Upon first glance, you wouldn’t think that I wrote horror stories. I am not quite sure what sets one apart from everyone else that would deem them horror writers. I don’t have piercings or tattoos. I don’t hang out in cemeteries or constantly discuss morbid thoughts with every one that I meet. I don’t even own a black leather jacket.
So I shock most people when I tell them about my passions. The inevitable question that I get is “Why? Why do you write horror stories?”
My earliest memories of the macabre is a recurring dream that I had when I was young of being buried alive. I am not sure when it began, but I remembered waking up drenched in sweat, gasping for air. The shortness of breath, the erratic heartbeat, the furtive glances into the lengthy shadows of my room…all of this fascinated me.
After many dreams, I came across a TV movie that was playing on a cable network called Buried Alive. Tim Matheson and Jennifer Jason Leigh starred in this chiller about a man who was poisoned by his cheating wife and her lover. Thinking he was dead, they buried him in a cheap casket. The poison was weak so it did not kill the husband. In an agonizingly graphic scene, the husband crawls from his tomb and creates an elaborate revenge plot.
I was so fascinated by this film that I would write about my feelings about the film (rather than the film itself). I was very fascinated about what fear was and how it made me react the way that I did. My dad introduced me to the Universal Horror movie classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, etc.) when I was very little. My interest in the monsters grew. However, it was Buried Alive that caused me to understand why I have the interest in horror.
To be a horror writer, one must be able to understand what scares them and why. As a kid, I had a very acute fascination with vampires. As a teenager, I began to wonder why I had this fascination. When I became an adult, I learned of my grandfather’s alcohol addiction. I started to see parallels between the alcoholic and the vampire. That is what led me to write Demon in My Head. I realized that part of the reason why I am not a drinker is the fact that I am afraid of losing control of myself. This realization became fodder for my novel.
My claustrophobia is what drove me to become fascinated in my fear of being buried alive. This led to my interest in the film Buried Alive. When I first watched George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, I was struck by the fact that the majority of the film took place in a farmhouse. And in the final few minutes of the film, Ben is driven to the basement of the house. A feeling of dread overtook me when I realized that it was the heavy door and the basement that stood between him and being torn apart by ravenous zombies. That led to my interest in the undead subgenre.
Some of my best stories (stories that still scare me) are the ones that are connected to my own fears. One of my college creative writing instructors told me that I should write stories that I would want to read. The same is true in horror writing. I try to write stories that scare me. Being a parent, I am interested in tales that involve children or parenting. After the birth of my sons, I re-watched The Exorcist and found a new sense of dread from the film. After being married, I re-read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and felt sympathy for the vampire. How awful it must be to outlive one’s beloved! And it is with this temperament that I write my main characters. This allows me to explore the fear.
And that is why I write horror.
Gerald Browning is a Flint native who resides in the small town of Lowell, MI. He is an adjunct English department faculty member at Grace Bible College, Muskegon Community College, and Baker College of Muskegon. He is a regular contributing writer for Open Court Press Popular Culture and Philosophy series. His first novel "Demon in My Head" was published in 2011. When not teaching English or writing, Gerald can be found in a dojo where he regularly cross trains in martial arts. He contributes to a martial arts publications such as Slanted Flying and On the Ground. Martial arts, fitness, creativity and education are his passions, but nothing competes with his love for his family. Gerald is married with two sons, Mason and Miles. You can follow Gerald on his blog or on Facebook.