By guest blogger Darryl DawsonOn Writing.com’s Facebook page, a question was posed to me that is asked of every writer (for that matter, every artist) at least once in his or her career. Somehow that question has survived longer than the cockroach and I don’t know why; it’s such an empty, “make-conversation” question that can be answered any one of a million ways, all of them forgettable. But to satisfy the insatiable curiosity of the public there’s an obligation to answer it, and for this blog entry I will (but briefly!).
The question is: What inspires you?
Well, a lot of things, really. (See what I mean?)
Going back a few posts, I told you about my brother’s pet snake and how fascinating it was to watch it eat a mouse, and more than once I’ve alluded to my love for a certain television show that fashioned my taste for horror. But what about The Crawlspace? What were the sparks of all those stories?
Like I said, a lot of things. Each of the thirteen stories had its own unique spark: “Hamburger Lady” by the song of the same name, “I Scream, You Scream” by my childhood, “The House With No Clocks” by a job I once had, and so on. But in the overall picture of the anthology and how it came to be, I guess one incident from my high school days was the trigger point.
In my junior year at Narbonne High School, I entered myself in a regional writing contest. It was for that contest that my very first short story was written, a juicy bit of lit-noir about a vampire prostitute called “Woman Of The Night.” I don’t recall much of it, but I remember the last line…”and plunged her fangs into his neck.” It won first prize, earning me a nifty little trophy and a spot in the school district’s exclusive literary magazine. I was so proud and so happy when I heard the news, I couldn’t wait to tear into my complimentary copy and read it, and I did, all the way to the last line…”and plunged her knife into his neck.”
Wait a minute! That’s not the line I wrote! There must be some kind of mistake! There wasn’t.
It turns out the teacher/coordinator in charge of all of the submitted entries from Narbonne (may she rest in peace, I’m sure) made an editorial decision on my story without first consulting me. “I just didn’t get the whole vampire angle and I thought the knife would make more sense,” she said. “Sorry about that. Anyway, you won!”
I was so upset that I didn’t even show up for the awards ceremony. I can’t tell you how much it hurt to know that something I had imagined and created was deemed so inadequate it had to be changed at the last minute by an uncredited second party before being judged for a major contest. But you could multiply that hurt by a thousand in the knowledge that the winning story had my name on it, but wasn’t mine.
From that day forward I never let anyone see any of the stories or poems I had written, and it wasn’t until many years later, with the help of Milli Thornton’s brilliant online class Fear Of Writing, that I overcame my self-doubt about my work and The Crawlspace was conceived.
I guess this book was born from a need for justice and a chance to set things right. No one interfered with the creation of any of these stories nor would I allow it. And you can be damn sure it’ll never happen again. I don’t expect to win a trophy for my book, but if fate deals me a steering wheel to the ribs or a heart attack tomorrow, I can rest knowing that a part of me will be left behind, unedited and uncensored. That’s what inspired The Crawlspace, and what inspires me as an author.
DARRYL DAWSON is the author of The Crawlspace, released in October 2009. Fear of Writing is very proud to once have had Darryl as a student of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where he unleashed his style of horror on us in all the best ways. You can experience more of Darryl’s writing on his blog, Blood Spatter – A Horror Writer’s Blog.