When I was asked to contribute a piece to Paul Brazill’s Exiles: An Outsider’s Anthology, I was flattered, but it also elicited a wry laugh. I’ve been a long time lurker on the fringes of this rather fluid writing community made up of outsider crime and horror authors. But I’m also appropriate to the theme for another reason.
In the interest of documenting my process, I've posted a collection of personal essays from my old site that didn't automatically migrate when I set up this site. (Sadly, all the comments were lost.) The posts are long and rambling and somewhat conversational. These stories are special to me because they document the beginning of my obsession with The Bella Vista Motel, and are examples of a more personal point of view on writing and life experience. I believe there's more to being a writer than spitting out fiction. There's also being a human with a personal history.
There are ghosts everywhere. If you live, you will be haunted in some way, at some point. You will be haunted by ghosts that are uniquely tied to you and you alone. You will be haunted by family ghosts, neighborhood ghosts, and the ghosts of social upheaval experienced by millions. You can ignore your ghosts, both private and public, you can deny them, you can alter the chemicals in your brain to keep them at bay, but they will still be there.
The Bella Vista Motel is certainly a work of fiction. If I could remember it, I’d throw in that bit they put in at the end of movies – All resemblance to actual people, living or dead, total coincidence, etc. But if you’ve read my first post, you know I have peculiar ideas about the secret lives of ghosts and fictional characters. (And if you haven’t read it, don’t blame me if this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense...)
To paraphrase myself, I believe in ghosts. I also believe that fictional characters are a kind of ghost.
It's summer, 1973. Somewhere in the countryside outside of Port Huron, Michigan. The big, two-story, modern farmhouse beneath huge, spreading trees has me intimidated to go inside. There is nothing like it back home in Saugus, California. Home is a bleak, dry place where I have to hide from the punishing sun. Home is where swamp coolers hang off the windows of corrugated tin trailers, chugging out tepid, damp air for frail, old people. Grampa reminds us everyday about the three digit temperatures back home so we'll be grateful to be away.
My friend J has been my most devoted reader, and because she's also functioned as my ideal reader for many years, I've decided to tell a little story about her. She's very important to the Bella Vista Motel characters because she helped them get through to me from the Ouija board. She's very dear to me for too many reasons to list, but some of the best are: her persistent cheerful encouragement, agreeing to watch over my beloved dead cat, and her general willingness to try almost anything.
The last couple of months I have been caught up in moving to a new apartment. This is not a big deal for most people. Most healthy, well-adjusted people that is. I have a friend who moved from LA to New Orleans. She had a lot of stuff and a very complicated life, but she just packed it up in one of those really big moving trucks and rolled off down the road to forge her new empire. She didn't just move, she started a business and set up a workspace as well. In a whole other city on the other side of the country.
Paul Muni defines creepy sexy to me in the 1932 version of Scarface. The combination of childish enthusiasm and unbridled confidence often result in a weird sense of playful menace. He's totally unselfconcious. The guy has no idea he's a monster and is just having a ball.