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  • Susan May

All hail the swamp monster!

A few of my wonderful readers have likened my style to Stephen King. I have to say every single time someone writes that I get a little glow about me. I've been reading his books since he first started publishing, and though I loved and read many horror books before him, his were such a unique take that I was an immediate fan.

When I first studied writing at a part-time course every Saturday (the course went for a year), I was only twenty-two. This was 1982. I remember giving one of King's books to my tutor to read and telling her that one day I'd like to write like him and tell the type of stories he told. I can't remember which book I gave her. Maybe The Shining or The Dead Zone.

When she gave it back to me after reading, she said, "What a terrible writer. Oh, his grammar is awful. I think you should set your sights higher than Stephen King."

I swear she fairly spat the comments at poor little me. I couldn't understand how she couldn't see his genius for stories, and I think my dreams shrank a little.

She didn't really like anything I wrote either, seeming to prefer the literary and romance writers in our group. Yet, I kinda thought I nailed every homework piece, and others in the group thought so too. I was a quick study and really grasped the concepts she taught each week.

Still, this didn't put me off and eventually here I am, a long time later trying to tell stories with my own unique take, but I stuck to what I wanted to do. And though I don't think I write like Stephen King (he really is a genius), I do try and write stories with real characters that breathe. I look to tell tales that have a different angle to what I've read before with good twists.

I remember Stephen King saying that he didn't know why he wrote horror. What he did know was that when he looked at a lake he didn't see a beautiful scene with a love story or a peaceful ending, he saw swamp monsters rising from the depths heading toward the shore.

Me too! And I like swamp monsters because they place characters in unique positions from which they must do battle. This is why I also don't enjoy a lot of other genres because I find most heroes come pre-programmed with most of the skills they need to fight their version of swamp monsters. Whereas I'm with Mr. King. Give them nothing with which to fight and see what they come up with, and never let them even grow their abilities, except their determination to survive. Send those Swamp Monsters at some poor schmuck who works in an office and watches TV for his entertainment. Let's see what he's got.

I love that in every character I've written there is no hero really, just a person trying to survive whatever the hell is thrown at them. They always surprise me with their ingenuity because they find depths of strength I could never imagine in myself, or in them when we first meet.

So if someone tells you you're following the wrong hero, then they just don't know your hero well enough. You follow the dream wherever it takes you.

In my book, everyone faced with a swamp monster has a right to fight them how they want, and I know you'll find something inside to guide you. Sometimes swamp monsters can really make your dreams come true!


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