Granny’s Got an Axe to Grind

| August 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Local senior began writing thrillers and horror novels in her seventies

Sharon Hawes is now writing her third book, another thriller and supernatural horror story.

When 84-year-old University Heights resident Sharon Hawes tells people she’s authored two books, they assume she spins cozy mysteries or historical romance novels. She looks as though she might write sweet children’s picture books about baby unicorns and winged pixies casting magical spells in an enchanted garden. Not this granny.

Hawes spends her days immersed in the world of the macabre, penning spine-chilling thrillers and supernatural horror stories. Her debut novel, “The Sitter,” a thriller about a murderous babysitter, was selected as a finalist in the 2012 San Diego Book Awards. Her follow up novel, “The Matriarch,” visits a quiet southern California ranch town where the women go on a murderous rampage for no apparent reason. But a dark secret holds the answer to the bloody mystery.

Hawes’ love of horror and thrillers began as a reader. “When I read scary stories, it gave me physical chills across my body, like when you’re in danger,” Hawes explains sitting in her rocking chair in her craftsman style home filled with pictures of her sons and grandchildren. “But it wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, more like a shudder of pleasure.” For many years she didn’t admit to anyone that she loved reading horror. “I thought it would be considered strange for a woman to be turned on by this sort of fiction. Now, I’m not embarrassed.”

Hawes became a horror fan in her thirties when her eldest son, Will, was 12-years old, and forged his mother’s name on a permission slip from the library so he could check out “The Exorcist.”

“I probably would have told him he shouldn’t read that sort of thing at his age, but he was also very persuasive so he could have changed my mind if he had tried,” she recalls. From there, the two shared a love of horror. “Will introduced me to Stephen King books, and I started reading everything he wrote. I was very impressed with King’s writing and started reading more books in the genre. Before long, I was hooked. Normal life was ho-hum and this gave me a charge.”

Hawes was the mother of three young boys, Will, Andy, and Peter. She was married to a man she has since “very amicably divorced,” and worked as a production artist at an advertising agency. “I didn’t go out of my way to do scary things, but I just loved reading scary books,” she says.

At age 70, Hawes decided to write her first novel and is currently working on her third, “The Cure,” about a woman whose depression is alleviated only when she contemplates doing something illegal. “My protagonist and her twin decide to kidnap a young boy and take really good care of him while they hold him for a $2 million ransom, but things take a wrong turn,” Hawes says. “I’m in the process of writing the subplots now.”

Hawes is actively engaged in San Diego’s writing community, taking story structure classes with Marni Freedman and fiction writing with Mark Clements at San Diego Writers Ink. “I’m always surprised by the feedback I get from fellow writers,” Hawes says with a laugh. “Several of my classmates said they really enjoy the humor in my horror stories.”

She says she is delighted to hear this since this year’s horror-comedy “Get Out” was one of her favorites. “I loved that movie because you were really rooting for the guy to get out of there, and you were terrified that he wasn’t going to make it, but so relieved when he did.”

She says the film had all of the elements of good horror writing: a likeable person in danger and multiple surprises about who is good and who is evil. “I liked that the good guy wins because I’ve seen stories where the bad guy just drives off and I don’t find that satisfying.”

While Hawes is not delving into dark stories, she plays bridge and spends time with her “gentleman friend” of thirty years. She says he is very supportive of her fictional blood lust and often joins her for horror movie nights even though he doesn’t really like them. For the most part, her friends get a kick out of Hawes’ double life as sweet old lady and thriller novelist. “Some people, though, they say, ‘What the hell makes you want to write that?’”

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