Saturday, July 31, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 8

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Pet Sematary
by Stephen King

As a boy and young teen, I always knew I'd be a writer. Back then my interests were mostly fantasy and science fiction.

Pet SemataryThen one day my mom received in the mail a box of books. She had joined some book of the month club. As I was an avid reader, I perused the books to see what was there. Most of them were cook books, which made sense since these were for my mom, but one of them was a book titled "Pet Sematary" by Stephen King with an image of a howling cat on the cover.

This was 1983, and I was 12 or 13 depending upon the actual time of year. Of course I had heard of Stephen King at that point. Who hadn't? He was the hottest author in the world at the time.

But horror had never been my thing. So, I stacked my moms books together and left them sitting on a table.

Over the next several days, that howling cat image kept calling back to me. I would pass that stack of books and glance at the outer edge of "Pet Sematary," but then I would go on my way.

After a couple of weeks of this, I couldn't stand it any more. I snagged up "Pet Sematary" and started reading.

My life has never been the same since.

"Pet Sematary" was not only the first Stephen King book I ever read, but it was the first horror novel I ever read. I'd read a few Poe short stories in school at the time, but I'd yet to immerse myself into a deep horror tale.

"Pet Sematary" had me hooked. It wasn't just that it was horror or that there were supernatural elements, though that helped, but it was the way King told his tale. This wasn't a story taking place in some ancient faraway kingdom or a billion light years away in outer space; this was a tale that could have happened down the street from me. And I think that's part of what grabbed me and has stuff with me over the years. For me, King wasn't just writing horror, but he was taking fantasy elements and infusing them into the real world, and those elements would be scary as hell in the real world. Imagine if a real-life dragon showed up and started spewing flames. We'd all go nuts, and it would be terrible. This was how I was seeing things. There was also the factor that King knew how to build suspense quite well.

For the next decade, I wanted to write just like Stephen King, or at least to tell the kind of stories he told. I tried, and even did passably well if I do say so myself, but eventually as a writer my own style and personal interests began to work into my bloodstream and out through the keyboard and on the paper. I still occasionally pen a tale of horror that is somewhat Kingesque, but I feel I've mostly gone on and grown as a writer into other interests. King does what he does very well, but I'm not King. I have my own things to say.

Next up: The Stand, by Stephen King


Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed this book a lot. The scene with the father digging up his young son was so overwhelming that I cried. At the time my son was about that same age.

Will Errickson said...

Excellent points and I must say I had almost the exact same experience with the book around the same time as you, at the same age. One of my absolute faves by King. Let us not speak of the movie version.