I OWE IT ALL TO THE BROTHERS GRIMM
My father tells me that I taught myself to read when I was two years old.
I remember the first word I ever read (“EXIT”, and I think my mother had taken me to the hospital for a checkup), but I cannot remember not knowing how to read – nor would I want to! Reading is an addiction for me, plain and simple. I grew up devouring everything with pages I could get my sticky hands on. I read Dr. Seuss before he started rhyming. Bartholomew and the Oobleck is still one of my five hundred favorite books. I was happily enthralled with the Brothers Grimm. I read The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids with the sick fascination an imaginative child reserves for the very best gross-out stories. (Not familiar? Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Mama Goat tells the seven little kids not to let the wolf in while she’s away. How will we know it’s you? the kids ask. I have soft white paws and a soft voice, the mama replies. The wolf comes to the door, gets busted for having black scary paws and a rough voice. He goes away and covers his paws with flour and eats chalk to soften his voice. The kids let him in and, surprise! He eats six of them, then runs away. The mama goat comes home, and she & the lone survivor go in search of the wolf. They find him sleeping off his dinner. Mama Goat whips out her sewing kit, cuts the wolf’s stomach open with embroidery scissors, and lets the six kids out. Then they fill the sleeping wolf’s stomach with rocks, and Mama sews him back up. He wakes up and goes on his way. The rocks in his stomach make him thirsty, so he goes to the river for a drink, falls in, and weighted down by the rocks, drowns. I’m not even kidding. That’s the freakin’ story.)
With a background like this, it didn’t surprise anyone (especially me) that when I grew up and started writing my own stories, they were horror tales. That was the easy part – sit down at the computer, open a vein, and start channeling Mess’rs Grimm. Fun times.
But then, I started to get another itch. I felt like writing – gasp – romance. Now THAT was not so easy. Oh, I’d had boyfriends before. One of them even got himself bumped up to Husband. I had my Happily Ever After. But what did I really know about conflict? (Okay, apart from that one horribly vicious breakup in my twenties…) What did I know about creating the kind of conflict on the page that would keep readers turning those pages?
They say that when you’re lost, it helps to go back to the beginning. So that’s what I did. I went back to all those wonderful stories for inspiration. I went back to those heroines who journeyed East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon to find their loves. I went back to those heroes who went on quests, promising to come back in a year and a day. I went back to all those wonderful stories and I read them for something other than horror. I let them teach me about love and fantasy and romance as well.
I’m happy to say that I still write horror. I’m not the least bit too proud to go for the gross-out. But I also write romance, and it’s darn good stuff too, or so my fans tell me. Whenever I need inspiration for a story – how would a recently revived Egyptian prince behave, after being dead for three thousand years? What would it be like to be a werewolf? What would a Puritan ghost say to her great-great-umpty-great granddaughter? – I have half a lifetime of reading to back me up.
And I still love a story where they live Happily Ever After.
Sylvia Shults writes both horror and romance (and is the first to admit that there is a fine line between the two). Her romance novels include Price of Admission and The Taming of the Werewolf (both Dark Continents Publishing). Her most recent release, also from Dark Continents Publishing, is a humorous romance set in Salem, Mass., called Double Double Love & Trouble. Please visit her website, sylviashults.com, or explore her Facebook fan pages, Darkheart for horror fiction, and Sparkleheart for romance. Purchase her new release, Double Double Love & Trouble at Amazon.