Before I dive into tonight's post, let me point out that my friend Tara had a book come out on Friday. It's available only on ebook format right now, and you can buy it from Amazon or her publisher, Ellora's Cave. It is contemporary romance, which is not my usual thing, but I will be reading it and letting you know what this anti-alpha male reader thinks of it.
thin-skinned that I have an imagination problem. When I'm alone in my apartment, I have to have all the lights on. If there are dark corners or strange shadows, my imagination insists there's something there, even though it's physically impossible. I can't do basements, because I'm convinced, no matter how secure I know the basement is, that there's a monster hiding in the shadows down there, waiting to get me. I can't see a dark spot without populating it with something menacing and strange and frightening. Even mirrors are a source of horror; I always imagine something emerging from behind me in the reflected surface.
I've been that way for a long time. I never outgrew that nervous phase that most kids go through, when they have a hard time discerning between fantasy and reality. To this day, I can't watch a scary movie without the feeling that the monster or mysterious menace from the movie is lurking in wait for me. It gets so bad that sometimes I make my husband keep me company while I shower, so it can't sneak up on me while I'm washing the shampoo out of my hair.
You'd think I'd want to get rid of this tendency. It's led to a lot of missed sleep, after all, and makes it difficult to be the full-fledged night owl I tend to be when left to my own devices. When I'm safe in my little island of light, the last thing I want to do is get up to cross the intervening darkness.
And yet, I wouldn't give it up for all the world. When I was still young (sixth or seventh grade, I think), and despairing of ever being anything but a nervous, panicky, phobic girl, I read an interview with Stephen King. I'm paraphrasing, but he said that he left the bathroom light on in strange hotel rooms. He told people it was to keep from banging his shins in the middle of the night, but of course he knew it was to keep the monster under the bed at bay. He was confessing that he, a grown man, was afraid of monsters and what lay in wait in the shadows. And he was, even then, one of the most successful authors alive. He'd turned that paranoia and fear into a very lucrative writing career, scaring other people just as effectively as he scared himself.
I wouldn't dare compare myself to Stephen King. I haven't nearly enough arrogance. But I do try to do the same thing. When I'm afraid, I try to capture that fear on the page. I try to depict it in ways other people can understand, even if they don't spend every nighttime moment jumping at shadows. I pour the things I'm afraid of into the antagonists, and give my protagonists what I'm afraid of to deal with.
I don't write a lot of horror, because that tends to increase my nervousness. But when I do, I feel it's an effective outlet. And all that jumpiness and irrational fear is worth it. Without it, I don't think I'd have half the ideas I do. I would rather have a lifetime of pulse-pounding moments than to not be able to write.