I was what you would call a Wednesday Addams sort of child. Kept to myself. Read books during recess. Got bullied for not fitting in. The usual crap that most kids go through. I was amazed by tales of Greek Mythology that I discovered by reading my older brother’s books, and I read and re-read the myths until I knew them off by heart. Halloween was my favourite holiday, and Halloween episodes on TV were always my favourites (although like any kid, I loved Christmas, but more than anything, I loved The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Tim Burton’s amazing stop motion musical fantasy film). Skeletons, ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, zombies–I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I was addicted to R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and read as many of them as I could. I adored Tales from the Cryptkeeper the cartoon and Scooby Doo.
Something always drew me toward the supernatural beyond a child’s curiosity to matters such as what happens after we die, is there such thing as Heaven and Hell, does the Devil really exist, are vampires real and how come they can live forever, etc. Music can be an escape, or movies/tv, and certainly those held true for me, but nothing helped me escape reality–and enjoy the thrill of the escape–like supernatural tales. Ghost stories. Pretending that there were creatures in the attic, lurking, waiting for fresh victims. Pretending that there were demons in the cold-room and crawlspace. Not knowing what was out there when the lights weren’t on in the basement. That sense of mystery and wonderment made me afraid, but it also made me feel alive. I started to spin tales of scary things, inventing characters, imagining what kind of evil lurked out in our backyard at night, being terrified of having the curtains open at night, not being able to sleep with the sounds of the howling wind rustling through trees, branches clicking…
When I first put my pen to paper, the tales weren’t actually supernatural. I actually started out writing screenplays and had aspirations of being a screenwriter along the same lines as Steve Zaillian and William Goldman. But then my work holistically made a shift to the paranormal, and I didn’t have to think twice before knowing that I was going to write about vampires. I’ve had a very long history with the fanged creatures, and though they’re everywhere we turn now, it wasn’t always so. Sure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was around but I was a bit young when it originally aired, and only watched it years after it went off the tube. Images of Bela Lugosi in Dracula and Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation dominated my image of what vampires were. And then I discovered Interview with the Vampire (1994), at first in its film version, then afterward through the novel.
Anne Rice ushered me into dark new territory that I’d never encountered, and it was exciting. Years later I would discover another work that would make me feel the same intensity of passion as IWTV had, and it came in the form of a video game called Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver , a third-person action adventure game that chronicles the life of a wronged vampire named Raziel, who used to be the highest-ranking lieutenant to Kain, king among the bloodsuckers, until he had the “audacity” to grow a pair of wings and evolve before the master. Kain had him thrown into the Abyss, and Raziel suffered an agonizing and torturous death. But he came back to life with the intercession of a squid-like being named the Elder God. The rich world-building, the characterization, and the intricate plotting of Raziel’s story had me hooked from the first opening video to the game. It filled me with a sense of need and urgency that I’d never felt before to pick up a pen and write my own vampire tale.
By that time, I was past the “vampires as romantic love interests are so dreamy” phase and well into the “vampires who kill mercilessly and don’t think twice about it kick ass!” phase, which I’ve happily sat in since then And so I wrote my first novel, which used to be about vampires but later evolved into creating an elaborate race that lived in a steampunk universe resembling Victorian England.
After vampires, my next love affair became angels, and more specifically, fallen angels and demons, which is something that has continued to this day. I researched everything I could find about them–their names, where they’d come from, biblical lore–all of it. I studied many different texts that all led up to my second novel, which is essentially a Hamlet-like fallen angel revenge story about a son seeking justice for his wrongfully murdered father.
I was writing dark fantasy tales at the time, as well, but the tone kept getting darker, and darker, and I cranked the knob on the meter from dark fantasy that led me to horror. Since then, I’ve written two more novels, and studied even more subjects that interest me beyond demonology. In university, I studied book history and the origin of ancient libraries, papyri, scrolls, and manuscripts. I’ve retained a sense of curiosity, something that I think is essential for any writer, and every day it continues into new territory and things I’ve never heard of before.
When I had the pleasure of meeting my favourite horror author (and all-around idol) Clive Barker, and he kindled a flame inside of me that grew, and after that meeting for the first time I thought that I could be a horror writer, and that I could follow in his ginormous footsteps and be like him, drawing hundreds of fans to his magnificent work. The man is a genius and an artist, and nothing inspires me more than watching interviews where he talks about his love for the genre, or even when he reveals the infinite vastness of his knowledge, and I’m beginning to think that it will help me re-kindle the flame, the passion that I feel for writing horror, if I watch these types of videos again, and remind myself of why I got into this in the first place, and why I spend so many sleepless nights writing and writing.
More than just the desire to explore what makes us shiver under the blankets at night, more than just the compulsion to put words to paper because I can’t not do that, I write horror because it’s part of who I am. It fills me with a sense of excitement and joy whenever I crack the cover of a novel or anthology that promises to give the reader a deep chill. I want to give people these feelings, or to make them dwell on the tragedy of a character’s situation and to imagine the kind of turmoil and pain that he or she is going through. Horror is tied to my desire to see blood and violence. Horror makes me feel like I’m accepted for something, and when I find other horror fans, it makes me feel like we’re all being led into a secret chamber where only an elite few are allowed in, but where we know that everyone is a true, hardcore fan. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger, and that I’m not alone with my obsession. It makes me feel like we’re all part of a special cult following and that we’re all sharing in something truly great.
Horror is just who I am, plain and simple. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m planning to update this blog at least once a week, if all goes well, and balance it with my book review blog as well as my other reviewing commitments. I certainly welcome any and all feedback, and would love to hear from other horror writers out there as to what got them started writing in the genre. As to the name of the blog, for Victor Hugo fans it should be fairly evident where I got the name Gwynplaine from–he is one of the most twisted, tragic, and powerful characters that I have encountered in all of literature, and I wanted to consecrate the theme of this blog in his honour.