Books Magazine

Horror Author Feature: Stephen King by Andrew Sturm

By Appraisingpages @appraisjngpages

You can’t think of the literary horror genre without thinking of Stephen King. There aren’t any other authors as prominent, successful, or talented in the genre as him. We knew we couldn’t run our October’s Month of the Macabre fun without giving him his own feature. We had a great soon-to-be-published author, Andrew Sturm, offer to write the feature on his writing and how it has inspired his own. So we’d like to warmly welcome our newest guest blogger! Enjoy:

Horror Author Feature: Stephen King by Andrew Sturm

Ever find yourself handcuffed to a bed? Perhaps you’re on the run from a mysteriously floating Coke machine. There may even be a werewolf running amok in your sleepy little town. Is there a chance that your cellar is a bridge to the land of long ago? Rest assured, however, that if there’s a rabid dog on your tail, or a clown in your gutter, you may be in Stephen King’s world (where rest is often banished).

For the past forty years, Stephen King has been providing us with quality horror, thriller, and science fiction. Just think, his first novel Carrie was tossed in the trash because Stephen had all but given up on the idea of writing a novel about a teenager with telekinetic powers. His wife dug it out of the trash, amidst the cigarette butts and the like, and read over it; she later encouraged him to continue with it. A common trope in fiction is that a flap of the butterfly’s wings could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. Who’s to say whether or not Stephen would have been the Master of Horror if she hadn’t dug that single novel out of the trash?

But thank the lucky stars she did because in this month, the Month of the Macabre, we think of Stephen King and those just as mentally deranged as he. In a world where people struggle to be accepted, Stephen and his kind stepped up and began writing things that went strongly against the grain. He must have had one hell of a time in high school…

As for myself, I struggled to write that which really needed to come out because I was scared of what other people would think. I didn’t want people to avoid me, to think that I was some sort of freak; so, I wrote what I thought people wanted to read.
Guess what? No dice.

Turns out, if you want to feel empty and dead inside, write what you think people want to read. Like a husk of necrotic flesh at the typewriter, I played the dirge of the lost souls. Sweat poured from my brow and blood dripped from the beaten and bruised fingertips as I abused myself time and time again against the keys. At the end of the night, there would be no sounds other than the steady drip of blood into the bowels of the typewriter.

All night, I’d hear it.

Drip drip drip…

My fingers would scream up and down their neural passageways to my brain to the throb of my heartbeat.

Pain pain pain!

I, like many others, went through a period of self-mutilation. It was called writing what I thought people would enjoy reading. Every short story was a slash of the blade as it whistled through my flesh, rending where it hurts the most—my soul.

So, naturally, when I picked up my first Stephen King novel, Carrie (though I didn’t know at the time it was his first book or really who he was), I was moved. As a high school student in Freshman English, I was in need of guidance. My teacher asked me if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (it sounded like a silly question, considering I was fifteen years old and had already grown up, as all teenagers do) and I realized I had no idea.

For years afterward, I still had no idea.

So, I wrote. Did I write stories? Hell no, I wrote blog entries. I poured my heart out to people who didn’t care. I poured out my soul over the keyboard like gravy on the Thanksgiving turkey (which is coming next month, isn’t it? Delicious!) and got nothing. So, then I decided to write what I thought people might like.

“How do you write all these crazy things you write, Andrew? They’re brilliant! Your insight, your point of view, it’s just—it’s just amazing!” (I might have embellished the question just a bit).

To which I hope to respond, as King did, “One word a time.”

Because that’s life. One word at a time, one step at a time, one minute at a time.

Writing isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. While it feels like I might have digressed, I’m exactly on track, I assure you, reader. King has inspired me to step up and write that which is in my heart. So, I began writing short stories, but I didn’t do much with them. In fact, I didn’t even edit them. Why, I thought, no one is going to read them. So, that’s when it hit me. No one reads my writing because I don’t put any effort into them.

If I don’t take myself seriously, how can I ever expect anyone to do me the honor?

So, I looked into self-publishing. How fascinating! I could make my story an ebook, then people would take me seriously. But, what to write? Hm, maybe I could write something about zombies? Maybe I could write about werewolves. Then, it hit me, I was like the morphine addict just off of a methadone high—I was relapsing in the worst way. I was forcing ideas out based on what I thought other people might like to read.

So what do I do now?

I quit. That’s what I did.

One night while I was sleeping, I had a dream and it was The Kirkwood Project. The idea just blew me away. I’m not sure if I’ve had a more vivid dream in my entire life, actually. I saw the humans with the words carved with a dull knife into their backs. I felt Catherine’s anguish as she lay lost and lonely in the hospital bed wearing nothing but her johnny. One at a time, I was in each character’s flesh and I saw the whole story unfolding right before my eyes.

That was it. That’s all I needed. I got up and started writing the prologue (which later got deleted) and it ignited the wildfire in my soul from that moment forward. I had to write, I was damned near addicted to it. The words would just flow out of my mind, much as the twists and turns did too.

In The Kirkwood Project, I want to leave the reader with just one question throughout the entirety of the novel. Just who is holding all the strings? Who’s the puppet master? I want the reader to be so damned sure that he’s figured it all out just in time to get knocked off his feet at the next chapter.

So, what does my book have to do with Stephen King or the Month of the Macabre? It’s a psychological thriller with a hint of horror elements. Stephen King inspired me to step up out of the murky bile of normality and show the world just who I really am.

In the process of writing this novel, Stephen King really came through for me novel after novel. I followed his advice, his quotes, and watched almost every interview he did. Obsessed, much, you ask? Nonsense! I’d have to say it’s more like when you find that Santa Claus isn’t real, but that there’s a thing called credit cards, instead. CHRISTMAS!

I had to have it all. I had a greedy knowledge to study everything on and beneath the pages of his novels. The thing that helped me the most had to be the way he often breaks up his paragraphs into those

(what am I doing here again?)

parenthetical statements, which denote mental trains of thought. He also showed me that people really do have (or at least me) that critic—that loud, crotchety passenger in their heads. Hey there, Andy. You gonna tell them about me? When the reader is made aware of the internal thoughts of the character, it really helps them get under the skin. It’s brilliant, really.

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