What Scares Me – a Halloween Thank You To Stephen King

In fifth grade, I discovered Stephen King, who I used to read beneath the covers and—at times—actually beneath the bed. Thanks to him, I was scared of clowns, rabid dogs, possessed cars, haunted houses, proms, and a vast array of everyday sights and experiences turned just slightly off kilter. His books clicked with something inside me, whatever story-generating impulse lurked in the lizard part of my brain, and I found myself constantly looking at the world around me, thinking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen right now?” Then I’d run the script in my head. Mayhem and destruction, Hitchcockian twists and turns, flights of dark fancy. The thing was I enjoyed it, often a lot more than, say, sitting in geometry or looking out the airplane window. So how I face up to my fears, I think, is by writing. Trying to summon the darkest, most wrenching scenarios I can summon and then seeing if I can wrestle them on the page. Since I’ve gotten older, the things that scare me have changed (except for clowns). When I first became a father, I remember being struck with the realization that I had more surface area to protect now, and so I think my latest books are my attempts to grapple with those new-found vulnerabilities.