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.