I spent two hours of the morning before writing this post locked outside of my apartment in the Michigan cold. It was snowing and I was shivering, wearing an old “Ghost Hunter” hoodie, some joggers, tennis shoes, and a wool hat. Now, you might be wondering, “How did this happen, Zach?”
Well, let me tell you.
I woke up at 9:30AM (later than I’d intended), wandered into the kitchen, ate a clementine over the kitchen sink, washed my hands, sat down with my laptop, paid two bills, and then – because it’s the New Year, and I’m trying to combat the myriad of health issues my family suffers from – I decided that I was going to go to the gym. So, I put on my shoes, opened the front door, flicked the bottom lock with my thumb, closed the door, and stretched on my front porch like a king overlooking his kingdom. I took in a deep breath, reached for my car keys, and alas: the 25-year-old dumbass who was ready to conquer the day only ten seconds earlier was now staring through his living room window at his set of keys (apartment and car) hanging on their hook next to the entryway closet.
Fuck, I thought.
So, what does this have to do with Wingless, the book that I promised I’d start writing about in my last post?
We’ll get to that.
First, though, I need to explain I’ve been interested in mythology and horror since I was a kid. Regarding mythology, it all started with Disney’s Hercules; after I saw the movie, I became obsessed with researching the Greek Pantheon, and at a young age I started making connections, albeit very basic ones, between mythology and religion, subconsciously aware of their shared archetypes and tropes. My obsession with horror, however, all kicked off when I was shown perhaps the best horror flick to date, The Exorcist (I wanna say I was around 14 or so when I saw it, and I’m not sure I ever told my mom). I’d never been so simultaneously fascinated and horrified. Sleepless for the rest of that night – and for a few nights after, I’m sure – my lifelong fixation on horror had officially begun.
The first story I’d ever written took core concepts from mythology and horror and combined them into a science fiction/dark fantasy hybrid in which a teenager wakes up in a world in which almost the entirety of humanity has vanished, and in their place larger-than-life, Lovecraftian monsters roam the scorched earth. He knew that the only way for him to fix everything was to make his way to this tower where he would face down with some big baddie.
Oh, uh, it was a dark tower.
When I discovered that one of my favorite authors had already written a series of books about this exact plotline, I resolved to take the basic emotional premise of my story and tell it through poetry: a coming of age narrative about a boy who is haunted by demons and monsters, both metaphorical and real, in a world constructed of his worst nightmares (fun fact: I was initially inspired by the mythological character Icarus to include recurring “wing” imagery throughout my book).
I wanted to create a dark world with brooding, haunted characters, and I wanted them to suffer in the worst ways, with stories like Antichrist, Misery, and Evil Dead lingering in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to write anything happy; in fact, the story I was concocting in my mind was so dreary that it probably would have seemed insincere and fabricated, detached from any real trauma or experiences.
When I first started writing Wingless, it was a mish-mash of dark poetry that didn’t really mean anything at all because I didn’t have anything to talk about yet (see the poem in my previous post for an example). I was a freshman in college. Everything was hunky-dory. The difficulties and obstacles I’d overcome thus far were miniscule in comparison to what was on the horizon. In other words, I hadn’t yet locked myself outside in the cold with no coat or keys, hadn’t yet felt the frustration of being so close to something that I couldn’t physically touch.
The seed for Wingless was planted when I’d fallen in love with mythology and horror, and reinvigorated when I’d learned how to combine them; however, the actual “What’s it about?” of the book hadn’t yet happened. That’s what we’ll be talking about next time!