Scottish Horror Writer Dave Watson on his influences

Posted by Matt Foley on February 11, 2013 in Guest Blog tagged with ,

In the first of a semi-regular feature showcasing new authors, horror writer Dave Watson talks about his scariest influence of all: his big brothers’ bedroom.  When not playing with the bounds of reality and scribbling down demented creepy tales about monsters, ghosts, beer and stoners, Dave Watson studies at the University of Glasgow and works as a freelance composer and music teacher. He lives in western Scotland with his wife and son. You can download his latest novel In the Devil’s Name from his Amazon author page.

Kids hate brushing their teeth.

It tastes weird, no matter how strawberry flavoured the toothpaste manufacturers try to make their product. It reminds you of going to the dentist, that sterile smelling hell that every child in their right mind fears more than hell itself. Most of all, it’s a chore; one more example of something that you’re told to do, rather than something that you want to do. One more instance of the tyrannical grown-ups pushing you around when all you want to do is fill your mouth with the sugariest, most enamel destroying thing you can find, watch some cartons and read some comics.

As an eight year old, I hated brushing my teeth for a very different reason.

I’m the youngest of three brothers. My two older siblings have five and six years on me, and in 1985, my big brothers’ love of horror movies made my night-time dental care routine a traumatic, terrifying ordeal.

Standing in the bathroom of the council house where I grew up, you could see across the upstairs landing and into my brothers’ bedroom, which had a shoddily framed door that would never stay closed, and walls garishly festooned with band and horror movie posters. And so every night as I stood there, skinny as an anorexic rake in my vest and Y- fronts brushing my teeth, I knew that if I turned my head just slightly, I’d see Freddy Krueger’s burn-scarred face snarling at me from the darkened bedroom across the landing, his razor tipped fingers flashing in the gloom. But as a kid, you have to turn your head and look in those kinds of situations, don’t you? Because if you don’t, you know fine well that Freddy’s going to come right out of that poster, creep across that dark bedroom, come out onto the landing, walk right into the bathroom and get you while your back’s turned.

So you keep a very close eye on him.

Needless to say, as a grown man of thirty five, I’m some distance from having a million dollar smile.

When people ask me what my influences are, my brothers’ bedroom is top of the list. Guys like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Gary Brandner and Richard Laymon, heroes one and all, come a distant second. See, there wasn’t an inch of that damned room that wasn’t decorated in something freaky. It was like a horror immersion chamber. If it wasn’t Freddy Krueger leering down at me from the wall, it was Ozzy Osbourne done up as a werewolf. If it wasn’t a lycanthropic Ozzy, it was Iron Maiden’s walking, drooling corpse Eddie as he thrashed in a straightjacket precariously chained to the padded walls of an asylum cell; and, if it wasn’t Eddie, it was a fanged, Mohican hairdo-ed skull on a poster for The Exploited. In that bedroom, in the company of my brothers, I once watched The Exorcist, Hellraiser, and my first porno all in the space of a single night when I was about nine.

Nowadays, I get some of my biggest kicks watching horror movies and playing guitar in a rock band. Go figure.

As such, I’ve found that in life, we often end up loving what we’re scared of. There’s always that dark allure. So it was for me with all things macabre, and I started spilling my overfed imagination onto paper in my early teens before I started working on my first full-length novel, In the Devil’s Name, in my mid-twenties. The book is a twist on the legend of Sawney Beane, the mythical seventeenth-century cannibal who supposedly lived in a coastal cave down Ayrshire way with his inbred family, surviving by chowing down on late night travellers snatched from the road above their subterranean lair. My second book, The Wolves of Langabhat, which I’m hoping to have finished by this spring, is based on another Scottish myth, though one that’s probably not as well known. I discovered the folk story of the wolf men of the Isle of Lewis buried deep in a website about supernatural goings on in Scotland, and being something of a werewolf nut, I figured that was another legend I could gleefully mess with.

From what I’ve read in books about how to write books and on various writing websites, the professional scribbler should batter out a first draft and just get it finished, warts and all, then lock it away somewhere and forget all about it for a while before going back and editing, redrafting and rewriting until the writer is happy with the finished product.

I can’t roll like that. For me, I guess you could call my process some sort of controlled literary OCD. Finding the ideas for stories is fun. Actually writing the damn things is the hard part, and it’s here that I can’t abide by the tried and tested formula of writing the whole thing before redrafting. I’ll write a paragraph, then go back and edit, rewrite, redraft and generally screw around with it until

I’m happy, then go on to the next one until I’ve got what I think makes a chapter. Then I’ll rewrite, edit and redraft that chapter and screw around with it until I’m happy. Once I’ve got the entire story finished, I’ll go right back to the start, edit, rewrite, redraft and screw around with it… you get the picture. Point being, I can’t leave it alone. To me, stories are like a right good scab on your knee or a really itchy mosquito bite. I’ve just got to keep picking and scratching at it or I‘ll go mental. Oh yeah, and I’m not satisfied until there’s blood.

However messed up the process, it seems to be working to some degree, as people have started reading the scary little things I write and telling me they like them. Maybe I’ll make a living at it someday.

If not, Wes Craven’s getting my dental bills once I get over my fear of going to the dentist.

Dave Watson

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