By Patrick R. McDonough
I fell out of love with reading when I reached high school; I blame that on the school system forcing us students into required reading via boring books that I couldn’t care less about. From that point on, the only stories I really consumed were through film and video games. That is until I met my wife, Tara.
When Tara entered the picture, she got me back into reading by giving me a Kindle. Eventually this led to me hunting down Stephen King books at thrift stores, and soon after I bought a Lovecraft collection. That was game over; I was hooked on the strange and weird in written form. This New England kid became obsessed with two of New England’s greatest horror authors. It was during those first few months of getting back into the swing of reading, that the idea of becoming a novelist first popped into my head. I wasn’t sure if it was a crazy idea or not, but I didn’t care. I needed to release all of these stories that were trapped in my head.The first horror novel I ever wrote stemmed just before I met my wife. It was a confusing and angry time. I was at the tail end of a friendship with an older guy that I thought would be a lifelong brother. He was a heavy drinker and, being the young kid I was back then, I often joined him. Unfortunately, he had anger problems, which were heightened whenever he became intoxicated.
At the same time, my oldest cousin was addicted to drugs and found a level below rock bottom (returning to prison wasn’t rock bottom, somehow). He crossed paths and dated a close friend’s cousin (she was using drugs as well) that I enjoyed spending time with. It was the classic fucked-up love story where the guy meets the girl, gets her hooked on heroin, and the girl loses custody of all three of her kids. He returns to prison eventually and she, well… actually I’m not sure what happened to her.
Like a twisted, unrequested game of telephone, my mother would get updates on my cousin from his mother, and then pass it along to me.
“he pushed his girlfriend out of a moving car.”
“his ex-wife got full-custody of their son… she doesn’t let him see her son anymore.”
“he was arrested again. It took five cops to pin him down. He was on meth and some other drugs.”
Often my answer would be, “Ok mom. That’s super. All I was doing was asking you how you were. Didn’t really ask about my cousin… again.” Eventually, I told her I was sick and tired of hearing about him.
Oh yeah, and how can I forget about the oldest friendship I had with, let’s call him Kay. He and I were like brothers, since childhood, going back as far as when we were young boys with nothing but Nintendo and action figures on our minds. That friendship ended when I found out that not only was I not going to be in his wedding party , but I didn’t even get invited to the fucking wedding. That shit hurt. How the fuck wouldn’t I even be INVITED his wedding? Not sure about any of you reading this, but there’s no returning to that friendship as far as I’m concerned.
But the cherry on top of it all, was the loss of a guy who was like a father figure to me. A guy I called Starks. He was an excellent filmmaker, and when I first met him he welcomed me into his film crew to shoot an indie film up in New Hampshire. After that point, we got close. Really close. He directed my first (and only) feature that I’ve written. That was the first time he portrayed a role I wrote specifically for him – Starks. He taught me a lot. We’d talk on the phone for hours, talking about films mainly and he’d teach me the ropes of how it was back in the old days of real film. He was this older guy, old enough to be my dad, that looked and acted like a gangster. Not the kind dressed in a suit, he didn’t need a suit to give off that kind of cool-guy energy. He just was cool. But one thanksgiving, I made my final call to him. As jarring of an ending as this timeline is, that’s how those five years felt. He had already ignored my last call a few weeks prior. So, I left him a “Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you and family have a good day,” message. He never got back to me. Unlike Kay who lived a few houses away from my parent’s house, Starks lived two hours north from me. In a city named Lawrence – known for its crime – rather than driving up to an unsafe area and have this guy tell me to fuck off, I’d rather call it a day and write him in my mythos.
Out of all the friendships that suddenly ended, my friendship with Starks is the only one that I still miss. I miss him a lot. It’s been seven years since we last spoke. He never got to meet my wife. He doesn’t know I moved away from New England to a small town in New Jersey. He’ll probably never know that I still think about him. But, that chapter is over. Call me a stubborn fool, but I tried. I won’t ever attempt to reach out to him again. I wish he would call me, but I guess this is how things are meant to be.
So I’ll do the only thing I know what to do. I’ll have Starks be an important character in a future novel. Because I’m a writer. Because writers are fucked up, because people are fucked up. We’re complicated. I call it fucked up, you probably call it something else, which is fine by me. I embrace the fucked-up writer that I am.
Even though I had my family and a few great friends by my side, I still felt alone. It was hard to explain. I had a couple best friends I could tell everything to, and yet I still felt crushed. I needed something to release all this built up pressure. The only thing that made sense to me was writing. I’ve always written, but it was just for me, and mostly screenplays – almost always horror or comedy,or a mix of the two.
I finally dove into writing my first horror novel. My first novel (albeit an incomplete one) was centered around all of the people that once made me feel like I was going crazy. Some I used their names but most I just used their personalities for inspiration.
They were put through trials.
They were tortured.
Some ripped limb-by-limb.
And, in the end, I killed every single one of those motherfuckers.
It doesn’t matter what the actual plot was, because the mere act of writing the horror was what made me feel better. It helped me deal with them. I haven’t talked about writing my first novel for a while, so this was a fun reminder.
Jump ahead seven years and I’m still learning the nuts and bolts – the mechanics – of writing.
For me, horror was a way to help me cope with the crap I was dealing with in my reality. It still is. I have a great life, sure there’s obstacles for me as there are in anyone’s life, but that’s life. Horror is also something that makes me happy and smile. It’s a general output for a slew of my emotions.
I love where I am in life. My love for horror comes right behind my love for my wife and son. Horror has been like a loving guardian to me. Sure, it’s scary, it’s big, but it’s all of us. Everyone loves horror and if you come to the realization that horror is the answer, then we can all carry on with our lives and fill our daily feed with even more horror. Even those strange folks that claim they “don’t like horror,” or god forbid the ones that “hate” horror. Don’t give up on them, they’re just being silly.