My Halloween Inspiration
I am sure that my affinity for Halloween and all things spooky is similar to that of most people who find themselves drawn to the horror writing culture. It starts at an early age, and it continues to grow at an insatiable rate until one day you find yourself in your big-boy shoes staring at a room full of plastic skeletons, two dozen black hairy spiders, and a cauldron full of body parts while the original Halloween from 1978 runs an endless loop on every television in your house. It is then that you sit back and realize your life has turned out just the way you hoped that it would.
I have always loved the idea of stepping out of myself into another character’s shoes. Halloween is that one time of year where we can all do that without fear of judgement. Though the undead genre had made great strides within the past decade, I am sure that if I were to stumble down the halls of Rutgers University dressed as a zombie, moaning, and grabbing at passers-by, it would not be well received. Now if I were to do that on Halloween it would not only be perfectly acceptable, but it would also be expected, if not required. What is not to love about going to a party dressed as Gene Simmons’ demon from Kiss? Six-inch spiked boots, chain mail armor, full make up complete with blood spitting pellets, and the optional ability to shoot balls of fire. It is a costume everyone should wear at least once in their lifetime.
I consider myself fortunate that my childhood took place during a period where people still respected the classics. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Night of the Living Dead were staples for the children my age. There was a great sense of mystery that was to be gained from watching the old black and white classics as they were shown everyday on what channel eleven called the 4:30 Movie. If you got lucky there might be a weeklong Planet of the Apes movie marathon or a Horror Week series. Sundays at 11:30 were a special time as well as the Abbot and Costello movie would be on, possibly the one where they met the Wolfman, or even Dracula. Actors like Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and of course Bela Lugosi were the icons of the golden age, to name a few, who helped inspire that mystery and love for the macabre in all of us.
But it wasn’t all steeped in the classics, although many of what was considered contemporary horror releases would soon be considered classics themselves. I was in High School when Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released, also the movie Ghostbusters. I remember when Misery came out in hardcover and then later interpreted onto the big screen. I sat in theaters when Friday the 13th came out. I jumped from my seat, spilling my popcorn the first time I saw cute little Jason pop out of the water.
Let’s face it. Halloween isn’t a holiday, it isn’t a time of year, and it isn’t a season. Halloween is a feeling. You either get it or you don’t. I am a Halloween person. I married a Christmas person, and it didn’t work out. You can imagine why. It goes way deeper than the fact that all I wanted to watch was scary-ass movies and all she was interested in was sappy chick-flicks written by guys like Nicholas Sparks. Oh, the horror!
I say all this for a reason. As a writer…as a horror writer…as a sarcastic, introverted, creepy-ass, horror writer, Halloween is largely responsible for who I am. It has shaped my outlook, my thought process, my day-to-day interactions, and it consumes my ideologies…for real!
I am by no means the most extreme horror writer out there. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider my writing extreme at all. I am, however, a writer of speculative, gothic, dark, psychological, suspenseful, morbid, and oftentimes, rather sad stories. That’s not to say that I don’t have the capacity to explore other emotions in my stories, A good writer covers the gamut and can utilize the combination of human emotions throughout the course of their text. I hope to be one of those writers one day…lol.
There is one story that I have been working on, for about a year and a half now, that I would like to expand upon. The inspiration for this story comes from the very first Halloween party I threw as a lad. I was in grade school and had constructed a haunted house in my basement which succeeded in scaring the pants off most of my friends. The rest of the party consisted of cupcakes, costumes, and my mother inventing creepy Halloween based party games. She blind folded us and passed around various objects for us to hold.
“These are his intestines,” she said as she passed the innards of the carved out pumpkin to me and my friends.
We did that light as a feather stiff as a board thing where you lift the big kid by only using two fingers. It was a blast, and it became something that I did every year. This followed me into my later years as Halloween parties, parties at bars on Halloween, continued to appealed to me on a profound level. The thought and work that I would dedicate to the fabrication of the perfect costume was an event in itself.
