Guest Author - Chris Willis
I have written a number of articles now so think it is time to give you a background on me, where I come from, and how important horror literature has been in my life.
Some of you may know that I wrote my first short story when I was eight years of age. It was for a competition in a local newspaper and had to include the line Ďand all that could be heard was the sound of gently lapping waterí. One could use any genre. I chose horror. I canít remember if I submitted it or not, but I enjoyed writing it. It was about a man who knew he was a werewolf and had a conscience. The story ended with him jumping off a cliff. The line I had to include was the last line. In hindsight, it was a noble storyline for an eight year old.
I remember little of my childhood. I find recollection very difficult before the age of sixteen, but I do have snippets. One of them is reading James Herbertís ĎRatsí trilogy when my peers were reading books more suited towards children of that age. I was around nine or ten at the time and had difficulty with my vocabulary!
Horror has always fascinated me. The first time I read Frankenstein, I didnít understand it. It was science fiction. I couldnít figure out why it was classified as horror. I underestimated Victor Frankensteinís role after the creation of the monster, and the monsterís yearning for belonging. Today, it is one of my favourite novels.
When I was in secondary school (ages approximately 12-18), we didnít study the horror genre. I flunked English Literature because it didnít appeal to me. We had to learn the Ďclassicsí. I wanted to study Dracula, Lovecraft or contemporary horror writers such as Stephen King, Guy N Smith, and James Herbert. Instead, we studied Pygmalion, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Kes, and Huckleberry Finn. I still see no point in teachers regurgitating well-used opinions for their students to regurgitate. As a writer, I realise the value of literature is not in its literary components but in the value of entertainment. I donít read because a book is uses eloquent language. I read to be entertained.
It was compulsory to study English Language and English Literature. I remember my teacher pulling me aside and telling me I was doing badly and would never get a job if I didnít pass. I explained that if we studied Frankenstein or Dracula, I would be more interested. She explained the importance of literature, and I canít recall the word entertainment ever being used. I am still of the opinion that I wonít read a book if it doesnít entertain me.
These problems existed for years so my interest in writing fiction plummeted. I never regained my eight year old enthusiasm to write. When I finished school, I found a job and worked for years without ever writing a story. When I was around nineteen years of age, my life made a dramatic turn.
I found myself unemployed and in a dilapidated council apartment in England. I had a car that was constantly vandalised. It was a bad area to live and I was in constant fear of being subject to violence. I used my bout of unemployment to go back to college and earn some qualifications.
During this extended time of unemployment, I had nothing to do. I looked for a job frequently and spent a lot of time attending interviews, going through papers, and all the normal duties a job seeker goes through to obtain employment, but there were those unavoidable down times. For those of you who donít know, if you own a television in England, you must have a television licence to watch it. . If not, you broke the law. I never broke the law.
Instead, I read more. Over the first few months, I found the entertainment value in a novel and sought out my Ďclassicsí Ė Frankenstein, Rats, Dracula, and other novels which captivated me as a child. I also took a course in psychology to understand people. I even wrote a 100,000 thesis on sleep psychology. I found my inspiration for horror. One day, a friend brought round a spare computer for me to use. He loaded up some games and a word processor, and left me to it.
I used that time to teach myself how computers work. Then I took another course and achieved high grades. I started to write short stories again, my first called ĎScorpionsí. Around a year had passed since my last job. I had a handful of temporary assignments in between, but nothing substantial. After reading scores of novels and writing various short stories, I decided to write my own novel. It took nine days and was 120,000 words long.
I had the taste for horror. I wrote more, and then I found a full-time job and finished my second novel. Success! I put a lot of energy into my new job but my writing started to fail until it fell into the black hole of oblivion. The computer hard drive crashed and I lost both novels and all my short stories.
A few years later, I started to write another novel. It took years to do a few chapters. I found a job and went on-line for the first time and met a girl called Lisa. A year later, I moved to Australia to be with her and we married soon after. I got a job easily but it meant I had to travel two hours a day with nothing to do. After six months, I started to write again and picked up the novel I had started to write in England.
You may get the feeling from my posts that I am a Graham Masterton fan. Youíre right. I donít mimic or copy his style, but his entertainment prowess has inspired me as a writer more than any other storyteller. I recently contacted Mr Masterton to tell him that. It made my day when he wrote back, although I doubt he will ever understand how much he has influenced me. My vision is to become a famous horror writer such as the likes of Masterton, King, and Campbell. I then intend to visit Mr Masterton, share a beer, and tell him face to face just how much his work inspired me. Iíll let you know how it goes. So, if you think I driven in my articles about Graham Masterton, I apologise but as you can now see, thereís a solid reason behind it.
Since I made the transition into writing seriously, I have taken a course in novel writing, am the new horror literature editor for BellaOnline, and a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association. I have written scores more short stories (most of them are not horror!) but have had ten new horror stories accepted over the last few months in magazines, e-zines and anthologies. I have 12 novels in first draft with 3 in the pipeline. I have a beautiful family and want to write full time. On the down size, I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a disability and affects the quality of my life, but when has a disability ever got in the way of greatness?