“But you look so normal.”
This is the response I often get when people find out
that I write about witches and werewolves and things that go bump in the night. As if writing about the supernatural automatically makes one suspect. Crime and suspense writers don’t seem to get this sort of reaction. If your character is a murderer or serial killer, the writer is just a regular Joe. But as soon as the element of fantasy creeps into the story—murderous kudzu vine or a deadly ghost—the writer is relegated to the corner of society considered weird and different.
I have to confess I’ve been drawn to weird, creepy tales
in all their incarnations ever since I was a wee girl of three.
That was the year I found an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland in the yard and was so enamored with the pictures that I tore out one of the mummy and nailed it to a tree. Barbie and Ken just didn’t hold a candle to movie monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the wolf man. And every weekday afternoon from 1966-1971 I was glued in front of our black and white TV set for another hypnotic episode of Dark Shadows. The gothic soap opera captivated me so much that when my mother gave birth to my brother in 1969, I wanted her to name the baby either Barnabas or Angelique (the protagonist and antagonist of the show).
My favorite record album as a kid was Disney’s Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of the Haunted House. Every Halloween the local TV station would show old monster movies until midnight and I’d try to keep my eyes pried open to stay awake the entire duration. When I was eight, I begged my dad to take me to see the movie Frogs at the drive-in. No, this was not a nature film. I still remember the final scene where a giant toad hopped across the screen with a human hand hanging out of its mouth.
By the time I was ten, I was putting together monster “kits,” as we called them. Little boys would work on models of cars and ships. My dad did model airplanes. I had models of Godzilla, the Phantom of the Opera, and all of the Universal Pictures movie monsters on my shelves that I’d glued together and painted myself.
No, I was not your typical little girl, and yet I had freckles and blonde hair and took dance and baton twirling lessons.
On the outside I was the all-American girl-next-door, but on the inside I could have been a member of The Addam’s Family.
By middle school I was reading Stephen King and Anne Rice
novels and could not get enough of them. When I hit high school, most of the other girls idolized movie stars like
Sean Cassidy and John Travolta. I had the hots for Frank Langella who played Dracula in the 1979 film by John
So what is this fascination with night creatures? Where does it come from? My dad’s older sisters used to regale me with supposedly true tales of ghosts and goblins when they’d visit.
My granddad used to tell me about the“Hatchet Lady of Lake Martin.” But I think my attraction to spook stories began before this. It takes a strong imagination to suspend disbelief for tales of fantasy and the paranormal. And my imagination not only likes to work overtime, but has the muscles of an Olympic weight lifter.
There is also a mythic quality to the speculative fiction
genres. Psychologically, monsters represent man’s dark side and exploring monsters in myth and story help us exorcise those dark qualities while also dealing with the reality of death. Monsters can also represent those who have been rejected by society. Back when I was a socially awkward teen, I wasn’t scared of fictitious monsters, but actually felt a kinship with them. Interestingly enough, real monsters like
Hitler and serial killers scare the hell out of me. Because these people really exist.
So, monsters, creepies, crawlies, and things that go bump
in the night are right up my alley. It’s where my internal compass points.