I love these blog posts because I can let the authors pretty much do what they want. In this one, JG tells us about a Halloween that led him to be the author he is now. A great read.
Hello, there! My name is JG Faherty, I’m a horror and dark fiction author, and I’ve been granted free reign for today’s blog. So strap and in prepare yourself for some Halloween-themed brain musings.
I thought long and hard about what to discuss today. The topic of Halloween offers so many options – the history of the holiday, childhood memories, what Halloween means to me, things I’ve written that deal with Halloween.
In the end, I decided to do something of an amalgam and talk about not just a strong Halloween moment but how that moment impacted me as a writer.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Halloween, all the way back to when I was a little kid dressing up as Spider Man, trick-or-treating with my friends, and watching the Great Pumpkin. Back then, it would only be on once the whole month of October and I made sure to never miss it. As I got a little older, two things happened – I added the juvenile pranks of Gate Night/Mischief Night to my celebration (shaving cream, soap, flaming dog poo, all the standards!) and I discovered a book: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury.
To the 12-year-old me, that was possibly the most amazing book ever. Better than Poe, Shelley, Stoker, or Verne, the classic writers I’d been reading up to that point. Better than the Hardy Boys. Better than James Blish, who was writing a lot of Star Trek tie-ins that I enjoyed so much. Better even than Heinlein, who I’d recently discovered.
I fell in love, not just with the book, and Bradbury as a writer, but with how it spoke to me. A kid from a small town in the country who loved scary stuff and carnivals. (Did I mention we used to play in the local graveyards?)
I probably read that book three times before I got into high school, and another three times since. It didn’t start my life-long infatuation with all things horror and Halloween, but it did give me a particular fondness for small-town terrors, Halloween-themed stories, and coming of age stories.
Which leads me to the year 2001.
Yes, we’ve jumped forward quite a bit. 2001 was the year I started writing fiction. The previous year, I’d gotten a side job writing study guides for The Princeton Review, 4th and 5th grade, mostly. English, Language Arts. Each book was about 100 pages long and I had to write the practice reading assignments plus all the questions and answers. Although I’d always had a deep desire to be a writer, I’d never thought I had the ability, and other than 1 very abortive attempt in college, I never tried. I did a lot of writing for work, as a research scientist and laboratory manager, but never fiction.
Until those study guides. And I discovered it was fun. And it came easy to me. I’ve talked about how this led to me writing my first fiction in other blogs, so I won’t repeat that here.
By 2001, I had 2 short stories published. A few others in the works. And then it happened.
A bunch of college students stuck inside a Halloween carnival, run by a demon. They had to go through every room in the haunted mansion, where all the monsters came alive. A cool dream, right?
But there was more.
I dreamed an entire novel, from beginning to end. And not just one story, but a whole series of them. I saw not just the haunted mansion, but also all the other rides, the side shows, the games. The monsters behind the masks at every booth. How the carnival appeared every Halloween since the dawn of time, never in the same place.
When I woke up, I immediately grabbed a notebook and pen and started writing. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. For two weeks, I wrote in the morning, at lunch, and after work. I wrote on the weekends. And I finished that novel in record time. Not an outline, the whole damn novel!
Then I transcribed it into the computer. 137,000 words. I proofed it, got it down to 129,000.
It didn’t sell. I was young and naïve then, I knew nothing about the publishing industry or how bad the quality of a first novel is. Over the next few years, I honed my skills, kept rewriting that book, took the Borderlands Writers Bootcamp and had famous writers critique it. I got a mentor through the Horror Writers Association and she helped me.
And in 2009, I sold it. Carnival of Fear. Published in 2010. Still available (feel free to buy it!).
But remember how I said I dreamed of more?
There’s a lot more.
I wrote 3 short stories based on that carnival. And a novella, which was published by Samhain Publishing a few years ago. Plus some poems. I have the sequel to Carnival of Fear half-written in my computer, and the only reason it’s not complete is because I’ve worked on other books before it. During that dream, I saw the sequel, the spin-off stories. I woke up with ideas for what could happen on every ride, under every tent. I knew which ones would be short stories and which ones longer pieces.
Never in my life had I ever experienced anything like that, and never since.
Although I have, and will, write about other things, every couple of years in one way or another I come back to the world of Carnival of Fear and pluck another story from my dream memories.
What is it about the Carnival of Fear universe that is so vital to me I keep going back to it?
