I WRITE HORROR AND I’M AFRAID OF THE DARK
by Barbara Rein
Please welcome Barbara Rein to the Writers Journey Blog this week!
Things that scare me:
Autumn leaves skittering down the street at dusk. Are they coming for me?
Gnarled limbs with pitchfork fingers dipping and swaying in the night wind. Are they reaching for me?
Black holes tucked into the corners of shadowy rooms. Are they beckoning me?
The only way to overcome my fears is to write them. The terrors my imagination congers, I turn into prose. I create the goosebumps. Dole out the chills. Make the unimaginable manageable. I take control. And that is how Tales from the Eerie Canal: 22 Stories of the Delightfully Dark and Creepy came about.
As a child, I was enamored with Hans Christian Andersen’s macabre fairy tales. A few of my favorites:
The Little Match Girl: A poor little girl, selling matches on a cold winter night, uses them to keep warm. She freezes to death when the last one goes out.
The Red Shoes: A young girl puts on a pair of red dance shoes. Unable to take them off, she dances until she drops dead.
The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf: A nasty little girl, bringing a loaf of bread to her poor mother, uses it as a stepping stone to cross a puddle. She sinks down into mire, down into hell.
Fun bedtime reading? It was for me.
My twisted sense of story found kinship in endless episodes of Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits, Chiller Theater, Night Gallery, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and my all-time favorite movie, the original Little Shop of Horrors. I learned from them, crafting my stories with more goosebumps than gore.
What saves me from my own nightmares? I love to laugh. And to make others laugh. My alter ego is a stand-up comic. The real me is afraid (there we go again) of speaking in front of an audience, even though I’m a founding member of a local Toastmasters International club, an organization that promotes public speaking. I strive to get the butterflies to fly in formation, but those wings—they beat at me. So my podium is my computer, with a laugh track running in my head. I’ve written more than a few tongue-in-cheek essays including the Amazon #1 best seller, “On a Roll: My Addiction to Toilet Paper.”
How does my chuckle gene relate to my main genre? Well, horrors—there’s humor in there! If I’m scaring myself too much, I’ll grab a funny bone and give it a yank. Because when horror becomes too intense, humor offers a release.
Author R. L. Stine says of humor and horror, "It's the very same visceral reaction. If you sneak up on somebody and you go, 'Boo!' First they gasp, and then they laugh. It's totally connected. And writing it is pretty similar.” He should know. He wrote joke books before scaring kids, incorporating both in a his wildly popular Goosebumps series. Like Stine, I wrote funny first—children’s poems rife with puns and punchlines. Humor runs in my veins, occasionally bleeding its way into one of my disturbing tales.
That tale might even be of a tail, exposing me as a dachshund addict. I’ve been owned by three. The long dog shows up occasionally in my short stories, but more regularly on my sofa, my bed, and my lap.
I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Aside from spending too much time thinking in the shower, puckered fingers be damned, this is how I work: instead of a notion for a story, I get a title. Then I come up with an ending. I just need to fill in the blanks. Like Mad Libs. Hah—if only writing was that easy. But it is that fun. On the way to the dentist one day, I passed a truck stenciled “Owens” on the side. That made me think of Owens Corning pink fiberglass insulation. And what strange things that wheel of batting could possibly insulate. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, I had “Covered” composed in my head, about a cancer patient who can’t stop shivering. She’s stalked by the pink roll and finally finds warmth when the insulation blankets her in her coffin. This is what I tell people who have writer’s block—know where you’re going. Then write to it.
What’s next? Inside me there’s a children’s story throwing a tantrum to come out. One of these days I will let it have its way. But for now, with the door to Tales from the Eerie Canal locked up tight, more psychological horror is percolating. I’m working on book two, Shadow of a Doubt, another samovar of deliciously disturbing tales. You know what they say: when one door closes, the dark creeps in. And that scares me.
BIO: Barbara Rein debuted her first book series in fourth grade, The Adventures of Cassandra McGillicuddy in Outer Space, complete with stick figures drawings. Admonished by her teacher for doing book reports on her own books (and didn't she have chutzpah), she put writing aside for years while stories piled up in her head. One day she opened her laptop and out they poured. She is now an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author.
Barbara writes strange, fantastical, and downright weird short stories. Reimagined nightmares concocted from a childhood of diet of macabre fairy tales and endless episodes of Twilight Zone. Her stories, filled with goosebumps and belly-laughs, are gathered into her book, Tales from the Eerie Canal: 22 Stories of the Delightfully Dark and Creepy. She also writes chuckle-inducing essays inspired by the quirks and oddities that bounce her way.
Barbara is an admitted dox-a-holic, featuring the long dog in a few of her short stories. She and her husband travel with a well-packed suitcase between New York and Florida.
See her book on Amazon:
Tales from the Eerie Canal: 22 Stories of the Delightfully Dark and Creepy
See all her stuff at: