how to raise a kid to be a horror writerI can see my grand­mother now, hawk-​eyed and hyper-​vigilant as she looks up from her evening paper in alarm and whis­pers to my mother, “Did you hear some­thing upstairs?”

As if on cue, my mother gets up, arms her­self with an umbrella (hers being a gen­er­a­tion of women that had not yet embraced the virtues of the semi-​automatic) and pro­ceeds up the stairs, to con­front what sort of ghastly fate one can only imag­ine. The first place she would check for an intruder would be under the bed (since we all know that’s where psy­cho killers, rapists, and bogey­men lie in wait for us all). As a young child, it never made sense to me – it seemed we should be run­ning out the front door rather than pok­ing umbrel­las into dan­ger­ous places.

As far as I know, my mother never found any­thing scarier than dust bun­nies under the bed, but this and far more out­ra­geous South­ern Gothic looni­ness laid for me a firm belief sys­tem that, beneath a super­fi­cial veneer of grim banal­ity, the world is actu­ally a mad­house of dan­ger and weird­shit deprav­ity, much of it lurk­ing just below the sur­face of one’s own fam­ily – even within one’s own mind!

Clearly the only rea­son­able voca­tion for a per­son raised in such a hot­house of creep­ing dread is that of hor­ror writer (or pos­si­bly stand-​up comic).

In a way, though, I know I received an inter­est­ing, if per­haps dubi­ous, bless­ing – the com­pul­sion to write hor­ror fic­tion. It’s all in my head any­way, why not put it on paper? I love hav­ing access to the bizarre and creepy fan­tasies within my own imag­i­na­tion. It’s like hav­ing a pri­vate attic full of won­drous mon­strosi­ties and dark gri­moires to explore and peruse at my leisure.

Which I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. When I wrote the novel THE SAFETY OF UNKNOWN CITIES, I got to explore extremes of erot­ica well beyond what I’ve known in real life. In the novella “Spree” I cre­ated a vengeance-​obsessed pro­tag­o­nist who acts on his fury in ways few sane peo­ple would ever resort to. And in the short story “Extremophiles” for the anthol­ogy AXES OF EVIL, my char­ac­ters find out the hard way what I already sus­pected a long time ago, that the world, in fact, the very cos­mos, is def­i­nitely out to get us.

Writ­ing about the lurid, the per­verse, the unspeak­able has a sur­pris­ing reward – it makes the real world with all its hor­rors seem safer, more man­age­able, and def­i­nitely, in a weird way, more fun!

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