Friday, October 31, 2008

Why I Write on the Spooky Side

I love All Hallows Eve. The spooky spectacle of costumed kiddies parading down the street dressed as ghoulies, goblins and ballerinas. The eerie sight of pumpkins ablaze with their faces on fire, flickering dastardly grins at all who dare appear before them to shout "Trick or Treat." Halloween is my favorite day of the year.

But that's not why I write paranormal fiction.

The first story I have record of writing has a monster as its protagonist. My first play is a one act about a woman who kills a man over and over in her dreams. I've written spec scripts of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And the book I'm polishing, my first novel, is the story of a psychic with tragedy in her life whose gift has changed to the point that all she can see is how people die.

I think it started with the fairy stories my mother told me, tales she created of a wee one named Bluebell who lived in the Queen Anne's Lace that bordered our New Jersey yard. My interest grew in India, where my first reading material included comic books of Hindu myths. There were sleepover tales of Sleepy Hollow and the New Jersey Devil, the graveyard I played in behind the Quaker meeting house, the books of Greek and Norse myths and the volumes of fairy tales I adored. By junior high, my favorite Nancy Drew book was Nancy Drew Ghost Stories.

By high school, I started to collect nonfiction books, adding tomes on ESP and psychic phenomena to the Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice. I loved the ghost-oriented episodes of MacGyver and Quantum Leap. Sci-Fi became my favorite channel.

The works of H.P Lovecraft and Stephen King joined L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott on my reading lists. After all, even Jo March, the scribe sister of Little Women, wrote tales of suspense, horror and intrigue. And while her writing got shut down as moral turpitude, the stories of her creator did not.

I have had friends who lived with ghosts, some who profess psychic gifts and others who had a subscription to Skeptics Magazine. I've met people from all walks of the paranormal spectrum. My own beliefs are personal, but I'm open to the possibilities.

But that's not why I write paranormal fiction. I write it because the real world, the world we live in every day, is scarier to me than any depths of the imagination. I've seen the darkness and it is us. (Don't worry, the light is us too).

I write it because the things that go bump in the night allow us to explore our most human side, whether that side be filled with love and compassion or darkness and hate. I write it because even though uniformly good triumphs over evil in this genre, there's always room for the grey. And because, somedays, it does feel like we've come to The Last Midnight a la Sondheim.

Which is not to say that my book is terribly high brow. In fact, you can get a sneak peek at the first scene here.

Thank you for joining us on this frightening journey. We hope you come back next week.

Have a haunting Halloween,

J.K. Mahal

Photo by Darwin Bell.


Nichole R. Bennett said...

I love Quantum Leap! And Louisa May Alcott!

Seems like many of us have similar paths, doesn't it? hmm.....

J.K. Mahal said...

Sure does :)