Real-life horror

For almost 15 years I’ve been a professional writer, but not in a fictional capacity.

My writing background comes from being a newspaper journalist on three newspapers in Central Queensland. I was a reporter for about eight years and in that time I wrote countless news articles and news features; stories on fatal traffic accidents, murders, train derailments, you name it. I had to do death-knocks (where you go through a phone book or electoral roll to find the family members of a deceased person and as them how they feel about it). I had to invade people’s privacy and talk to them in their worst moments just to get a story and and earn a wage to feed my kids. I hated doing it, but it was my job.

There were good stories as well; stories about heroes saving people’s lives, people getting justice, couples still in love after 60 years, charities making a difference, war veterans being honoured. Each person I interviewed left a mark on me and I loved telling those “human interest” stories. Not to diminish that the bad stories didn’t need to be told too, but sometimes I wonder if the horrible things I witnessed as a journalist have fostered my passion for writing horror – at least on a subconscious level?

It was while I was working on one particular newspaper that two things occurred which influenced my decision to change my line of work. Apologies if this is all a bit too much, but I guess it might put things into perspective. The first story was about a man who died in a caravan fire. I was tasked with going out to the scene and covering the death for what would be the front page of the next day’s paper. What I saw at the scene was truly horrible, an image of a deceased person that will be forever ingrained on my memory. I won’t describe that image, but sometimes when I’m writing a story it’s the first images that easily comes to mind.

The other story concerned a two year old boy butchered by a relative who suffered from a mental illness. Given I had two of my own children at the time, doing this story had a profound effect on me, but what affected me the most was that the little boy’s family told me they forgave his killer – that it wasn’t his fault, he was simply sick.

Let me state here and now that I was never offered counselling, most journalists are never offered counselling.

Although I’m a horror writer and I write pretty grisly tales about death and damnation, nothing I write will ever compare to what I wrote about as a journalist.

It took me a few years to get out of journalism, and for the past four years I’ve worked as a media officer. All of the stories I write are positive and the job is the job. I still love writing fiction and sometimes I wish it was all I did, but at least it’s fiction and not reality. I don’t ever want to do that type of writing again.

About darkscrybe

Two-time international Bram Stoker Award-nominee®*, Greg Chapman is a horror author and artist based in Queensland, Australia. Greg is the author of several novels, novellas and short stories, including his award-nominated debut novel, Hollow House (Omnium Gatherum) and collections, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (Specul8 Publishing) and This Sublime Darkness and Other Dark Stories (Things in the Well Publications). He is also a horror artist and his first graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, (McFarland & Company) written by authors Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton, won the Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel category at the Bram Stoker Awards® in 2013. He is also the current President of the Australasian Horror Writers Association. Greg lives in Rockhampton with his wife and their two daughters. * Superior Achievement in a First Novel for Hollow House (2016) and Superior Achievement in Short Fiction, for “The Book of Last Words” (2019)
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1 Response to Real-life horror

  1. I totally relate, Greg. I did journalism for 15 years and I'm so glad I'm an Author now – with contract work on the side. You did a terrific job when you worked at the NewsMail. So pleased to see you following your dreams now and not having to do the news beat.

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