By Sarah Jio (NY Times)
It’s 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and I’ve just gotten my three boys to bed. I sit down at my desk with a cup of tea and open the draft of my new novel. There’s a hazy moon in the sky and the wind is howling outside my office window. I can hear the branches of the old maple tree creaking in the wind, thrashing against the house — the perfect dark and stormy night.
Tonight I’m working on a chapter where my character will confront something terrifying, and to get into the right mood for a scene like this, I do what I always do: I think back to the most chilling night of my life — the night my family came into close (too close) contact with a murderer.
I’ve never written about this before, though it’s an experience that’s informed every scary scene I’ve ever written — every scream, every door creaking on its hinge, every imagined boogeyman lurking in the darkness. Look closely, and you can find it swirling in the salty night air in my first novel, “The Violets of March”; or hear echoes of it in the cries of my heroine in “Blackberry Winter.” The truth is, I owe much of my understanding of suspense and fear on the page to one single terrifying experience in 1990.
I was 12 years old at the time, with hair pulled back into a ponytail, a pink boombox on my dresser and an unmarred sense of peace and safety. My parents locked the doors at night, we said our prayers and nobody worried. Not really. But then, one afternoon, a dark shadow crept in.
Read the rest of this post at the New York Times.