In 2010 I wrote the Forward to Kevin Wallis’s book, Beneath the Surface of Things. I started off by saying something I like to say in both stories and non-fiction: Picture this. It’s my way of trying to get the readers ready, get their minds set for the images I hope they see from my words.
The next couple of paragraphs to that introduction read:
He looks like any other person, hair a dirty brown, eyes of blue, maybe a Texas Longhorns cap on his head, some shadowed whiskers on his chin. He may even look like the guy next door or that Kiefer Sutherland fellow, but without the intense stare. He sits at a table on the patio of some barbecue joint or coffee house, beverage of choice in front of him (I’m willing to bet it’s the barbecue joint, and the beverage of choice is an ale called Arrogant Bastard, which is somewhat of a contradiction if you know him).
A lady sits across from him, dark-haired, olive-complexioned, eyes a soft brown. They chit and chat about life, the day behind them and the one before them, kids and animals and work and money and probably the Astros. Craig Biggio may come up in the conversation. Yeah, if he were still with the Astros then just maybe…
They look like the average couple in America. And they are.
Go back and read that again. They look like the average couple in America. This is vital for you to understand.
Because Kevin Wallis writes horror and Kevin Wallis is a great guy.
This isn’t about Wallis. It may appear to be, but really, it’s about every horror writer out there.
Did you know:
They’re teachers of children of all ages from K-5 on up through college. Yeah, that’s right. Horror writers (romance writers, as well) are great teachers and a good many of them work in our public school systems.
They work in the health care industry. Nurses. Doctors. Pediatricians. Physical Therapists. Anesthesiologists. Heart Specialists. They drive ambulances. Yeah, they take care of us when we’re sick.
They work in the retail business.
They’re construction workers.
They’re in the military. That’s right. They serve our country and fight for our freedom.
They work in the legal profession, however, I’ve never met an attorney that’s a horror writer. Paralegals and Project Assistants and Administrative Assistants, most certainly.
They work in places like General Motors, John Deere, Texas Instruments, big companies.
They’re security guards and cops.
They work in public libraries, which is probably the most perfect world for a writer, in a place with a lot of books. Many of them work in or own small bookstores.
They’re volunteers at the mission or as firefighters.
They work in our grocery stores and dollar stores and department stores.
They’re waiters and waitresses, hostesses and cooks.
They’re parents. Y’all didn’t know they let them breed, did you?
They’re brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews.
They’re our best friends.
They watch television during the week, just like you and… oh, wait a minute. I’m one of them. I’ve worked in a restaurant and a school. I’ve ran a copy shop and work at a law firm. I’ve worked at video store and I saved a kid from committing suicide.
I taught my sister how to drive and took my baby brother to get his license. I taught Sunday School in a church and I’ve coached both baseball and basketball.
I, like many folks, have helped older folks move.
I play video games.
I have migraines and lost both my grandparents on my mom’s side to some form of Cancer or other. My best friend is black, my boss is younger than me and as I get older, I noticed I’ve gotten shorter.
My favorite book is Where the Wild Things Are. My favorite drink is either milk or strawberry Kool-Aid. I like pizza. I’m having it for lunch today.
I hate shaving and love sports. Red Wings hockey, anyone?
I get sick, just like everyone else out there.
I worry about my children and my wife and I feel pain and sadness and joy and love and regret and guilt and any other emotion you can come up with.
I never got to say goodbye to my grandfather and that haunts me, even today, though he’s been dead for well over a decade.
I have my good traits and my bad traits and I sometimes doubt myself.
I want to succeed. I want people to like my stories.
I’m just like you. All of us are. Horror writers, we aren’t such bad people.
Before you ask a horror writer, ‘where do you get your ideas from’ or ‘why do you write what you do’ or ‘did you have a bad childhood’, just remember, we’re people, just like you. Before you look down your nose at us, just remember, we’re people. There’s nothing wrong with us. Before you judge us, get to know us. Because the cover on our books may not reflect the cover on our lives.
We’re just like you and we’re not mentally disturbed. Well, most of us aren’t…
True story: I drew a picture some years ago of a vampire walking out of the darkness, fangs bared. One of the girls in art class asked, “Why are you so evil?”
“I’m not,” I responded.
And we’re not.
Until we meet again, my friends…