2014 is set to be an amazing ear for most of us BookYArd authors. There’s a first of everything set to happen this year – first book being published, first experiences with interacting with readers, first steps toward fulfilling our dreams of becoming writers.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 14 firsts I’d like to share. With my first book, The Girl from the Well, due out in August, most of these are going to be – yup – rather ghost-centric.
First Book: The Ghost in the Cupboard
This was the first book I remember reading, and might have probably also influenced my love for horror books later on. Surprisingly, this wasn’t scary at all – it was about a young ghost who was living in a cupboard and decided one day to leave and explore the world, and who couldn’t understand why people were so frightened of him. (And now that I think about it, this book had more influence on the book I would eventually write than I first thought, because of my protagonist’s perception of herself as more than just a frightening ghost, though she looks the part.)
First Favorite Novel: Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
My first foray into the world of horror novels started out completely as an accident. I was six years old who’d been reading for a couple of years by then, but I was slowly growing tired of all the “kiddie-ish” books I’d been given so far. I was addicted to fairy tales at that stage however, and I suspected that the books lining the bookshelves in my parents’ room was my Mecca for all things potion-y and draconic.
In the end, I singled out a book with the picture of an odd-looking cat on the cover. The graveyard shown behind said cat had no impact on me – I figured it would be a nice story about a pet cat, because I recognized what ‘Pet’ meant, but not what ‘Sematary’ meant.
I’m not going to say I understood everything I read then, but I knew enough to recognize that this was a ghost story, and I was thrilled. Ghost Stories were still a grey area in the list of reading material I was allowed access to, and my childish mind delighted at reading what was to my way of thinking, a ‘banned book’. As I grew older, and learned to appreciate more of King’s nuances, I began reading more and more and more: Cujo, Carrie, The Stand, It, Christie. I was hooked.
First Favorite Horror Movie: Monster Squad
I will be completely honest here: I didn’t have as much experience with true horror movies back in my childhood the way I had with books. Asian horror wasn’t something that anyone had been able to introduce me to back then, since there was no one I knew then who loved it the way I loved horror books. As a result , I was treated to a lot of American-based horror movies, which I enjoyed but found lacking in some way: Jaws, Gremlins, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, It and almost every movie based on a Stephen King book, for obvious reasons. They had a lot of the gore, but not much on the scare.
Nevertheless, I came across this gem of a movie:
It isn’t exactly a true horror movie. In fact, it’s listed as a horror / comedy though I didn’t know it then. But I LOVED it. It was about a group of kids ganging up to defeat Dracula, the Werewolf, and a host of other undead to save the world. How can this not appeal to kids like me then, the ones who’d read so many books and watched so many things and wanted to be a heroine of her own? I must have watched this about fifty times.
First Favorite Actual Horror Movie: Ju-On
In 2002, this movie came out, and I fell in love.
Sure, Ringu had been making the rounds before it, but I wasn’t impressed. There were some good scenes, but nothing made me jump out of my seat – not even the climactic climb-out-of-the-television scene could assuage the borefest that came before it.
But Ju-On. Oh, lordy – Ju-On! You think she can’t get you while you’re hiding under your covers? You’re wrong. Think you’ll be safe by staying with a crowd? NOPE. Maybe they’re just a figment of your imagination? Half the time the characters don’t even see the ghost when they appear, but Kayako sure as hell makes sure the viewers do. Ju-On takes all the standard this-will-make-you-feel-safe tropes and tricks and then crap all over it. And the kicker? There is no cure for her. There is no hero to come save the day, no final girl. She will come at you until you die, and that is it. Here, my love for Asian horror began.
Favorite Ghost Story Book: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
I love these books so much as a kid, and they’re still the treasures of my collection – and have you seen the illustrations? If it’s scary enough that someone’s tried to ban it countless times, you know it’s a good book.
Favorite Ghost Story Legend: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
I think it appealed to me as a kid because the alleged photo of the Brown Lady is the first documented picture I know where no one has been able to prove that it was a forgery. This idea was such a compelling one – I don’t do ghost hunting myself, but I do enjoy shows featuring them and I like the idea of superstitious beliefs meeting technology that attempts to explain them (I am guilty of watching Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Encounters, among many others).
