I was asked by Patti Martinson during a recent interview (Sequential Tart, Aug. 24th) what it was that drew me to the horror genre as a writer. I couldn’t name a specific thing, but I do know the first moment I thought about being a horror writer, long before I would eventually decide to be a writer at all.
The moment was in 1990. I was 12, and I was watching the Halloween episode of Quantum Leap, called “The Boogieman”. Anyone who watched Quantum Leap, once upon a time, probably knows what episode I’m talking about. For those that don’t, however, in this episode, Sam leaps into the body of horror writer Joshua Ray in 1964. (See this IMDB article for a fuller summary.)
At the point when Sam is in Joshua Ray’s writing room, looking over the man’s collection of macabre items, I remember that I started to get a little tickle at the back of my brain that could only be described as a non-verbal “hmm”. When Sam then reads the typed page in Ray’s typewriter, although Sam’s opinion of the writing is “oh, brother…”, I suddenly knew this horror writing thing was something I could get into and love doing.
It was immediately after that episode that I started reading a whole slew of creepy books and tales.
At some point, my love of horror was temporarily displaced by my love of fantasy (maybe blame Dungeons & Dragons books and Xena), but I never really forgot how I felt watching that episode of Quantum Leap.
I felt that tickle again watching the pilot episode of the short-lived series Stark Raving Mad, with Tony Shalhoub as blocked horror writer Ian Stark, in 1999. And, by then I had already attended and then dropped out of art school and started school again at Pitt. It was when Stark gets unblocked, and there’s a voice-over of what he’s writing that did it for me.
So, if I loved the idea of being a horror writer so much, why did I go to art school for graphic design before going to the University of Pittsburgh for writing? And, why did it take until the end of January of this year to publish my first dark fantasy/horror novel? I can’t given anyone a definitive answer other than to say that the heart will take many paths before it finds just the right one. And, everyday life often derails our best laid plans.
I figure it’s best not to dwell on the wrong paths taken in life and the “if I only hadn’t” moments. It’s better to take those moments and learning experiences, and move forward on the path you’ve found that you (finally) know is the right one.