One of the questions I get asked pretty often (right after gems like "where do you get your ideas" and "why do you write such creepy stuff"), is "Do you ever write anything that scares you?" I think the assumption is that my vile cesspool of a brain is always so dark and terrifying, that nothing in the horror realm scares me anymore. That I craft these stories to such a degree, the things I write cannot possibly scare me.
I can tell you that this is 100% not true.
First, you have to remember I firmly and totally believe that the stories I write do not just come from my imagination. I have a pretty good imagination, sure, but you would have to have experienced what it was like for me to come up with an idea for a story. It comes out of the blue, seeing just a small thing, or a mundane thing, and then suddenly there is the story. Often when I am writing, I am as shocked as I hope the readers are at what is happening there on the pages. That means when I am writing my books, I am often as shocked as I hope the readers are when the scene happens.
What does that mean? It means that, yes, there are times when I can write one of my books and still be scared. Sometimes the things I write come whispering out of the darkness of some void I can tap into with my brain, and tells me the most terrifying and horrifying things. I have learned to live with these thoughts, but they are still there and they still scare me.
When I wrote The Dead Phone, there were several scenes where I was writing on the edge of my seat. Had anyone sneaked up on me in the office and put their hand on my shoulder I would have jumped straight through the ceiling.
When I wrote Storyland, there were two scenes near the end that were so disturbing to my own mind that I could barely write them.
Then came the story that I am writing right now. I won't give away the plot, but as I wrote the opening scenes I was utterly terrified. It started off a bit slow, but then got scarier and scarier. By the time I was done, I turned to my wife and said, "I just wrote the scariest thing I have ever written."
I don't know where these stories come from. As I said, sometimes stories just flash into my head. Sometimes it just takes a cloudy day and sitting at my desk at the office. There have been things on TV shows, or news reports, or podcasts or odd stories that just trigger something. I am sure, there is some dark recess within my brain, where all of these stories reside or that takes these ideas and turns them into the dark tales you read, but it is not a truly conscious thing. It happens without me knowing about it. The story is just there and I am merely the executive assistant taking dictation.
If you want to write and you want to write in the genre, where do your stories come from? Are you a meticulous plotter who outlines, writes extensive character bibles, and plans for each step? Or do the stories come from places you cannot define? My stories come from the second one, and I would not have it any other way.