Imagine this: I’m in line at some social function, standing next to a woman who is my mother’s age. We strike up a conversation, and she eventually asks what I do. “I’m a writer,” I say. Of course, she responds with “Oh? What kind of books do you write?” So I begin to describe my books and she hears words like paranormal, vampires, voodoo, demons, zombies… you get the idea. I watch her face turn from a pleasant smile to one of confusion, then to the verge of repulsion. I’m sure she was thinking that I look like a nice, reasonable guy, but somewhere in our conversation things took a turn from that course.
Truth is; I am a nice, reasonable guy. A nice reasonable guy who loves to read and write stories that take the reader away from cozy and comfortable, and to a place where life is more difficult and challenging. A place where danger awaits at every bend in the road, and vile creatures exist who have evil on their mind. A world where you have to stay on your toes to survive, and every breath could be your last.
Perhaps there remains in my DNA, some fragment that was passed on from my distant ancestors. Those ancestors who didn’t need a scary story to get their adrenaline pumping through their veins because a saber-toothed tiger just ate one of their clan. They saw it happen, and they know the beast is still nearby-and still on the hunt. Or from the ancestor who went to war with a horde of barbarians who knew no morals and killed and tortured for the sick thrill of conquest. No, those ancestors didn’t need a guy like me to make up stories to tell around the campfire. They lived in a time when being scared and wary was a way of life, and necessary to stay alive. Those who were not afraid in those times had a name - victims.
But now things are different. We live in a civilized society, and for the most part, we lead pretty easy lives. We don’t have to walk the path in the forest gathering berries to survive, knowing the saber-tooth is nearby and still hungry. The horde of barbarians has gone the way of the mammoth, but we psychologically have replaced them with hordes of fictional zombies. We need something other than exercise to get our pulse rate up. We need an element of the unknown to keep us guessing, and second-guessing ourselves. We need something to scare us other than the price of gas. We need something for our brains to chew on, in which no answer is right, wrong, or even possible.
The lady I mentioned above will go on to tell me that she reads romance novels and poetry. She may mention that if I ever write a romance novel, she would be happy to read it.
Our conversation has lost a bit of the niceness it began with, but I tell her that I have written a romance story.
Her eyes brighten just a bit, and the smile returns to her face. Then I tell her that in my romance novel, the hero is battling an evil vampire who killed his fiancé, and if he kills the vampire he will free her soul from an existence in Purgatory. But the vampire is protected by a Voodoo Queen who controls an army of Zombies…
The confusion returns to her face, then to the verge of repulsion. She says it’s been nice talking to me, then turns to the person in front of her and starts another conversation, probably about romance novels and poetry. Another lady of about the same age taps me on the shoulder. “Do you really write books?” she asks.
“Yep,” I reply. “But probably not the kind of books you read.” She goes on to tell me she’s a huge Stephen King fan, and here I was thinking she looked like a nice, reasonable woman. We hit it off, then we go on to talk about Aliens, Bigfoot and Werewolves.