Once upon I time I was a horror wimp. I had a zero-tolerance scary movie policy. If it could make me scream, cringe, or dripped blood I couldn't take it.
I had nightmares after seeing the Poseidon Adventure: no joke. I'm a bit claustrophobic and I partly blame this film (the other part I blame on the time I got stuck in a sleeping bag).
As Halloween approaches I'm seeing perpetual homage to frights and freaks. Blogs posting lists of the all-time best horror films, windows full of spiders and ghosts, and I realize that at some point I shed my fragile disposition for a tougher one. And I'm wondering when that happened.
Was it simply a result of growing up? Maybe it's that my research focuses on violence in human history and at a certain point I just detached from the visceral fear that had accompanied scary stories. Maybe fear of the things that go bump in the night is always accompanied by fascination.
Because everyone loves vampires right now.
Even Buffy couldn't hate all of them.
I used to hide from scary stories, but now I write them. It was a bit startling when my editor and I concluded that we shouldn't have the swing set in my author photo because the content of my book was too dark for playgrounds. And it really is. And that's who I am now. I don't hide from the dark; I embrace it.
It's not that I don't get scared. There are moments when I'm writing that I freak out, shriek, ditch my laptop and run from the room. At which my husband says "what's wrong" and I say "I'm so scared - the story is so scary!" and he says "but you're writing it."
But it doesn't matter. That's living in the world you write, feeling the words and scenes scream through your veins - I write scary worlds.
So how did I go from "the X-Files is too scary" to mistress of the macabre? I don't know, but I think I like it.