Follow me if you will, back through the years to a Christmas, when I was either eleven or twelve years old (so I can’t remember my exact age at the time, I was a preteen, that’s what is important!). It was right around the time when I stopped wanting to read Goosebumps books. Though, I can not deny that the Goosebumps series was a stepping stone to the works of Stephen King. To give you a booze analogy, Goosebumps was like my first beer, which led me to try the hard stuff; said hard stuff being the hardcover addition of “Nightmares and Dreamscapes”, I got that Christmas morning. It was the first Stephen King book I got, and it was a short story collection. I still have my copy of it too, and I’m convinced that if anyone breaks into my apartment, it will be my best means of defense. It must have been downright comical, to watch a skinny little Sean, lug around that huge beast of a book. And, admittedly, I was young, so I didn’t understand a lot of it.
I could have lied, and just said I was twelve, and not admitted to a case of the fuzzies; it sure would have made my memories sound more credible. But, I have a hard time lying. In the interest of being truthful, I will admit that the next book I got by Stephen King was “Salem’s Lot”. I will add this, despite the fact that my article would be much more concise if I just lied and said the next book I got was “Night Shift”. Make no mistake, “Salem’s Lot” had a profound impact on my wee little noggin. I loved, and still love that novel. I read the version with a purple cover, that was put out by Signet.
So, I plowed through “Salem’s Lot”, and it was the start of my obsession with Mr. King’s fiction. Yet, it was the next book I bought that really doomed me to the life of a horror fiction nerd. And, that book, was “Night Shift”. The edition I read was also put out by Signet.
“Night Shift” is still my favorite of all the short story collections put out, but when I read it all those years ago, I just knew that something about the style of fiction clicked with me. It was like a light bulb finally lit up in my brain. Though I’d be lying if I said I knew after reading the book that I wanted to be a writer. In truth, I wasn’t positive that I even wanted to write until around the age of twenty. Yeah, I’d written papers for school, and even the occasional poem. And, I knew I had a gift with writing. Whenever I’d sit to write a poem, I’d be able to crank one out in less than ten minutes. That’s not why I knew I had a gift with writing; if amount of time put in dictated talent, I’d easily be one of the best. What can I say, like the Motorhead song goes, I was built for speed. No, the way I knew I had at least a passing talent for writing, was quite simply because it was the easiest thing for me to do. In point of fact, I’m much better at expressing myself on the page than I am in real life. If the writing ever does take off (I’m fine if it never does, by the by) I’m terrified that people will think I can’t possibly be the man responsible for the fiction. I’m sure in every spoken interview, I’ll sound like an idiot, and will “oh”, and “um”, and “like” my way into dumb infamy.
Man, can you tell that my mind wanders? If you were in my head, you’d know that every thought is racing around at roughly 100 mph (cough ADD). Okay, time to rope this article back in. Woo doggies, go back towards the main point, you restless colts!
“Night Shift” contains the single most disturbing story I’ve ever read; the story that has made me lose the most sleep out of any I’ve read, in my 27 years on dis planet. Said story is “The Boogeyman”, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, so just go track it down if you’re interested.
“Night Shift” also contains one of my favorite stories of all time, “Jerusalem’s Lot”. I’m telling you right now, if I ever am in a position to get something adapted, I will bust my ass to make “Jerusalem’s Lot” into a movie, set during the time discussed in the tale. This is an idle threat, as what are the odds of that? The story takes place in what later came to be known as “Salem’s Lot”. It is a great story, so go read that one too!
I don’t think there is one story in this collection I don’t love to death. It has the story “Graveyard Shift” which was later adapted into a movie (the story is way better). It has the story “Children of the Corn” and duh, that was adapted too. It has all sorts of beautifully twisted tales sure to keep you up past yah bedtime.
So, how do I know that it was this book that really planted the seed inside me, to want to be a writer? That’s easy; every time I am stressed, or lonely, or depressed, I revisit it. Every time I revisit it, I am reminded of the feelings it elicited within me, when I first read it. It chilled me, but it also excited me. It made me want to read as much horror fiction as I could get my hands on. And, it was the first book I remember reading, and thinking, even if idly, in a “this is a pipe dream” kind of a way; “You know, I wish I could write stories like this someday”.
I kind of buried this dream, and for many years, I switched back and forth with what I wanted to do with my life. I guess, it was because for many years, I assumed I was too stupid to be a writer. Now that I’ve read a lot more, I know that this is quite a silly thought indeed, especially considering the kind of writers that have made it big lately (cough Twilight series).
For quite a few years, I simply wanted to be a skateboard videographer. I skateboarded much more, and I knew I loved movies, so it seemed like the best option for a dummy like me. In college, I decided I wanted to make movies. I still want to, I’m just realistic now, and I know it will take a great many years, and dollars, to get that dream offa da ground. I learned how to screen write, and I wrote a few scripts. They…well, I’m not busting my ass to shop them, let’s put it that way.
And then, my sophomore year of college, around 20, i had a girlfriend, who had an ex who had written her a short story. I read it, and it was positively dreadful. I knew I could write a better one, even with my complete lack of short story writing. So, I wrote my first story for my first girlfriend. Yes, my first girlfriend was in college, and no I don’t care to elaborate as to why it took me so long to get into my first real relationship. The story was about a man who wakes up covered in blood. He checks, and discovers the blood is not his own. He then wanders through the house, and this was where the story got confusing, even to me. I was never sure in my head if the house was his house, or someone else’s house. Afterwards, I wrote a little script version of the story, and it got really insanely convoluted, and involved lady twins, and deception; all sorts of needless crap. I’m glad I never tried to film it.
Whatever, long story short, in the short story, this man wakes up in someone else’s blood, searches house, and opens fridge at end. Big twist, he finds the girl he was with.
Dun Dun Duunnnnn!
Meh, it wasn’t great, but it was the first thing I wrote. And, what was important, was that it showed me I could write fiction, out of the screenplay format.
So, flash forward to now, and I’ve written a book (it’s barely 200 pages, so it is just barely a novel) that I may or may not try to shop later on down the line. I have a few stories accepted for publication. I desperately, desperately, desperately need an editor. For real, I have a learning disability, so sometimes it’s hard for me to notice my mistakes, or even realize my mistakes. For many years, I barely understood many of the basic rules of grammar. So, I just learned by imitation; I read a lot, so that was how I knew what a sentence looked like. I could be disappointed in my lack of knowledge of the fundamentals, but I’m not. Hey, I made it this far, and I barely understood what the rules were, imagine how much better I’ll be when I actually have them down!
This all started with a preteen with a scary short story book. No matter what I end up doing, I will always be a writer. At this point, I don’t think I could not write. Even when I don’t feel like writing stories, I’ll end up working on a story anyway, or at the very least, a poem. So, even if I end up abandoning a desire to make money off of the writing, there will always be the writing. It is a part of me, ingrained as surely as my memories.
I won’t be the first to admit Stephen King’s influence, nor will I be the last. But, I have to give credit, where credit is due.
Thank you Stephen King, for all of the hours you have entertained me, and inspired me. Thank you, for helping a learning disabled boy to be motivated to read, in the important early years.
Most of all, thank you for instilling within me a love of fiction, that will never die.