Friday, January 22, 2010

What Happens When You Encourage a Weird Little Boy?

Here I am. Another Friday night staring at the computer screen trying to think of something witty or inspiring to say, and once again drawing a blank. After ten minutes of getting nothing accomplished besides petting Cocoa while he groomed himself, I switched over to Microsoft and resumed working on my biographical blurb for my publisher. While drafting that was when it suddenly dawned on me what I should write about.

How did I wind up writing horror novels for a living?

Although I’ve only been writing horror/urban fantasy since 2003, my love for the genre goes back to when I was just a kid. One of my earliest memories from childhood was sneaking out of bed one night and hiding in the family room to watch the late night running of the original King Kong. Of course, being about seven years old at the time, my choice of hiding places was not that brilliant. I hid under a TV tray, figuring if I couldn‘t see my folks then they couldn‘t see me. My sanctuary was quickly discovered, but rather than being sent back to bed, they gave me a few cookies and let me watch Kong tear apart New York. From that moment on I was hooked.

While most of my friends’ parents looked on horror and science fiction as degenerate or, at best, a waste of time, my folks indulged my fascination with monsters. Every Saturday morning my father, grandfather, and I would go for breakfast a the local diner. Afterwards, he would drive me all over town in search of my newest horror treasure. One Saturday it would be off to the hobby shop for one of Aurora’s Universal monster models. The next it would be to the camera store for one of Castle Film’s 8mm version of a classic horror or sci-fi movie. [NOTE: In the days before DVDs and -- and I’m really dating myself -- videos, the only way to see movies when you wanted was to buy these truncated, 12-minute, subtitled versions of your favorite movie and run them on a clunky home movie projector.] Each morning was capped by a stop at the local smoke shop to pick up the latest version of Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Monster Times, The Godzilla Times, Creepy, or Eerie, which would be read at least twice before having to trudge back to school Monday morning.

My mother encouraged me in her own way. She set up an old manual typewriter for me (again I’m dating myself) and put up with the endless clacking while I put together the most amateur fan magazine on the face of the planet. Of course, to my mother, it was the greatest thing she ever read, and she always urged me to write the next edition. Thanks to her, I developed my love of writing. (My mother still reads everything I write. However, truth be known, she’s a retired nurse and always has been a bit of a ghoul. Now her feedback usually are along the lines of “that’s not what intestines look like” to “a body doesn’t have that much blood in it.”)

Then one year for Christmas when I was about twelve my folks gave me as a gift a paperback by a new horror author. Up until then I only had read the classics by Poe, Wells, Stoker, etc. My mother thought I might like it. I was skeptical, especially after reading the back cover blurb. How scary could it be? The spirit of an Indian medicine man is reborn to punish the white man for stealing New York from his forebears. Even the title sounded lame. The Manitou. But I read it over winter break, staying up late every night to find out what would happen next. By the time I read the last page, I was hooked.

Now, thirty-plus years later I’m about to get my first horror novel published.

And it wouldn’t be happening if my folks hadn’t seen a spark of creativity in the warped little mind of a weird twelve-year-old and encouraged him.

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