will realize that it is the definition of a very loose adaptation. Many names are recycled, plot points reused, and broad strokes painted, but in the end the story is very different. And this is a good thing. 


The Haunting of Hill House already received a very faithful cinematic treatment in 1969’s The Haunting from director Robert Wise (with an accompanying terrible American remake in 1999). It was refreshing to see a familiar story get a new take from Netflix, this time focusing on the scariest thing of all: family.


In the original novel, the Crain family were the landowners and builders of Hill House, all of whom were driven insane and died in various horrible ways by the malevolent presence in their home. The Netflix show recasts them as a family of home flippers who have invested in the haunted Hill House as their latest project. The familial drama as it relates to the supernatural projects of the house takes center stage this time around, and it’s powerful stuff.


I’ve long held that most modern horror films and television shows are terrible, because they so often lack the very literary roots of the genre. Genuinely good horror delves so deep into the subconscious that it’s nothing but inky blackness obscuring our true fears. The fear of death, your own or a loved ones. The fear of mental illness, real or imagined. And of course, the fear of the unknown, the actual ghosts.


This is where the screen, big or small, so often fails. Subconscious is notoriously difficult to portray visually. Many Stephen King adaptations fail miserably because the internalization of his characters is so important. The Haunting of Hill House succeeds spectacularly at delving into the traumatized members of the Crain family. All five children and both parents receive an episode in the limelight where we really get to know them as people, and how the House has come to envelop their lives and poison their relationships with one another. 


Subtlety is sorely lacking in contemporary horror, and while the series does indulge in a few jump scare moments, the real horror lurks around the edges of the screen. Just take a look at all the hidden horror in between frames. This is the cinematic equivalent of reading and then rereading a passage in a book over and over again, going back because you’re sure you’ve missed something. I often did this while reading The Haunting of Hill House and similar fare. The dread is palpable.


I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again. The best horror has its feet firmly in a literary tradition. It’s less about the demon girl popping up behind you in the mirror and screaming her undead lungs off, and more about the circumstances of the demon girl’s death, and her state of mind when she surrendered her soul to Satan, or what have one. One makes you jump out of your seat for a few moments, the other stays with you for years.


‘The Handmaid’s Tale’’s Elizabeth Moss to Star in ‘Shirley’

Elizabeth Moss has been in plenty of Shirley Jackson adaptations, including The Lottery, but she’ll become the author herself in her newest film. Alongside Michael Stuhlbarg, Moss will star in Shirley, based off the 2014 novel by Susan Scarf Merrell that follows a graduate student and his wife who move in with Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman.



via Goodreads

The film is set to be directed by Josephine Decker with the screenplay written by Sarah Gubbins. There is no estimated release date for Shirley yet, but filming is scheduled to start this summer. 


Featured image via Los Angeles Times