We’ve talked about what our literary influences have been, and JT talked yesterday about how we collect characters from around us (that is, so I hear – I wasn’t able to get on for some reason).
But I spent a couple hours yesterday in an interview talking about how to write horror and that got me to wondering about the life incidents that led us to choose this dark genre of ours (some of us darker than others….).
For instance, I realized after seeing the movie ZODIAC this week that the Zodiac killer was a huge early – influence? Inspiration? Impression? What I mean is, I grew up in California and even years after this guy had dropped off the map, we kids were scaring ourselves senseless by telling ourselves Zodiac stories around the fire at Girl Scout camp. He was our Boogey Man.
My dad grew up in Mexico and he had a passel of ghost stories that he’d pull out around the campfire to scare us with.
Also, since Dad is a scientist and Russian, and attended a lot of scientific conferences that got turned into family road trips, I have early memories of us in the family station wagon being followed by the CIA because, you know, Russians were out to destroy the world at the time. All that ever happened was that they followed us around but naturally I’d spice the whole thing up in my imagination – my first attempts at thrillers.
It’s only recently occurred to me that perhaps I write ghosts because I went to a haunted high school – specifically, the grand and decrepit old auditorium where I spent most of my high school, rehearsing choir programs and plays, was supposedly haunted by a girl named Vicki who died the night of her prom back in the 20’s. Yes, yes, I know that’s a classic urban legend, but we all believed in Vicki, and there were parts of that auditorium where you just didn’t want to go, alone or with others. Cold spots. Strange noises. Disappearing props.
(But somehow it never once crossed my mind while I was writing THE HARROWING that I was writing about a haunted school because I went to a haunted school).
I also had some pretty scary experiences early on in life that made me realize that there was evil out there. A child molester who’d been trolling the streets around my elementary school tried to grab me one afternoon when I was walking home from school. He was a small and creepy man, and even though I didn’t have any sense of what child molesting was at the time, I knew there was something just wrong with him and I ran. That was my first full-on experience of what evil looks and feels like, and it’s not something you forget or let go.
And I had friends, as we all do, who were not so lucky about escaping predators, and the anger about that has fueled a lot of my writing.
There’s more, of course, and once you start thinking of influences, it’s pretty fascinating how much you uncover about your motivations.
So I wondered what kinds of experiences from real life have made you all the dark, twisted writers you are…. and what in their own lives would make our ‘Rati readers seek out this genre?