The Midnight Diner itself, in the new and VERY capable hands of author and editor Michelle Pendergrass, is an anthology that's young and growing. It bought my horribly bloated and overwritten "Way Station" for Volume One and Volume Two featured (ironically) Dan Keohane's "Year's Best Horror" Honorable Mention story "The Box", but I really think THIS volume is going to be it's breakout edition. Some great stories here, and - though I'm prejudiced - I think it's going to develop into a genre anthology with literary pretensions, and that's not a bad thing, in my opinion.
So. Wherever I am in this "career-thingy", I feel like it's time to start tipping my hat to folks who've made a difference along the way. The first was author Rio Youers, in the difference he's made as a good friend and through his work. The next is author and good friend Dan Keohane. Now, this post rambles - flings around generalities and stereotypes, which may cause certain folks to think: "Hey! What's he implying by that?" But please take it all at face value, and know I mean no offense.
Anyway. When I first wrote "odd stuff" vaguely classified as "supernatural suspense", I felt some trepidation at assuming the mantle of "horror writer". First of all, back then - as now - I didn't want to be pigeon-holed into one genre. I had (and still harbor) the silly idea that I could/can write whatever I want/wanted.
But, ya gotta start somewhere, and at the time, my reading had started leaning towards darker horror. So. I sorta/kinda/maybe started thinking of myself as a horror writer. I didn't really believe it, though. I was a regular guy with a regular job and a house, a wife, two kids, a cat and I wasn't very interesting or flashy or impressive in any way. I went to bed every night before 9 PM. My idea of exciting times was mowing the lawn, or hanging out at Barnes & Noble. Very "vanilla", honestly, and not even tapioca vanilla. Just vanilla.
See, I was operating under the mistaken assumption that all horror authors were ultra cool, edgy folk who lived strange and wild lives so far removed from my quiet little country one out here in the sticks. Now, since then I've met a lot of horror writers - even some of the bigger ones - and have realized an essential truth: they're all regular people, like me.
However, it wasn't until I spent some time with Dan Keohane that I realized I TOO could be a horror writer, could honestly think of myself as such. Almost a year ago, Dan graciously drove down to New York to visit with my Creative Writing class and appear with me at our church's celebration of the arts, "Art Show On Main Street". Through those two days and dinner with Dan, I got to know him a lot better and realized that in many ways, we were a lot alike, though separated by a few years.
Dan and I are both solid family guys. Dan's a regular, down-to-earth guy with an easy-going way about him that really vibes with me. He likes to hang out, likes all sorts of people, and does read outside the horror genre quite a bit. He's got a nine-to-five, Monday through Friday like me, (though my gig is more like 8-to-3).
Though maybe I've missed some of his "wild years" (he's certainly missed mine) we approach "partying at cons" from similar, fairly relaxed and conservative perspectives. We also come from similar faith backgrounds, and through our conversations it became apparent we shared the same feelings about how that faith should play out in mixed company and in our fiction.
But Dan is also a fine, fine horror writer. A true professional. Respected amongst his peers as both a writer and simply a person. If Dan lived closer and we could hang out more, I could easily see him as a mentor. Ironically, his advice after several drafts of "Lonely Places" proved invaluable, and helped make the story what it is.
AND, just his very presence convinced me that "horror writer" and "regular" guy was NOT an oxymoron (It should be noted that Dan was one of the first folks I really opened up to and who really opened up to me, and I've since realized most other horror writers are regular people also. I also don't want to imply that all these things Dan is, other horror writers are not. See? This post just rambles....).
I see a lot of what I'd like to be someday in Dan. And that made a huge difference for me. Now - I'm not implying that all other horror writers are weirdos, or that I like Dan because he's "boring". He's anything but, as the following two pictures prove...
...just that Dan himself made me feel a lot more comfortable thinking I had what it took to be a horror writer. Like I said - just take it all at face value. And PLEASE pick up his work. Solomon's Grave is probably one of the best spiritual horror novels I've ever read, and his newest short in the upcoming Shroud Halloween issue is sure to hit right where it counts.
Thanks, Dan. For just being you.