Why I Write Horror

I thought I’d give a little bit of a back story about why I write horror.

One of my first memories is a late night with my father watching HBO when I was probably 3 or 4 years old. I should have been in bed, but I learned that if I crept out to the living room I could lay with my dad on the brown and orange plaid couch and get to watch whatever he had on television.

The night that I remember the most was the night that Jaws was playing a little after midnight. I remember the music, the shark and my mother yelling at my father to not let me watch it. Her shouting made me laugh. My father calmly replied that it was fine.

Something clicked inside of my brain. Horror movies are scary, but they are also fun. And as long as you have your dad protecting you, you will be fine.

When I was six, I learned about the movie, Poltergeist, from two little girls who lived up the street. After watching the movie, they dared me to go into their basement. They told me that there was a Poltergeist down there. I was excited and I went down the creaky stairs, expecting some kind of magical thing to happen. It was dark, but it was just a boring furnished basement with parquet flooring.  When I returned upstairs, they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t scared.

My mother instilled a love of horror as I got older. She would recommend movie after movie to me, excited that she could finally share them with me. We had summers of Alfred Hitchcock and when I saw the colors and composition of Vertigo, I was hooked. By my teen years, my mother would recommend movies from her teen years in the 70s where she spent her time going to drive-in movies or spending all night at the cinema, seeing two movies for the price of one.  It was Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th,  Rosemary’s Baby, and Carrie. “Jessica, don’t forget to watch the movies to the end, you don’t want to miss anything,” she’d remind me.

When I was about twelve years old, I would write for fun. Just simple little mystery stories that were inspired by The Babysitters Club and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  When I hit my early twenties, I tried to submit to magazines, contest, and literary journals. I failed miserably and I gave up. I quit writing for six years. I threw out my old handwritten stories and cleaned out my writing folder. I still watched horror movies, probably more than ever.

However, writing and horror kind of go hand in hand. They always come back, no matter how hard you push them away.  So here I am, trying to get back out there and find a spot for all the stories that I need to tell.



Have you ever owned an evil item?

Have you ever owned an item that could be evil? Have you ever picked something up and immediately felt a bad energy, a sinking feeling, or just absolute dread? These are the questions that run through my head when I sit down to write a story.

For the past six years, I’ve sold vintage and antique items online. I’ve spent some serious time at estate sales, antique shops, and yard sales. I’ve been to sales that are unorganized and others that are run by professionals. Some days I found myself  rummaging through people’s possessions in a darkened basement or going into an upstairs bedroom that hadn’t been touched since the 1980s, complete with Alf school folders and Star Wars bedsheets.

If it was a good day,  I’d find things that I’d fall in love with and need to add to my collection. But there are times I have left things behind, because it just didn’t feel right. I’ve skipped rooms that made me shiver.

One time, in a near empty home nestled in the woods,  there was a Ouija board in a child’s bedroom closet on the top shelf. It was one of the classic boards from the 60s and it was in perfect condition. But it felt off to me and I felt like I needed to leave the bedroom. The woman running the sale smiled and said, “No one wants this.” I gave a shrug as I backed out of the house. I didn’t want to take it home. Or maybe IT didn’t want me to take it home.

So when I start to brainstorm a story that is about an evil object, I think about the character too. Is the object really evil or has the character been evil all along? How does the item change the person? Does it trick them? Does it make them believe that it’s going to help them? Is the character using the object? Or is the object using the character?

I can’t help but think that we own our items, but our items also own us too. And maybe there’s a little bit of good in everything. And maybe a little bit of evil too.