In the week or so since I completed the first draft of The Guests of Honor (March 1, 7:30 a.m.), I’ve thought a lot about what pushes me to the images that are most lasting and most inspiring for writing. I pull images from my head, from my travels, from my dreams, but there is one motivator that overrides all of the others.
I don’t write horror.
While there are suspenseful moments in what I write, The Guests of Honor is far closer to an attempt at a modern fantasy universe for adults with an odd streak of Rube Goldberg puzzle-solving. It is a contemporary fantasy adventure with a mystery at its core, with family tension and romantic elements as seasoning.
So where does the fear come from?
How does it turn into the story I actually told?
I’ve always had vivid, hyper-realistic nightmares. The problem is that they were vivid, hyper-realistic nightmares that involved things like giant purple octopuses wearing carny outfits trying to convince me to play a carnival game called ‘Toss Your Arms to Win a Prize’. Not having arms that were either a) detachable or b) regenerating this did not work out well for dream-me.
My fear comes in the combination of the fantastic and the ridiculous.
As genuinely terrifying as the images are when I face them in the middle of the night, when I write them down they become vivid stories and lose some of their mental sting.
These are the scenes that my readers tell me are the ones that they wake up and remember.
I dream of family, friends, and foxes.
But it is the nightmares that bring the magic.