Sunday, October 31, 2010

True Fright

Robert Frost once said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."

As a writer of YA supernatural fiction and ghost stories, I am frequently asked, "Do you ever scare yourself?"

While I cannot pretend to be Robert Frost, I believe his maxim applies here, as well: No fright in the writer, no fright in the reader.

Truth be told, yes, I do frighten myself with my writing. Some things are more frightening than others, but when I am trying to write a scary story, I am usually dealing with my own personal nightmares. And I have a lot of them.

I grew up in a haunted house. I know that makes me sound like a complete flake, but it's the truth and I would dare anyone to spend some quality time in that house and come away with a different conclusion! What it means to me as a writer, though, is that when I am working with certain scenes and events, I will also be looking over my shoulder as I type. That may sound absurd, but it's the truth.

Case in point: some years ago I wrote a weekly column and articles for a small, local paper. One of my assignments was collecting and writing up true ghost stories submitted by our readers for the Halloween issue. Now, I make it a point to write this sort of thing only during broad daylight. I'm not crazy! And so there I was, sitting at my typewriter (yes, this was some years ago) writing up a particularly nasty ghost story while the kids were away at school and the autumn sun was shining warmly on my plant stand. And while I was typing I was distracted by a very loud crash! that resonated throughout the first floor of our townhouse. I went running, thinking that one of our shelves had collapsed and that I would find a pile of broken dishes or glasses. But there was nothing. I investigated the kitchen, the basement, and the garage, all of which lay in the vicinity of that very loud noise, and found no evidence of anything. Being the sort of writer I am, I stopped writing and got myself some lunch.

I would say that cowardly behavior on my part might seem ridiculous, but I remember reading an interview with Stephen King some years back where he stated that he never sleeps with his feet uncovered, no matter how hot the night is, for fear that the thing under his bed will grab him. I'd say I'm in pretty good company!

Happy Halloween!


  1. You're absolutely right about needing to feel what you right. Since I don't write horror stories, at least I don't have to scare myself. I have encountered several ghosts though and at least one group of them inspired a story.

  2. Someday I would LOVE to hear your story. I collect them! (Stories, that is, not ghosts!)