Sunday, May 15, 2011

Retro Ain't That Bad ...

So, I’m in the middle of several writing projects right now. I’m working on my next novel, THE COMPLEX--another Bentley Little-esque weird horror novel. And while I do that, I’ll be steering clear of reading any of his novels, new or old. So, with that in mind, I decided to peruse the nearly overflowing night table drawer for something interesting to read that won’t color what I write too much.

After sorting through some excellent Charles L. Grant novels (he’s really an amazing author and if you haven’t given him a chance yet, you really need to check him out--I mean that most sincerely--he ranks right up there with “the gods” [more on “the gods” later] ), and casting aside the latest from Little, I picked up my old battered copy of NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King, entranced.

I gazed upon this gorgeous image, and fell back in love. In a blink of an eye, I was 19 again. First year of college had passed by (literally passed by me) and the next was just beginning. I spent an awful lot of time reading NEEDFUL THINGS when it came out and missed an awful lot of class because of it.

Yeah, this would do for the next buncha weeks. This would do, indeed.

Here’s the thing: in 1987, I went through some changes. No, not those changes. Get your mind up to the gutter, please. When I was 15 years old, I was an avid reader, much like I am now. Only a whole lot thinner and a whole lot less gray. But for the longest time in my teens, I was reading novels that were ... well, they were tame, at best. Sure, I’d read some Clive Cussler novels and they were thrilling enough. And I’d burned my way through all the novels Frederick Forsyth had written. At the time (1987), THE DAY OF THE JACKAL was one of my all-time favorite novels. I’d read plenty of historical action / adventure novels of the likes of SHARPE’S EAGLE, Horatio Hornblower and I’d started to swim in a deeper pool of weirdness when I read ON STRANGER TIDES by Tim Powers. I’d read nearly every single novel that Tor ever published in the sci fi series “V”.

But then, in 1987, something ... arrived. Something came into my world and changed everything.

One day in 1987, I picked up a paperback novel that surely was the demise of three or four trees. IT weighed about as much as a brick and its cover was drop dead sexy. IT was enticing. IT was scary looking

IT by Stephen King was an intimidating novel. But, I’d gazed upon it for several weeks when accompanying my mother to PathMark for weekly groceries. Finally, one day, I plunked down my money and picked up a copy for myself. And over the next two weeks, I fell in love. My parents had rented a summer house in Long Beach Island for a handful of weeks and I spent every single day sitting in the sand and every single night sitting on the porch (and laying on the sofa) reading IT by Stephen King. This was a big, beautiful, amazing story of children near my age at the time (sure, there was an age gap but not by much) and mixed in, there was horror and clowns and some awful stuff going on. I had found my greatest literary love: the horror genre.
Which brings me to the main focus of this article. Every single time I see King’s name in that stylized fashion that Viking used to use (think like this:

I get utterly and completely nostalgic. Seeing King’s name in that particular font brings me back to when I first realized I loved reading scary stories and when my world truly opened up. It came at a time in my life when things for me, personally, were a little dark: I didn’t have many friends, I wore glasses and was typecast as the quintessential nerd. Late Middle School, High School was not really a great time for me. And because of that, I clung to stories that weren’t exactly upbeat. Most of King’s work (and even moreso his Bachman books like RAGE and THE LONG ROAD) spoke to me in ways that those swash-buckling heroes or the political potboilers couldn’t.

If you were to fill a room with a bunch of horror authors and ask them “who’s your favorite author?” 8 out of 10 would probably still answer, “Stephen King”. The other 2 are lying.

So, I find it very apropos that, at a time when I’ve got to crunch down and grind out a novel, at a time when I’ve got to mentally set a bunch of things aside, I grab a book that not only makes me reminisce about the “old days” but helps bring back the reason I got excited about horror in the first place.

Re-reading NEEDFUL THINGS isn’t just something to do while I write THE COMPLEX. For me, it’s getting back just a little slice of my high school days. Getting back just a little bit of that feeling of what it was like to discover things again. Like the first time you realized you really liked that girl with the dark hair you saw at the Boardwalk or the first time you take a swig of beer, sitting on a beach with your friends, under the stars and listening to the surf pound away at the shore.

This is what inspires me to write.

What inspires you?

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