The Horror Writer and the Coming of Age Story
My latest novel, THE WINDOW, features a father, Richie Curry, succumbing to a couple of nasty demons he finds in his reflection. These demons work him down bit by bit, until...well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Discovering his unique problem is his son, James. James has been moved away to live with his mother and her new fiance but is granted permission to spend all of August, the last wonderful month of summer, back home with his dad and his best friends, Kevin, Eric, and Carrie.
You have to wonder why small-town teens always end up getting tasked with the job of vanquishing demons.
For us in the horror writing/reading community, it comes with the turf.
Growing up on stories like Robert McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE, Brian Keene’s GHOUL, and Stephen King’s IT, this is just the type of story that has the ability to hit us in the feels. Turning forty-one this month, the eighties and nineties were my childhood. When I get a chance to live those days through someone else’s eyes, especially from a writer I really trust, it adds that something extra to the story and how it hits me.
While McCammon and King created masterpieces, it’s Keene’s GHOUL that hits closest to home for me. I remember a scene where the dad tears up the kid’s comic books...man, that hit me good. My dad snapped one of my Kiss cassettes in half after I helped my older brother cut off my sister’s fingernails while she was asleep (hey, she used to scratch the shit out of us). But it’s funny when you read something that someone else went through or imagines, and it’s something that also happened to you. It’s what makes a story resonate with us.
In THE WINDOW, I definitely brought my bag of childhood summers with me, from going to the movies and getting in a fight to running off with a friends dirt bike for the afternoon, and of course, there’s always a girl.
While my story is set in the present rather than the eighties or nineties, I still felt like these fights or situations are things kids get themselves into even now in the digital age, but you’ll find plenty of me in James and his friends, as well. In real life, my kids are well versed in rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Alice Cooper, and the Ramones. There’s plenty of nods throughout, as there usually is in my work.
But growing up in a horror story is about more than just the decade the tale is set in, or what TV shows or bands your kids are listening to. It’s about those big moments that seem to happen in bunches when you and one or more of your buddies are hanging out. I remember how hard it hit one of my friends when his parents got divorced. For a minute, everything was out of step. But through the magic of the following summer, we helped him find his groove.
The first time I fell in love with a girl in my neighborhood, man, I don’t know how I ever managed to get my feet back on the ground. My friends were right there after she kicked my heart in the teeth. It’s funny about that magic. Our innocence. The moment you lose it, it gives you this amazing thrill, it’s not until you’ve come back down on the other side in that strange new world that a deeper feeling settles in. We’re always eager to get there, but once we land, there’s really no going back to the wild and carefree nights tenting out in your best friend’s backyard.
I think there's a brief moment in your life where you’re realizing this and mourning in some way just before you accept true childhood’s end, and set forth on your lean, mean teenage years. Driving and working and all that next level stuff.
We’d all love to visit that old magic again, even if for just a few hours in a book or a movie. I think that’s why we’re so attracted to the coming of age story.
As horror fans, we just get to add a little blood and demonic possession along with it.
I’m not comfortable calling THE WINDOW a straight up coming of age tale, but there’s plenty of