A big theme of my novel, Still Dark, is trying to face and overcome what it is you’re afraid of. The antagonist, a creature called Apex, has the distinct ability to look into the minds of his victims and use what he finds hiding there. For him, fear is a weapon.
Looking back at the writing of Still Dark, it’s easy to see what sort of things frighten me. Anyone that reads the book will have a pretty good idea as well. I think that’s a great place for a horror writer to start when considering a terrifying scene or passage. If I, or anyone else, can scare myself, then chances are, I’ll probably scoop up a few other people as well.
There’s a significant scene in the novel featuring a spider. Let me take you back to a younger, less bearded version of myself. I’m probably seven years old, and I’m at my great-grandmother’s house. Just out front, in a little island of greenery, I’ve caught a sight of the biggest garden spider I’ve ever seen. You know the ones, right? Long black legs, almost neon yellow spots on their backs.
I lean in close, I mean, real close for a good look. Unbeknownst to me, my older brother is hovering just out of sight, and when I get close enough for his liking, he gave me a push. To this day, I’m not sure if I ever actually touched the spider or not, but my imagination tells me it crawled over my eyeball for a few seconds as I scrambled to get away.
What do I do with such trauma? Put it in a book of course.
Or, take my simultaneous fascination/terror of the open sea. I, like many others, can’t look at the ocean without wondering, what the hell is down there, just out of sight? I’ll never know the answer, at least not first hand, but I’m sure it will have tentacles.
Did I mention that Still Dark features a giant squid?
On and on it goes, from a fear of aging and death to the utter revulsion at the thought of being killed by a wild animal. It’s all in there, and again, my fears probably line up with yours at least a little bit. At the end of the day, that’s what being a horror writer is all about. It’s not the shared dream, it’s the community nightmare, the one that we still haven’t managed to shake after all those years of hiding in caves.
When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…
Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.
Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.