Welcome to the sixth day of Howl-O-Ween – I hope you enjoyed the guest posts so far! We have another brilliant guest post and another giveaway for today, sooooooo without further ado, let’s welcome Paul Dail
Paul Dail is the author of The Imaginings, a supernatural/horror novel, as well as several other novel and short story projects. Writing has always been his passion, and while he will quickly tell you that the people he has met in the many places that he has traveled have been the best schooling he could get, Paul received his formal education in English with a Creative Writing emphasis at the University of Montana, Missoula. He has had a non-fiction submission published in The Sun magazine’s Reader’s Write section entitled, “Slowing Down.” Currently Paul lives in Southern Utah, amid the red rock, sagebrush and pinion junipers, with his wife and two daughters. He teaches Language Arts and Creative Writing at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts.
One question people often ask me as a horror writer is why I write the things I do? And perhaps more importantly, I can tell they are wondering if they should be worried if they ran into me in a dark alley all alone? Without anything to protect themselves. Far away from anyone who might help them.
Or at least, far enough. (insert sinister laugh)
Seriously, though, most of my friends and family would say that I’m a pretty mellow, gentle, and kind individual (I’m finding this to be the truth about many horror writers). So why in the world does my brain create these stories?
I’d like to say my affinity for the dark side came from watching the old “B” horror movies as a kid, then reading Stephen King and the likes through high school and well into college, but truth be told, maybe there’s something deeper, something I was born with.
While most kids have imaginary animals, or other invisible friends, my imaginary friend when I was three to four years old, living in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York was “The Little Man Outside with a Flashlight.” Creepy, right? Now while I don’t imagine that I’ll ever create anything as screwed up as Eraserhead, this is the type of imaginary friend I would imagine David Lynch had as a child.
And although I don’t remember, apparently one very dark night at our farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, I scared the bejeezus out of the babysitter when I started talking about my imaginary friend. So maybe telling scary stories has been there all along.
I know this is “chicken or egg” sort of stuff, but these days as an adult, I’m the type who knows the horror movies are fake but still gets a little scared. And a little more likely to lock the doors. I’m also mildly superstitious. And when the seemingly bi-annual predictions for Doomsday come and go, even though I feel mostly confident I will live to see the Day After Tomorrow (see what I did there?), I’m the type who is never quite comfortable until these expiration dates are passed.
I had a pretty minimalist religious upbringing, but I believe that even just a limited exposure to the Bible instills a fear that it all has to end sometime. And growing up on the tail-end of the Cold War, I vividly remember the fear that seemed so prevalent in this country of death from a nuclear holocaust. And I will always remember the bomb drills we did in elementary school. Cowering under a desk waiting for the bombs to fall. That’ll scar a person for sure.
So I’m guessing that as a result of some part of all the above, I write the types of stories that I do. And when I don’t, when I take a break that starts to last too long, as oft they do, my nightmares will run me ragged, keep me awake and make me fear going to sleep. Or even make me afraid to be awake.
I will never forget several years ago when I woke up in the middle of the night, but was afraid to move because I convinced myself that my whole life was fabricated by someone/something otherworldly. Completely awake at this point, I lay there paralyzed in fear and confusion, believing that nothing about my life was actually real, even to the point that I knew that I couldn’t wake up my wife to comfort me because she didn’t really exist either; she was implanted into my life by “Them,” and her act of trying to comfort me, convince me that I had just been dreaming, was exactly what an imposter masquerading as my wife would do.
This went on for at least fifteen minutes before I finally forced myself to sleep, knowing that there was nothing I could do about it, hoping that I actually did exist and this was just some exhausted delusion. But it had such an impact on me that I was nervous about going to sleep the next night.
And it happened again. At almost the exact same time of night. The second night was a little less stressful, and I don’t recall it lasting as long (of course, maybe I was just more tired and able to more easily force myself back to sleep). But when I got into bed the third night, I was even more scared, if for no other reason than the possibility that I was going insane and that this was going to be a regular occurrence.
Fortunately, it didn’t happen the third night, but I have to admit that there’s still an undeniable little part of me that wonders if I didn’t get a glimpse of the truth of my actual existence that night.
So you see, in answer to the question of why I write the things I do, I would have to say that it isn’t really a choice.
(This piece is taken from a longer post of the same title at my blog that continues on to discuss why I am passionate about craft of writing in general… not just horror stories. If you liked this, I would hope you would go there.
Another post at my site you may enjoy is “A Day in the Mind of a Horror Writer… or… Why My Brain is Different from Yours.”)
To read the full version, click here: http://pauldail.com/2011/06/17/why-do-i-like-to-write-horror-stories/
To read “A Day in the Mind of a Horror Writer…or…Why My Brain is Different from Yours.” click here: http://pauldail.com/2011/09/01/a-day-in-the-mind-of-a-horror-writer-or-why-my-brain-is-different-from-yours/
Paul is giving away an e-book copy of his book, The Imaginings to one lucky winner.
For your chance to win this book, just leave a comment below with your email address.
Contest open internationally and ends on November 5.
Good luck to everyone!