Why CREEPY is my thing

Zombie-fighter decor in my home. Photo by John Remy.


I wasn’t creepy until I fully embraced my inner writer. That person was born from a depraved childhood in the 1980s. See, we lived so far out in the boonies that we didn’t have nice, clean, FCC-approved television. We had books. And unlike those poor sad children of the 1960s, who parents might have forced them to stick to books with that were clean and safe and approved by The Powers That Be, I got to read anything I damned well pleased.

The church says I'm clean & safe!


And hey, this was the 80s. That could only mean two authors: Dean R. Koontz and Stephen King. I devoured every one of their books our small library system carried. Then I expanded to Ramsey Campbell and Richard Matheson.

Eight year-old children should not necessarily spend all their time eating chocolate moon pies and reading horror novels. It warps parts of their brains, the parts that govern social skills and fashion sense. By the time I was nine, I dressed solely in black and dreamed in text. My teachers constantly sent me to children’s writing conventions and spelling bees. Something inside me had snapped. I’d become a writer without even meaning it.

But years passed. We moved to a town with cable tv. I tried to put my sordid past behind me. I learned to wear pink. I read fashion magazines. I studied science and music and philosophy in college. I joined a sorority.

I almost fully recovered from being creepy.

And then one day, I sat down in front of my computer and began to write about vampires. It passed–I never finished that book–but an inner darkness was released. Words had regained their grip on my soul.

At first I tried my hand at writing fantasy novels. I tried to write a nice adventure story; I don’t know where the melting man or the werewolves came from. I figured I’d outgrow these things, but the more I wrote, the more horrible nasty monsters and people just sprang out of my brain. Witches and demons and mad eco-terrorists eager to lop off the arms of innocent children–these were the people that filled up my stories. And I loved them.

So why am I telling you this? After all, this is a writing blog, not a confessional.

I’m saying it because as an author you have to know yourself. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself as a horror writer and a horror writer alone. But it’s also okay to embrace the fact that horror inspires me like nothing else.

I spent last year writing terrible science fiction stories. The characters were boring. The plots were contrived. They had moments of wonderful language, but their insides were hollow and flat. I don’t think this is because I can’t write science fiction. I think it’s because last year, I didn’t read any horror after April. (I had some burn-out after being a reviewer on a horror site.)

If there are things that get you excited about being creative, you need to embrace them and find ways to incorporate them in your life. If looking at art gets you fired up, buy a membership to the art museum, or check out art books from your local library. If taking long walks is your ammunition, then you have to find a way to squeeze some walking time into your day. That’s not easy when it’s winter, and it’s cold and dark, but nourishing your creative core is critical.

Last year, there were several times when I found I’d drained all the words out of my word-maker. I’d pushed myself to hit my maximum output: I wrote fourteen or fifteen short stories, drafted a novel, edited two novels, and wrote about 53 story headers, and that was it. There was nothing left at the bottom of the pot. It took me almost three months to recover. At that point, I could write about four hundred words a day  (not necessarily good ones!) and that would tap me out. This was a long, horrible drought. I really began to wonder how I’d ever recover from the blow-out.

And I realized the secret was in re-finding what most deeply inspired me.

For me, being creepy is what nourishes my creative core. Looking at art by Francis Bacon. Visiting haunted houses. Drawing pictures of shoggoth and reading Lovecraft stories. Window shopping on Madame Talbot’s webpage. Planning dream trips to Aokigahara in Japan. Watching zombie movies. My word-well needs this nourishment as much as it needs coffee.

This year, I’ve had to set aside the first novel I started, a children’s science fiction piece that I’d fully outlined and written out about 8,000 words. I’m too busy with Fantasy Magazine to work on anything that doesn’t totally and completely absorb me. Instead, I’ve launched into a new book. I don’t have a solid outline for the project, which scares me, because I’m not sure I’m a good pantser, and I know I hate the editing process. But this book excites me. And it gives me nightmares.

Every day, I’m hungry for the taste of my own words. It’s a sure sign that my word-well has been renewed.

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  1. Sandra Wickham
    25/03/2011 at 3:54 pm Permalink

    You are SO COOL.

    Never stop being creepy, my friend. 🙂

  2. Erika Holt
    25/03/2011 at 4:40 pm Permalink

    You are the best kind of creepy!

    I’ve heard that when asked why he writes such “horrible” stuff, Stephen King replies, “What makes you think I have a choice?” This is exactly right, I think. Our best writing will be the writing we’re passionate about and that calls to us, whether that be murder mystery, fantasy, romance, horror, etc.

  3. Mari Miniatt
    25/03/2011 at 6:45 pm Permalink

    Were we twins separated at birth and about a decade?
    I also grew up in the boonies, but with a lot of tv (living on top of the tallest hill helped) mainly PBS. My folks had so many books in the house, you had to move them to go up the stairs.
    I swear I went from the Happy Hollisters collection from one of my older siblings, to all of Bradbury and King, left by some other siblings. My dad wrote all the time. What a cooking pot for a writer.
    I also started with vampires. When I branched out, I noticed my fantasy novels, twist to the creepy. More like Dragon’s Eye and less like the Hobbit. If I try to write a contemporary chic lit, something horrible always happens.
    I think if we did not write it out, our minds would shut off.

  4. Galendara
    25/03/2011 at 8:54 pm Permalink

    I love your creepy. and I am hungry for the taste of your words too.

    oh.. and also, BRILLIANT post on re-filling the creative well when it seems dry. thank you.

  5. Sarah K
    27/03/2011 at 4:52 am Permalink

    You. Rock.

    We had tons of books that I read long before I was expected to. I did not see The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, or several other such movies until adulthood – but I read the books in middle school. Found King at age 11. Bradbury soon after. (King was “ew” and “whoa” and taught me tons of esoteric Maine lobsterman swear words, but didn’t actually scare me; Bradbury SCARED me.) Koontz, yup. And John Saul.

  6. Wendy Wagner, Inkpunk
    29/03/2011 at 12:49 am Permalink

    I love King’s swearing! My dad did a lot of swearing, but King added real texture and variety to my vocabulary. 😀


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