Monday, September 12, 2011

The making of a horror writer

I've seen a lot of posts lately on why horror writers write horror. What is it that draws a person to the darker side? Honestly? I have no idea. No easy answers here folks, sorry. Someone suggested that our minds work slightly differently and that may be the case. I do know that my mind works way differently than almost anyone I know. Why? It's probably a little bit nature and a little bit nurture.

As for the nurture part, I'd like to thank my parents for being horror fans. Sure, letting a four year old watch "The Birds" was maybe not the best thing to do, (I have this horrible bird phobia. Seriously, those aviary things at Zoos? Can't get near them.) but that and Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and an endless stream of horror flicks set me up with a life long love of all things paranormal. And I don't consider that a bad thing.

I write horror because I want to scare people. I love that "Omigod, I cannot look behind me right now" feeling that you get when you watch a good scary movie or walk through a haunted prison (Mansfield Penitentiary- Ohio). That wonderful little thrill when you,re walking through the woods at night. That thrilling sensation when you're home alone and hear that inexplicable noise. Love it. If that makes me slightly crazy, so be it. It's how I roll. And I want to share that feeling. I've said before that if I can make one person sleep with the light on after they read my work- I've succeeded. And according to a friend who shall remain nameless, I'm a success. But I won't stop there. I've got more scaring to do.

Recently while blog hopping, I came across a giveaway, and you know I can't resist a giveaway, especially when the prize is a signed copy of a horror novel AND a DVD collection of horror films. It's like Christmas. So the entry is that I have to tell a true supernatural story that actually happened to me. I have several to choose from. But my favorite is also the basis for a novel I've been working on haphazardly for the last two years. So grab a snack & a drink, and give me your full attention.

From the age of 4 to 6 we lived on Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan. My father was career Air Force and we were stationed at Kadina Air Base there. I remember some of it, but being so little at the time, not all of it stuck with me. The following story is one my mother tells and my father corroborates. I don't remember much of it.

Around the age of 5, I developed an imaginary friend. I wasn't a loner, I was in school and played with neighborhood friends so my Mom thought it was odd that I'd develop an imaginary person to keep me company. Then again, I was a highly imaginative child, so they dismissed it at first. My mother says that I started spending most of my time playing with the imaginary friend, a little boy I called Manny, instead of other real children. She began to get a little creeped out when I started insisting on a place setting for Manny or cried when someone "shut the door on Manny's arm". But we were headed stateside and she had a million other things to worry about. When we flew back to the US we made the rounds of visiting relatives and ended up at my maternal grandmother's house here in Illinois.

One day I was playing on our suitcases in the upstairs hall outside the bathroom. My dad was taking a bath, but since he's 6'2" and its an old clawfoot tub, he needed my mom to come in and help rinse his hair. My mother told me to stay right where I was. And I did. Unbeknownst to us, my grandfather had come home that afternoon, drunk as a skunk, and was threatening my grandmother with a shotgun in the kitchen below the hall. One thing led to another and the gun went off. Luckily for me, I'd run to the bathroom door split seconds before the shotgun blast came through the floor on the side of the suitcase, where my leg had been just moments before. Of course my father, after assessing the situation, ran downstairs and took charge of the gun rather forcefully.

My mother examined me to make sure I was alright and then rather warily asked me why I'd run to the door. I told her "Manny told me too!" After that day, I never mentioned Manny again.

Do you have goosebumps yet? I don't know what Manny was; ghost, guardian angel, or what. But I do know, that if he hadn't been around, I might not be here at all. And that thought is truly scary.

The link to the contest is here. Go read more entries, vote for your favorites, or join yourself. The more, the scarier. Good luck! And sweet nightmares. I mean dreams. Yeah, of course I did.



Scott Niven said...

I love the fact that your parents let you watch The Birds at 4 years old! BTW, have you seen the version that's floating around the internet where all the birds are digitally removed? Imagine the playground seen with everyone running away from...nothing. It's great!

Spot said...

I haven't seen that version, I bet it is hilarious. I have a copy of the the original on VHS. My kids don't think it's scary at all. They do think me shuddering every time we pass birds at the pet store is hilarious.


John Wiswell said...

No goosebumps, just relief Manny wasn't stark evil on you. My parents refused to let me watch Horror movies for the longest time, which I recall was one of my prime motivations for seeking them out. When so many turned out to be fun, I started descending.

Claudia Lefeve said...

I'm so very grateful to Manny for looking out for you!!

Kind of creepy considering all the horror stuff that comes out of Japan!

Spot said...

John~ welcome to the dark side- we have cookies. Of course, they're probably poisoned, but it's the thought that counts! Thanks for the comment!

Claudia~ I'm grateful as well, yet still a little creeped out. And I hadn't even thought of the Japan-horror connections. They do put out some doozies.


Author, T.K. Millin said...

Great post. Very creepy, I believe we as children can see thing through our innocent minds that adults can't. Thankful for you, Manny was there.
I too love the birds, and just watch it the other night on DVD. You mentioned Rod Sterling's, Night Gallery, show. I got to watch that all the time when I was young, because he was my father's writing coach in college!! Loved the show.

E. Arroyo said...

Creepy. I would freak if my kids told me they had a friend I could not see. =)

Spot said...

Tk- what an awesome guy to have as a writing coach! You're dad was lucky. I adore Rod Serling's work.

E. Arroyo~ Thanks for the comment and stopping by. Yes, thankfully I never had to deal with this with my children!


Blaze McRob said...

Manny visited me and said I must write about your fear of birds. I am becoming quite the expert on your phobias and have come to the conclusion you are afraid of everything and everybody: except Manny. However, I feel you have a phobia of someone removing Manny from your presence. Don't worry; it won't be me. Manny bites.


Cate Gardner said...

Hopefully Manny is still hanging around just in case.