This week, I started writing a brand new novel. Anyone who has paid attention to me knows that I’m already working on more than four other pieces. So, what the hell am I thinking starting something else? That’s just how my ADD writing brain works. Part of the inspiration was trying to choose my summer re-read (every summer I like to re-read one of my favorite books). This year, I was trying to choose between one of my favorite Richard Laymon novels, The Woods Are Dark, and Jonathan Janz’s Savage Species. Holding the two righteously vicious novels and thinking about my first Laymon-inspired debut, The Haunted Halls, I felt that old familiar pull to scribble another chainsaw attack of a horror story. One that would make Ketchum or the late Laymon smile.
I decided to go with Laymon’s re-stored classic.
I got ready to read it and a light bulb went off in my brain.
I opened a new word document and started typing.
In less than 24 hours I typed up the first 8K words for a new novel I’m calling, The Last Show.
Unlike with The Haunted Halls where I had to go back and re-work the story to make it more than just a outright trail of blood and scares, this time around, I want to add great characters and a dump-truck load of heart. Will I succeed? That’s the real trick, isn’t it? Finding the balance between vicious and tender. Heart and outright gore-a-palooza. Sometimes these mad romps of killers tearing apart semi-innocent campers and travelers don’t really call for any Love Me Tender moments, but I believe the ones that stick with us have other memorable characters outside of our violent death dealers. There can be more magic moments than the jaw dropping scenes that scorch our brains. Scenes like, well, almost any in Ketchum’s Off Season, or the fantastic kickstart opening to Laymon’s Woods…(A hairy, half-bodied man who chucks a severed hand at two girls driving down a back road????). These things stick with us, for horror writers, the do a little more. These scenes stain us.
My favorite thing about a guy like Laymon is the surprising helpings of heart he manages to slip in between the line of entrails and the cock with razor sharp teeth that is also a pleasure machine. The Traveling Vampire Show’s childhood romance between its two main characters brought me back to those early episodes of The Wonder Years. Watching Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold kiss for the first time.
How can we replicate this masterful art of blood and beauty? Well, it ain’t easy or everyone would do it. I think the key is one word: honesty. Keep it real (as real as your monsters will allow). It is far easier said than done.Our imaginations can get pretty fantastic. It is easy to get lost on the dark side. To get caught up in the crimson pool of guts that we paint the page with. Sometimes, that’s all a story calls for. I couldn’t write that way, but I know some authors who do and pull it off. For me, I have to push a couple more buttons on my readers. I have to hit those buttons in myself first. I bring up my own guts, my own pain, my own joys, and then I let the monsters terrorize the hell out of all that goodness, all those emotions, all of the honesty.
I hope when I write THE END on the last page of The Last Show, I’ll have accomplished all of that.I promise you one thing–I will give it my best shot.
Here’s to heart, horror, and that crazy Laymon inside of us all.