It’s my Something Wicked. In the past, I’ve said my book was an homage to Bradbury’s. And it is. Teens, haunted carnival, strange carnies, bad things happen. But it’s more than that.
Because I identified so much with Bill Halloway and James Nightshade, I created characters like them for my stories. Ordinary boys, girls, men, and women caught up in something they don’t understand. Small town people, because where else would a mysterious carnival pop up?
People like me. Like my friends and family.
Bradbury wrote with a simple, everyman style, and all my favorite authors write that way. Do I like them because of him? Probably. Folks like King, Keene, Wilson, Koontz, Hamilton, Collins, Maberry.
Did Bradbury play a part in shaping the way I write? How could he not?
After I found Bradbury and read everything I could by him, I discovered other writers who focused on that small town or country vibe. Manly Wade Wellman. Karl Edward Wagner. People who made any story feel like a cold October night in upstate New York.
Bradbury has written a lot of stuff, but for me opening any of his books always makes me feel like I’m opening the door to Halloween, that it’s the season where anything can happen.
When I wrote Carnival of Fear, I wanted my book to be just like that for a new generation. Not just frightening, but exhilarating. I wanted people to remember what Halloween was like as a kid, as a teen, when they turned those pages. I wanted them to smell the popcorn and cotton candy, taste the candied apples and French fries and hot dogs.
Remember what it was like to pal around with friends or hold hands with someone special and breathe the crisp October air.
I wanted them to feel the way I did when I read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the first time.
And that’s my Halloween story for you.
A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts in Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 7 novels, 10 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from Flame Tree Press in August of 2019. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 60s, 75, 70s, and 80s. Which explains a lot.
The carnival is in town… What was supposed to be an evening of fun and laughter for JD Cole and the other students of Whitebridge High turns into a never-ending night of terror. Trapped inside the Castle of Horrors by the demonic Proprietor, good friends and bitter rivals must band together to make it through the maze of torturous attractions, where fictional monsters come to life, eager to feast on human flesh. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, and aliens lurk around every corner as JD and his friends struggle from one room to the next, fighting for their sanity, fighting to survive, fighting to escape … The Carnival of Fear.
She was born with the power to cure. Now she’s developed the power to kill. Leah DeGarmo has the power to cure with just a touch. But with her gift comes a dark side: Whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself.
Now a sadistic criminal has discovered what she can do and he’ll stop at nothing to control her. He makes a mistake, though, when he kills the man she loves, triggering a rage inside her that releases a new power she didn’t know she had: the ability to kill.
Transformed into a demon of retribution, Leah resurrects her lover and embarks on a mission to destroy her enemies. The only question is, does she control her power or does it control her?
In this new collection of stories, genre favorite JG Faherty takes you on a tour of unholy houses, where you’ll find:
– A man struggling to discover why all the people in his life are disappearing when he falls asleep.
– An accident in a mountain pass that turns into a deadly encounter with a mythical beast.
– A man who learns that the only thing worse than being a passenger on the train to Hell is being the engineer.
– A town where the dead coming back to life isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
– A young couple who uncover a terrible secret in the town that has ostracized them for their sins.
– A science experiment gone wrong that could spell the end of mankind.
The collection also includes “The Lazarus Effect,” a chilling post-apocalyptic story where survivors face off against godless undead, and a brand new novella-length sequel, “December Soul.”
After being burned alive by a gang, the Hell Riders, he used to belong to, Eddie Ryder returns as a heavy-metal spouting ghost with a temper that’s worse now than when he was alive. At first he is nothing more than a floating presence, depressed he has to spend eternity watching his teenage brother, Carson, and ailing mother struggle without him. Then he develops powers. And he can control electricity. He can conjure the ghostly doppelganger of his motorcycle, Diablo, and fly across the sky, but he can’t escape the boundaries of his hometown, Hell Creek.
Eddie decides to exact his revenge on the bikers who killed him. Before he can do more than scare some of the bikers, however, he discovers something even better: he can posses people. He uses this ability to get the gang members to attack each other, and to deliver a message to the current leader, Hank Bowman: Eddie’s Coming.
Spouting fire and lightning from his fingers and screaming heavy metal lyrics as he rides the sky above the town of Hell Creek, he brings destruction down on all those who wronged him, his power growing with every death. Only Eddie’s younger brother, Carson, and the police chief’s daughter, Ellie, understand what’s really happening, and now they have to stop him before he destroys the whole town.