Naturally, I was a child quite some time ago. The seventies and eighties were very different in many ways. For one, the lack of technology is a huge thing to consider. If you were lost in the words in 1980, you were really lost in the woods. There were no cell phones and there was no GPS. If you got stuck on the side of a dark road, you were praying that someone would come along and help you before some psychopath showed up and turned you into a slipcover for his couch. It was a scary time because there was less connectivity linking you to sources of help. You definitely didn’t want to have to walk to a payphone on a dark deserted highway in the middle of the night.
I started writing my story, which shall remain nameless until the point where it is copywritten and ready for release, as the world went under lockdown. While social distancing and mandatory quarantines were in effect in the area I lived, I came up with the idea of a story that takes place during a time when you couldn’t rely on a cell phone or GPS to bail you out of tight situation. I spent roughly six months feverishly hammering away at the archaic device I used to write my first draft. I began this story sometime in April of 2020 and on October 30th of that year, I looked up from the tiny screen as I typed the final sentence of my saga to find that I had a staggering 500k word monster staring back at me. For a little perspective, Stephen King’s unabridged version of The Stand clocks in very close to 500k words. I by no means dare to compare myself to the Master of Horror, I only use the word count as a reference.
Needless to say, I was exhausted. I had spent approximately six months writing for five uninterrupted hours a day. I had no idea where the story was even coming from as it appeared to flow out of me from an unknown source. It was spontaneous and oddly enough, it had started out with the intention of being a short story. The never-ending short story apparently. I would spend my daylight hours outlining and framing where the next few chapters would logically go but never had a clear picture of where the story was headed. It was as much a thrill of discovery for me as it will eventually be for the reader.
On October 30th, 2020, I was finished…with the rough draft. I had made some typo edits along the way but no major revisions. I needed to step away, I needed a break. I needed to focus my attention on other projects while this beast sat and marinated for a while. Abigail had already been written at this time, along with several other of my stories that have been recently published. I started writing other short pieces and went about the process of shopping my material. I landed a few magazine publications, got a job with the Observer, and even stumbled into a cool gig with Princeton University. Then Abigail got published which started the ball rolling and brought me back to the idea that it was time to dive into my doorstopper of a story.
Halloween is the pivotal moment in my saga, at least it’s the lead up to it. It is the feeling in the air of the small town that I created, and it is also the day after the day that I completed the first draft. My first day of rest…lol. In June of this year, six months after the final sentence had been written, I dove back into my story. I began the process of redrafting and tightening up, fixing the prose, and patching the holes. This has been an even bigger undertaking than the initial writing of the story itself.
I see this story as possibly being my life’s work…at least up to this point. It is an encompassing tale of horror, love, family, betrayal, and survival. It is rich with back story with a town full of characters, each one more interesting than the next. And it is a fast-paced race to save the day.
Looking at the sheer magnitude of my Halloween tale I see it as possibly being four separate novels. All of which will be quite lengthy on their own. Maybe Stephen King can put out a 500k word story and expect people to buy it, but for the new kid on the block, that might not fly. I have recently finished redrafting book two and am about to dive into book three. Fortunately, I have other releases ready to go, that will be sent to the press according to the release dates I have loosely scheduled. I am still open for the medium of this projects release and imagine that will continue to mature as the story itself does.
Although I am not at liberty to reveal much else about this story, I will say this…If you love Halloween, if you love epic sagas, and if you love survival-based horror, you are in for a treat. With any luck we will be discussing this story in depth next Halloween.
I look forward to seeing you then…Daemon
Trick or Treat
You little monsters!
Daemon Manx writes horror and speculative fiction. He is a member of the Horror Authors Guild (HAG) and has had stories featured in magazines in both the U.S. and the U.K. His short story, The Dead Girl, became a finalist in The Green Shoe Sanctuary’s summer writing prompt contest in August 2021. His debut novelette, Abigail, was released through Terror Tract Publishing and has received 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads. He lives with his sister and their narcoleptic cat Sydney in a remote cabin off the grid, where they patiently prepare for the apocalypse. There is a good chance there they will run out of coffee.
Strange things come in small packages. Adrian Billard believes he knows what it’s like to be different, and has nearly given up hope of ever finding happiness. But, a strange package left on his doorstep is about to turn his entire world upside down. Everything Adrian thinks he knows is about to change. He is about to meet…Abigail.