Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre by Joe Mynhardt & Eugene Johnson
Crystal Lake Publishing (November 2017)
368 pages; $16.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Books on writing usually bring on the snoozes, even from the authors who read them. Of course, exceptions exist, like the one from the King guy and Morrell and Steve and Melanie Tem, but reading most of these kinds of books feels like dragging eyeballs across sandpaper.
Thankfully, Crystal Lake has yet to publish a stinker, therefore Where Nightmares Come From is constructed in a manner that sidesteps the pitfalls of a typical writing book. This one delivers to both amateur writers and seasoned authors, not to mention giving readers an insight into how their favorite books came to be.
Twenty-eight chapters lurk between the covers. 28. Each by a different author (or several). Even if the reader doesn’t connect with one article or interview, there’s plenty more to capture his or her interest. The price of the book is covered with the first chapter by Joe R. Lansdale, who talks about how the storyteller rules the roost, not the story. For anyone who has ever read a Lansdale novel, Hap & Leonard or otherwise, the conversational tone in which he spills his secrets bring to mind sitting across a table in a honky tonk, tossing back a few and discussing the weather or sports instead of the keys to a masterful story.
“The Process of a Tale” is pure gold by Ramsey Campbell, a guru of the short story. Instead of telling how to write something in the abstract form, he shows the reader. He takes them on a ride through drafts of an actual published story, dissecting each passage before improving it, piece by piece, tinkering with the language and design. It’s doubtful a struggling writer will close the book not feeling a kinship with the king of British horror. And then there’s the queen of True Blood and Midnight, Texas, Charlaine Harris, who takes readers on her own journey about storytelling and how she concocts her novels. Akin to Lansdale, the woman knows how to explain her magic in a way that simply makes sense.
A review of each chapter in this book could be written, but I won’t try that due to space, and I want to avoid omitting anyone. Just keep in mind that there is something valuable to everyone in each article. Every single entry here has something crucial to offer the writer (or reader) and most are not penned by the greats in the genre. Of course, Stephen King does make an appearance here with Richard “I created Cemetery Dance” Chizmar on collaborating and examining the secrets of their bestselling Gwendy’s Button Box. Add to the mix legends Elizabeth Massie, Ray Garton, and John Connelly, along with a slew of authors readers should be reading right now, and this is a tool writers will be using for years.