Eight Other Things About Me, In the Hopes You Won’t Think I’m Just a Creepy Horror-loving Kid:
1. The first career I really wanted to have was as an archeologist. I LOVE dinosaurs. I could pronounce Tyrannosaurus Rex and Archaeopteryx at four years old, but it took me years to learn to say ‘parrot’ and ‘barbell’ correctly. I wanted to have a velociraptor for a pet back before it was cool to say you wanted a velociraptor for a pet.
I still love them, years later. Jurassic Park has and always will be my favorite movie – even if technically, some of the dinosaurs featured didn’t live during the Jurassic period.
2. On a similar note, I had an odd lisp as a kid, and couldn’t say my rr’s correctly. (I still have difficulty rolling the rr’s). It doesn’t help that my full name is Erin, which meant I constantly referred to myself as “Eween” without meaning to. (On the plus side, ‘Eween’ eventually became my user handle during my college Counterstrike FPS-playing days.)
3. Also related to the Counterstrike mention: I’m a self-professed girl gamer. I have played so many RPGs (the only reason I didn’t play Warcraft was because I couldn’t afford the subscription fees) and I have done Ultima Online, Ragnarok, Eve, Diablo, Guild Wars, and so many other things most of you have probably never heard of. Small anecdote: I was playing God of War during a Sony marketing event once, and a crowd had gathered to watch. I failed to notice a group of kids up front watching me play until I had…. violently beheaded (read: ripped the head off the body of) the sun god, Helios. The teachers were NOT happy with me, but everyone else thought it was hilarious. You can say I am not much of an Angry Birds fan.
I also love survival horror (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame) which can be pretty good inspirations for the squick.
Also: comic book geek, specializing in Marvel.
4. I have been mistaken as a ghost several times, all through no fault of my own. My younger sister refuses to sleep in the same room as me because she claimed I literally slept (looking) like the dead, and I have scared a lot of people working in old office buildings where I also am at, especially because I pulled in a lot of overtimes and usually left after most of the lights were out. (I earned the nickname ‘Sadako’ this way.)
5. Unlike what some people might think, especially given the first half of this post, I actually don’t believe in ghosts. I was also never a goth kind of girl, although I’m pretty sure I looked the part. I acknowledge that ghosts could exist, but until enough evidence presents itself I’m not convinced. I like the idea of ghosts as a means we can use to explain the inexplicable, but I also understand human perception of their environment can sometimes play tricks on our brains. (People like Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are some of my personal heroes, which could explain a few things).
6. I identify myself as Chinese-Filipino (Chinese by ethnicity, and Filipino by birth and citizenship) but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I have some Spanish on my paternal grandmother’s side, some Thai and/or Malay on my maternal grandmother’s, but I’ve never really known the true ratio. My grandfather left China for the Philippines to escape the Cultural Revolution, and my paternal grandparents were never actually married. (My grandfather was actually married to someone else, and my grandmother was his mistress / concubine. I never really knew about the rest of his family, because he’d broken off all contact) My family history had always been murky (and reads like a convoluted Chinese period soap opera), though I’d always hoped to one day find out more about it.
7. I am also a big crime junkie. I love CSI shows (even when they’re not entirely accurate) and documentaries like Forensic Files, and almost everything in Crime and Investigation channel. I have books about murders and serial killers and criminal forensics – I think it’s mostly because I want to know how the criminal mind works, and I was very interested for a long time with criminal profiling. I think the idea of reading about these killers and learning about all the steps that led to capturing them and bringing them to justice had the most appeal to me. (I love Agatha Christie – I have all her 80 books – and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books too, so this might be another influence)
8. I was born and have spent pretty much all my life in the Philippines. It’s not as violent and as scary a place to live in as you might think, although I have been witness to a bus bombing and a couple of mall explosions. Driving is still a major cause of injury here, mostly because everyone treats the (sometimes contradicting) traffic laws as suggestions rather than actual rules. Manila is probably one of the ugliest, traffic-congested cities in Asia, but many other places outside of the city are so astonishingly beautiful – OUR BEACHES, GUYS.
Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines
Panglao Island, Philippines
And my personal favorite: White Beach, BoracayIsland, Philippines during the off-season.