You might have heard about this little anthology I’ve got coming out that I co-created and co-edited with Emily Lavin Leverett, call The Big Bad II. All month I’ll be hosting guest blog posts from authors in the anthology talking about the Evolution of Evil – how they came up with their story for The Big Bad. This is Nicole’s take.
I’m an 80s brat. Born in ’74 (still younger than me! – JH), but reared on the Eagles, The Police, Michael Jackson, and Prince. My coming of age years sprouted firm and fully underneath the bestseller might of V.C. Andrews and Stephen King at the height of his popularity and horror movies. My parents sought out horror via the revolutionary VHS (sometimes we managed to snag a BETA version in error from the video store. My father would be furious), and watch the carnage unfold on our home television set until the wee hours of the night. Then, my folks and I would load up into our car and go to the Waffle House® for breakfast.
Film after film failed to frighten me. You see, I grew up in a public housing project. The gritty horror of inner city life rendered Freddy’s one liners and Jason’s “campy” antics to farce and funny. In a word, it was overkill. I saw real people die from drug overdoses, gunshot, and stabbings. Blood stained sidewalks, police brutality, and common fist-fights in my every day diet made Hollywood’s scary settings more cartoonish than horrific.
My story, “Sweet Tooth,” in The Big Bad, Volume Two, is based on what did terrorize me as an 80s teenager. The candy lady. Her apartment was in our neighborhood, and like most people in the projects, she hustled to make her government-subsidized wages stretch. She sold candy, pop, gum (no, it’s not the same as candy), and chips from her kitchen.
As a youth, I feared her, like my protagonist, Bryce Howerton, does in my story. Her place smelled strange-weird, a mixture of ancient dirt and leftover death. My stomach hurts even now as I think about that odor and how it made my own sweet tooth ache from disgust. From that single horror—a filthy apartment that sold food products to kids—also coupled with the news coverage of razor blades in apples at Halloween and sweets had become suspect for me ever since.
To this day, I still prefer salty snacks to anything “sweet.”
My second fear as a teenager grew from the abduction of young black children in the Atlanta area. The Atlanta Child Murders turned my momma into a protective force. Her fear fed mine and together it grew to incredible size. The community’s outrage over the seemingly lack of interest in black lives, even then, seemed horrific (#blacklivesmatter).
Twisted and intertwined, these two fears became the crux of “Sweet Tooth,” a short story of an inner city teen and his very real fear of the hood’s candy lady. Of course, those facts mixed with fiction, and what Bryce learns about the discarded bodies, the candy lady, and himself if what great storytelling is all about.
So, check out “Sweet Tooth,” and other tales of villainy in The Big Bad, Volume Two, from Dark Oak Press and from the editing genius of John Hartness and Emily Leverett.
As for me, you can follow me on Twitter @nicolegkurtz, find me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/nlkurtz), and groove with me on Google+ (mochamemoirspress). You can find my other works of horror at Other Worlds Pulp, my website, http://www.nicolegivenskurtz.com.