Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Writers—Or How I Came to Write in the Horror Genre

Who let you out and where is that next book!?
This is a story about inspiration and perspiration.  It’s a well-known maxim that no author writes in a bubble.  Our entire history, up to and including when we are actually writing effects our writing.  Everything, including our mood, the weather, the way the leaves rustle lightly in the soft breezes outside our window as we stare into the aether and hope, pray and beg for inspiration can become part of our writing.

Two years ago (or thereabouts) a publisher reached out to me and offered me some opportunities.  I was a young, idealistic, but fresh-faced author—a straight-shooter who had potential written all over.  A couple of the offers were pretty straight-forward for a fantasy/scifi kind of guy like me, but one of them was horror.

Horror is not a genre I’m into.  I don’t read horror books, I don’t watch horror movies, when I was younger I wouldn’t go to haunted-horror mansions or mazes or whatnot.  Having the crap scared out of me—heart racing, adrenaline pumping, muscles tensed waiting for the decision to fight or flee—yeah, that’s not appealing to me.  A reasonably sized spider will do much the same, let alone a mask-wearing, chainsaw-wielding mad man.

But the kicker to this is that Kevin J. Anderson had been snagged to headline the anthology.  You might know Anderson from his work in Frank Herbert’s world of Dune, or you might know him from his Star Wars novels, or his StarCraft, or The X-Files, or . . . well, you get the picture.  He’s a known name, and a big on at that.  I fairly frothed at the mouth with the idea of being in a work with him.

Does it burn your brain?
Alas, I don’t write horror.  I don’t know the first thing about writing horror.  I talked to my genius editor, Shawn, and she tried to give me some tips, but I kept stumbling over the problem of horror as a genre that I don’t get and don’t want to write.

Kevin J. Anderson, whispered the wind. 
Kevin J. Anderson, spoke the water.

He tasked me.  He tasked me and I had no idea where to run.  I tore round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's Flames, but still Anderson’s name and awesomeness pursued me.  From a writer's heart, he stabbed at me.

Then . . . oh my, then—a friend of mine, Christopher, was working on some illustrations for his bestiary, and he shared one of his drawings with a Facebook group we belonged to.  I can’t find that image, but I remember it very clearly—an angry tree-spirit, on the move, ready to rip and rend anything that got in its way.  He may have even called it a “dryad,” which from Greek mythology are generally portrayed as playful, beautiful women—nymphs of the oak.

But here was something.  Here was a story.  Why was the dryad so angry?  Why was she
You won't like her when she's angry!
transformed?  Who was she after and what would she do if she caught him or her?

My writer’s spirit was ignited into a sudden and terrible blaze that could only be contained through the furious writing of a story.  Not just any story, but one where bad things were happening to people.  A character was born—Constable Aubrey Hartmann.  A mystery was created.  A world was built.  A short story was written—“Into a Watery Grave” (available in In Shambles).

From that world came two more short stories—"Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire" (available in Gears, Gadgets and Steam) and "Holes Full of Dark" (available Fall 2015).  From that also came the book I’m currently working on—Constable of Aqualinne (in progress).

Wow.  Just wow.  Three short stories and a novel.

Look, Ma, I'm somebody!
I reached out to Christopher and let him know how he’d inspired me.  It seemed only fair.  I felt that I owed him something for setting me on the path to writing that story not because of the story itself, but how it had allowed me to create something I found so fantastic.  His image had kindled an inferno of creativity that broke through the obstacles of the horror genre and let me write the story, gain entrance into the anthology with Kevin J. Anderson and be one of the named authors on the cover of the book.


I bought Christopher a copy of the anthology.  He paid me the incredible compliment of asking me to sign the book.  I did.  I shipped it to him and he read the story.  He even gave it a review.  A positive review!

The take-away from this is—A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  That’s a really cheesy but appropriate way of saying that your creativity shouldn’t be hidden.  It can only do good things.  There are a few, rare and evil folk out there who might try to steal from you.  But in the main, 99.44% of the people you encounter when you share ideas aren’t interested in stealing.  They're interested in being inspired.  They're interested in seeing something fantastic, and building on it.  As Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

They may, in fact, be inspired to do something that even amazes them.

No comments:

Post a Comment