My History With the Horror Genre

Before I start using this blog to yap about my projects and writing process, I thought it was fitting to share a bit of my background with the horror genre as a whole and why I chose to pursue it.

In the Beginning

Phoenixville Public Library
My childhood library – Credit: Rachael Fiorini-Kornish, Wikimedia Commons)

My interest in horror and the supernatural began as soon as I learned to read. I used to spend my weekends and summers at the local library digging through the stacks in the children’s library for ghost stories — I especially liked the ones based on local legends (not sure how some of them made it into the children’s stacks though).

This children’s library was in the basement of a gorgeous old stone building in the middle of town. It felt like going down to the dungeon of an old castle. But it never felt uncomfortable there. Quite the opposite. The only thing I dreaded was leaving.

I didn’t know this at the time, but that children’s library is supposedly haunted by its first librarian. Maybe they were there looking out for all of us kids and that’s why the dingy basement filled with books made us feel so at home.

Before the Age of Ten

I was already a horror movie buff by the time my tenth birthday rolled around. I loved being scared. I don’t know why, but the one release that sticks with me is Child’s’ Play. It scared the hell out of me then, but I loved the movie and I was so excited when it came out (I was eight). But that wasn’t the horror flick that had the most impact on me as a kid. That would be Stephen King’s IT. 

To this day, clowns scare the crap out of me. The film didn’t cause that, but it solidified that fear. The sewer scene probably replayed in my mind for weeks. My fear of clowns itself actually stems from one of my earliest memories.

I was only four or five, and my dad took me to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC (we lived in Brooklyn at the time). I remember a clown riding up to me on his unicycle, honking his nose. I was obviously afraid, but he kept pushing. It was probably that pushiness that frightened me the most at the time.

Toss that in with being scared by an uncle who dressed up as a clown for Halloween a year or so after, and the whole “hiding behind face paint” thing had already traumatized me. IT just brought up those memories and turned up the fear dial a bit.

Stephen King’s movies were my real fascination when I was young. In addition to IT, I was a big fan of Pet Sematary and I remember my aunt taking me to see Sleepwalkers when it came out in the theater a little later when I was 12.

Back then, we even used to have friends over for horror movie slumber parties. Don’t ask me what our parents were thinking. I can’t imagine most parents I know today allowing that stuff (keeping in mind that I was actually the oldest of the kids involved). One of my oldest friends still occasionally reminds me of one of these sleepovers when she was so terrified by The Gate that she freaked out and demanded to go home in the middle of the night. The immature side of me still finds that funny.

The Adult Library

By the time I turned ten, I’d graduated from horror flicks and ghost stories in the children’s library to “real” books (in my ten year old mind). I was a smart kid, with a reading level way beyond most kids my age. And I practically lived on books. You’d be hard-pressed to find me without one.

I don’t deal with boredom well. Never have. And my mom, trying to alleviate that boredom so I didn’t go insane and take her with me, started letting me use her library card for the adult library. She figured (rightly so) that more advanced reading material was what I needed.

I went right for King. Again, it was IT that caught my attention. Looking back, I think it was the sheer size of the book. I’ve always been a glutton for punishment, challenging myself far more than I have to. (For example, in high school when I had the option to choose and memorize any short poem I wanted, I instead chose Tennyson’s Ulysses. Nailed it too. And I’m still in love with Tennyson, an antique collection of his work being one of my favorite possessions.) Book-wise, things just went from there. I read a lot of King and later Anne Rice and a few other authors.

The Horrors of High School

Okay. So I actually liked high school. Don’t ask me why. But during those teenage years, horror kind of disappeared from my life. Maybe I was just too caught up in school and boys to bother. I had a big family at that point and we didn’t watch many horror films together. On the rare occasion we did, they almost felt forced on us which did nothing but turn me off of them — still not a fan of The Exorcist because of that.

So I stopped watching. And I stopped reading (with the exception of Poe). I went from reading King, Rice, and Crichton to reading Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Hemingway. And I was focused more on writing. I wrote a lot of poetry back then and actually drafted my first novel at 16, but sadly lost it in a house fire a few years later.

Then came college. I found I was getting more squeamish. I couldn’t watch horror alone anymore, and there wasn’t anyone around with an interest in it. The closest was a fellow engineering student who came by to watch Scooby Doo with me when they launched the new animated movie series at the time. (I’m a Scooby Doo addict to this day. So what? Shut up.)

So basically during college, the only element of horror I got to enjoy was working at a haunted hayride for one Halloween (which was awesome). The next thing I knew, I was getting engaged (thankfully didn’t marry that toad), graduating, and I was too focused on work and daily drama to think about horror flicks and novels. Life felt scary enough.

My Reawakening

It wasn’t until 2008 that I finally gave the horror genre another serious look. I met someone that year who did more to inspire me intellectually and creatively than anyone ever had before. And he happened to be a horror film buff — a pretty good authority on the subject actually. Whether he meant to or not, he brought me back into the fold, recommending some outstanding horror films I hadn’t seen. And even though I was still uneasy watching them alone (he wasn’t someone local to catch them with), having someone I could talk to about them increased my comfort level exponentially.

For that, I’ll be forever grateful. By reintroducing me to the world of horror, I was able to explore not only classics I’d missed out on as a kid, but also more intelligent works (largely foreign horror — in love with just about anything in the genre that Guillermo Del Toro had his hand in as an example).

And it was partly this person’s creative inspiration that put me in a position where I can now focus on publishing in both the horror and mystery genres that I love. 2008 was the year that I finally gave up the PR and social media consulting side of my business in favor of writing full-time. And while I did work as a writer part-time before then, I’ve been completely making my living as a writer and publisher ever since. It was also the year I started working on my first horror novel manuscript (which you can learn more about on my books page).

What can I say? It was a good year. The inspiration and passion I rediscovered that year changed my life.

Horror Films vs Books

You might have noticed that I’m talking more about watching horror films as opposed to reading horror novels as time has gone on. That’s partly because I tend to prefer horror in a visual medium. It’s also because my mystery writing is the priority right now (the genres are alternating in my three-year publishing plan). And when I’m writing a mystery, I prefer to read mysteries. When the urban legend horror novel I’m working on becomes Priority #1, I’ll be giving some new horror writers a read.

And that pretty much takes us to today. I’m as involved with the horror genre as much as I’m able to be both through films and my writing. And I’m excited to spend even more time on those projects in the near future. [2016 update: This year is largely dedicated to horror writing, and I’m happy to say I’m already devouring horror at a frantic pace, both movies and books.]

There you have it — the story of my life told through my love-hate-love relationship with horror.

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