There be spoilers.
That is the belief which fuels the novel The Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman. It takes a graveyard to raise a child. An orphaned boy evades an untimely death when he wanders into a graveyard, and away from the murderous war path of a cold and precise hitman, and is taken in by the ghosts that live there. He is given the Freedom of the Graveyard which allows him to acquire certain skills that usually only ghosts possess.
What does this book have to do with writing? To me, everything is about writing. First, great stories beautifully told are always about writing. About Crafting and Magic. They are the same. That is very much how it is created.
Second, it took a graveyard to raise me. More precisely a pet cemetery and a prison called The Green Mile. An unfound door and The Overlook Hotel.
I continually tested myself in the crucible of the horror novel.
But it was never about the thrills, about getting scared and cowering under covers with a wildly beating heart. (Although that sometimes happened.)
For me, it was always about the intermingled beauty and bravery. The decisions one has to make when facing the impossible. Run? Fight? Protect those you love? Or push them toward the ax murderer so that you can run away? It was about escaping into something so seemingly normal, an average day and a shock to my system when suddenly, nothing looks the same. Better than a cup of coffee. I’m awake.
I learned a lot from the pages of the horror books I’ve read. More than a slight and, I think healthy, distrust of the fabric of realty and basements. More then an absolute inability to allow my feet or arms to hang over the side of the bed. I learned about gentle, pure giants like John Coffey and human nature. The nature of those who would seek to destroy another and those who would risk all to protect another, and why. About how addiction takes many forms, how the fight for good against evil can become blurred if you loose your way. About how important Ka tet is.
The Graveyard Book was a beautiful book, full of ghouls but not at all about ghouls. The type of book that made you really ask who the real ghouls are. I read this book in one week end, on a vacation in Florida and cried when it was over, big gasping tears outside of a delicious french bakery, the warm ocean in walking distance, and palm trees over my head.
The book was about growing up. The rite of passage into adulthood where one must leave home even though it’s unsafe to. Because it’s the right thing to do to stop hiding and begin to live life.
That book transported me and when it was over I crashed back to reality.
I have never written anything like that. There was instantly a war which should have been waged in my head, or maybe in my heart, but it felt like it was in my entire body, and all around me.
One side: Hang it up. You’ll never be that good.
The other: It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to keep trying.