I couldn’t imagine the look on my face at this moment, but I was happy no one was trying to capture it with a photograph because I could barely conceal my delight, and I thought I would die of joy. I was no more than three feet away from where the glorious and gothic wrought iron gates, adorned with winged bats, spiders, and a three-headed reptile, opened to a red brick path to a rather distinctive old and towering Victorian mansion red with white trim.
I was standing in front of the home of Stephen King all alone, just me, even though this was one of the most photographed celebrity homes from the street, slightly trailing behind Graceland. It was just me on the sidewalk that crisp cold October morning, and I felt special at that moment. Whether he was residing there at the time was irrelevant because I could imagine and think that he knew I was there and was watching me and the world go by from his upstairs window.
As a young girl I enjoyed reading very much, you could find me most of the time in a quiet place in nature. Growing up in rural Virginia in the decades of the ’70s and ’80s, there were not many options for escape or travel except through an author’s eyes and their incredible stories. I became very fond of many genres and authors like George Orwell, Charles Dickens, F Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” William Shakespeare, Judy Blume’s novel Blubber, and an all-time favorite Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Enthralled by the romantic love story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Still, I also learned about the repercussions of hasty judgments only with the differences between superficial goodness and actual goodness.
Bram Stoker, an Irish artist, caught my attention to fictional horror with Count Dracula’s portrait. I would be ten years old when I read this novel, and it took me quite a while to finish, but I know that on Halloween in 1979, I was dressed in a costume along with a velvet cape and was the scariest vampire out there.
It would also be the summer of 1979, after watching a mini-series adapted for television from a novel by Stephen King called Salem’s Lot, I would first become inspired. Salem’s lot was about a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town of Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine, where he lived until the age of nine, only to discover soon the townspeople were all becoming vampires. My cup of tea with sugar. I remember my first Stephen King book was given to me by my Grandmother for my birthday in 1980; she had found a stack of books at a yard sale and brought them to me as a gift. The books were “Little Women,” Louisa May Alcott, Adventures of “Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain and “The Shining “by Stephen King, surely you know which one I read first.
Early in his career, I would discover Mr. King, and the book that put him on the map was his 1974 novel about a shy, friendless girl that her domineering, religious mother shelters. She unleashes her telekinetic powers called “Carrie.” After Carrie’s success, King just kept putting out imaginative and creative horror, fantasy, and psychological thriller masterpieces, and for me, it was hard to keep up. By the early 1980’s several of his works had been adapted for the big screen by directors such as John Carpenter and Rob Reiner and became movies that changed my life. It was portable magic, and I am not surprised that we share the same candy movie favorites of Twizzlers and Junior Mints.
My favorite novel from King would have to be “Needful Things,” about a creepy old man that moves to a rural small town in picturesque Maine and sets up an antique shop, and of course Salem’s Lot, my very first experience is a favorite. Many think King as “The Master of Horror,” which he is the holder of that title, and many more with his never-ending creativity of monsters. However, King is also known for writing a couple of classic crime novels you may not even think were in his portfolio. “The Green Mile” a classic novel written in 1996 and adapted for the big screen in 1999 and winning a critics choice award. The Shawshank Redemption was written in 1982 and adapted for the big screen in 1994.
Jumping ahead to late in the 20th century and King would be credited to reviving the Horror fiction genre and his books to date selling over 100 million copies. He has published 62 novels, including seven under the pen name Robert Bachman, five non-fiction books, and over 200 short stories. King has had 30 novels on the New York Times bestseller list, and along with many distinguished titles, he holds the record for the most books on the New York Times Best Seller list at one time with four.
A favorite quote from Mr. King “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference”. I have always been inspired by this quote, maybe because I have always wanted to be much like King. I just wasn’t sure where to start, but having a love of reading books, a vivid and creative imagination was helpful. However, there was not a lot of support. When you hear numerous times throughout your life, I don’t believe writing is for you, and I don’t think you could do much writing. You then stop jotting down ideas, words, or short stories. You may even slow down on your reads, and you realize the critics may be actual. You know that your desk is still in the corner and not in the middle of the room, and at that moment, there is a loss of confidence, enthusiasm, and inspiration.
Many decades have come and gone since my first glimpse into Salem’s Lot and The Shining. I was 47 years old when I stood on that sidewalk in front of the home of one of my biggest influencers in life, and it inspired me once again, and I reminisced about my childhood dream, and I imagined him saying to me, how do you write? And I answered him with one of my favorite quotes from the master himself “Invariably one word at a time.” And he just grinned, and I could see my desk slowly moving from the corner.
I looked up at the blackness of the sky, the sun had quickly set, and there was no starlight to be seen; I hadn’t intended to stay out this late. The road ahead looked silent and unappealing; there were no streetlights, and I knew I was in for a dark journey home. I decided to take a shortcut to make my trip faster and cut through the forest, a place I had been to many times before. The forest trees were century-old, with sprawling limbs guarding the darkness and only allowing a peak of light from the half-moon above. The air was stuffy and pungent and a little difficult to breathe. The decaying mood and stifling atmosphere made plentiful the perfect abode for those who worshipped the dark instead of the light. I bit my tongue from nervousness, and the metallic taste of blood filled my mouth as I made my way over a musty forest floor filled with decaying pieces of wood and prominent tree roots. I tried to creep around the forest’s poisons, and the mass amounts of spider webs without much luck as the trees started at me like silent watchmen. The darkness was enormous and a bit frightening because your eyes will play tricks on you in the dense shadows as my eyes were frantically scanning the forest surroundings. I increased the speed of my pace, which made me feel a little nauseous and dizzy, and just at that moment, I became panic-stricken, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck like the hackles of a big dog. Somewhere between a despairing screech and a tortured whine sounded off to all my senses. Where was it coming from? Just then, no more than 100 feet to my left, I could see a faint glow that seemingly was coming from an old wooden structure, that was the “Ole Smokehouse “that’s what everyone around town called it, they knew because apparently, it was a remnant of Civil War times. Slowing my pace and trying to tune out the despairing cries that seemed to grow louder with each step, I horrifyingly approached the structure, thinking to myself, why the shortcut? This smokehouse was an antebellum building with a tiny window, and it was withered white, with a red clay roof and a chimney. It was at the window where the faint light showed, and as I approached the tiny window, my heart raced, my palms sweated profusely, and my whole body shook. At that moment, I was utterly terrified.