When I was seventeen, my mother bought me a brand new Ford Ranger. I loved that little blue pickup truck with all my heart, but the thing was a trial to drive. You see, I didn’t know how to drive a stick, and the Ranger had a manual transmission, so whenever I crested a stop sign at the top of a hill, I said a silent prayer, hoping some deity would keep me from rolling backward into the vehicle behind me. About six months later, and without Mom’s knowledge, I traded the Ranger for a much older model Nissan Maxima. There was nothing wrong with the truck—in fact, it was still under manufacturer’s warranty—but I had become sick and tired of being afraid that I would eventually cause an accident with my manual transmission ineptitude. The Maxima lasted all of three weeks before the computer went to pasture and I was left with a ten-year-old turd I couldn’t flush. I owned up to my mother, and in turn, she gave me a piece of pricelss advice:
“Just because something’s hard, that doesn’t mean you give up on it.”
I take that advice with me into every book I write. I don’t cover many light-hearted subjects in my work, and because of that, I catch flak from some readers. The language I use isn’t always the most proper, and the big scenes are often stomach turning, but I go to these places because they are where the story takes me. No matter how much you try to ignore it, people cuss. They’re also capable of horrible things. But if I choose to write about disturbing subject matter, that does not dictate who I am as a human being.
I write about these things to get them out of my mind, not because they’re my fantasies or things I wish to see happen. Horrible situations intrigue me, as I’m sure they intrigue some of you as well. They make me wonder what in the world the perpetrator was thinking. Could there actually be a sane reasoning for his or her actions? I think we all contemplate that from time to time.
Take all these tragic school shootings as of late. Everyone seems to want to know what made the shooter tick, what drove that person to the brink and beyond. We want to know so that we might possibly spot those same attributes in the people around us should they drop off the cliff of normalcy and run rampant with an assault rifle. I look for understanding, but even I know there are some things that we will never have a grasp on as human beings.
I would write in other genres, but thrillers pose the biggest hurdle for me as an author. Romances bore me to no end, and science fiction, for the most part, gives me a blah feeling. Not to mention, writing comedies would be too easy for me. I’ve been told several times that I should write satire or be a standup comedian. My answer to the former is usually, “I have a face for radio and a voice for writing.”
I do juggle comedic moments into the thrillers and horror novels I write, but that’s only to alleviate tension. I try to keep the funny stuff as far away from the horrific as possible, unless the scene calls for it. I need a challenge, so I write about the stuff people don’t want to talk about. Like the Ford Ranger, I would be trading in something challenging for something that requires no learning curve. Also, I’d be letting my mother down.