“You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.” I hear those words often, and it makes me laugh every time. Should I dress in all black? Wear smoky eye makeup and dangerously long, red fingernails? Or should I perhaps be a man?
Even as a young reader, I was attracted to dark, mysterious stories by writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, the Brontës. I loved exploring their mystical and psychologically fascinating worlds—and I definitely enjoyed the thrills. My childhood was a sunny, calm one, but I was shy. The excitement I found between the covers of a book was all I wanted and needed.
Is it any wonder that—having lived long enough to know the real world can be a truly dangerous place—I still long to escape into the relative safety of those imagined worlds? I travel those dim pathways again and again, and each time find myself somewhere new. My companions in the shadows are ghosts, lost children, lost loves, and sometimes even the monstrous. The hopeful, the wishful, the desperate-for-love. These are my friends, the ones who whisper in my ear as I write.
Except. No one can live in darkness all the time. There is always joy. Light that must get in. That place where my stories come from is my retreat, my secret pleasure—a pleasure I love to share with like-minded readers. But the everyday me—the one who walks the dogs, schedules my kids’ activities, posts the cat pics, the one who is likely to show up at the grocery store or the library, or my favorite coffee place—is most often caught wearing a smile, and rarely the color black. Are you disappointed? I hope not. But I’ll tell you a secret: writers rarely even look like writers. They look like you. They look like me.
So, follow me to my secret place. (And mind the cat pics along the way!)
(Author pic by Julia Noack Photography)
Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of eight books, including When I Make Love to the Bug Man (stories) and novels of suspense, including The Stranger Inside. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.