The Dark is a novel with an interesting backstory, both in terms of how it came into Scott Bradley's life and how it eventually came into mine. So Scott and I wrote separate Afterwords that told these stories behind the story.
Sadly, the Afterwords didn't make it into the book. Thanks to my trusty blog, however, we're ready to share those stories with you here.
Don't worry, these Afterwords contain no spoilers.
I’m taking point here and gonna say that if we’ve done our job well—or even if we haven’t—The Dark isn’t the kind of novel that would normally require an afterword, let alone two.
Except, this novel does require some afterwords because there is a “story behind the story” that should be told of how this novel came to be thanks to our editor at Ravenous Shadows, John Skipp, and how Pete Giglio and I ended up writing it.
If you’re even a casual fan of horror fiction, Skipp needs no introduction. From splatterpunk poster boy in the eighties to beloved genre elder statesman today, he does it all, solo and in collaboration.
He’s the kind of guy who has many, many ideas, creatively cross-breeding many genres. For instance, how many other people do you know who have written (A) several classic horror novels (The Light at the End and many more.); (B) a butchered draft of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie (number five, The Dream Child); and (C) the screenplay and songs for an award-winning musical porn film (Misty Beethoven: The Musical!)?
I actually have a brief dialogue role in that last one (fully clothed, mind you!).
Skipp has so many ideas that he just doesn’t get around to some of them, even with his boundless enthusiasm, tireless work ethic, and various talented collaborators.
The Dark was one of those ideas. And he gave it to me. Here’s how it happened.
One night in the unbearably hot Los Angeles summer of 2007, Skipp and I were hanging out and watching a lot of movies on DVD. One of them was a little item from 1979 called The Dark, which bears absolutely no relation to the novel you just read.
I can’t resist a small digression about this film. Apparently it started life as your basic hulking-psycho-decapitating-people drive-in fodder. How great was this movie seemingly destined to be? The fact that the killer’s first victim is played by one Kathy Richards (these days better known as Paris Hilton’s mother) should be all the answer you need.
Tobe Hooper, hot off the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was directing; the cast featured such seventies stalwarts as William Devane, Cathy Lee Crosby, Richard Jaeckel, Keenan Wynn, and—I shit you not—Casey Kasem as a police pathologist (no doubt cast because he was buddies with the film’s producer—Dick Clark; yes, that Dick Clark).
How could this go wrong?
Alas, that’s when the clusterfuck began. First, Hooper departed the production something like two days into shooting for reasons that remain obscure. He was replaced by actor/stuntman/director John ‘Bud’ Cardos, who had previously helmed the William Shatner-versus-arachnids epic, Kingdom of the Spiders.
In myriad ways, this was not exactly Stanley Kubrick taking over from Anthony Mann on Spartacus.
And it’s not a turn of events that usually bodes well for a movie. For recent examples of this phenomenon, see John Frankenheimer replacing Richard Stanley on The Island of Dr. Moreau and Renny Harlin replacing Paul Schrader on the Exorcist prequel.
But it gets better, ’cause someone involved in this debacle noticed that the success of movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind had completely changed the game. Science fiction was hot. Very. Lasers and aliens and none of that artsy-fartsy 2001: A Space Odyssey kinda stuff to confuse people.
I have no idea how exactly what happened next transpired, even after listening to the DVD commentary twice, but I picture it going something like this:
PRODUCER-TYPE #1: Hey! Sci-Fi’s big, y’know, with the kids! Why don’t we make it an alien killer instead of just a human killer?
PRODUCER-TYPE #2: But we already got all this footage that’s not sci-fi. It’s just the killer stalking and the cops trying to catch him.
PRODUCER-TYPE #1: Let’s have the killer guy shoot lasers out of his eyes. That’s alien enough. And we’ll put a crawl at the beginning of the movie, like in that “A long time ago in a Galaxy Far-Far Away” thing!
I have a feeling the reality was even better than my speculations, possibly featuring copious lines of cocaine, but I don’t want to be responsible for any scurrilous rumors that substance abuse might have been involved in the making of this film.
Anyway, to end the digression and segue back to the point—and speaking of substance abuse—Skipp and I were pretty hammered as we hooted and hollered and gawked at The Dark. A great time was had by all, especially when one of us (can’t remember which) noted how completely generic and unrelated the title The Dark was to the film itself.
Like one of the aforementioned Producer-Types suggested, “Let’s just call it The Dark! That sounds scary!”
As we considered that, Skipp said: “Did I ever tell you about the idea I had for a story called The Dark?”
Well, no, he hadn’t. I knew the shitty movie we had just watched, and I was aware that there was a James Herbert novel called The Dark, which I hadn’t read. But he’d never told me any idea of his using that title.
So Skipp told me. He sketched out the basic premise (the Dark becomes sentient and malevolent) and a chunk of the narrative (single mom overseeing slumber party as the shit hits the fan). Then we parted ways for the night.
And I went to bed. Sitting in the dark and thinking about The Dark (the John Skipp version). The story, for lack of a better word, haunted me.
What a great idea, both viscerally and metaphorically!
I found myself obsessing on it, so—a couple of days later over lunch—I flat out asked Skipp: “That story you told me, The Dark. You gonna write that?”
Skipp said no. He had a new solo novel (The Long Last Call) about to come out and was brewing various other fiction and film projects, and just being generally Skipptastically busy (as he usually is).
So I admitted that I was kinda interested in taking a crack at the story, and, hey, would he mind if…?
No. Skipp didn’t mind at all.
Then he helped me plot out the whole thing on a few hundred note cards. When we couldn’t figure something out – a plot point or a character or an idea - we’d make a card for that too. This is the way Skipp works.
I was collaborating with one of the greatest horror writers of our time, except he wasn’t plotting this out as my co-author. He was doing it as a friend and mentor and the big brother I never had (I have two awesome sisters, but never had a big brother to kick my ass when it needed kicking and cheer me on when I needed cheering—Skipp has filled that role very ably on both counts).
We got The Dark plotted. I started making exploratory jabs at writing it. Then Fate stepped in.
Ironically, not Fate in a bad way, but rather a good way.
Because, my girlfriend Amy Wallace (bestselling author of many books, fiction and non-fiction) and our friend Del Howison (award-winning genre editor, esteemed fiction writer, and proprietor of the great horror bookstore, Dark Delicacies, in Burbank, California) had been discussing doing a horror-focused spin-off of the bestselling The Book of Lists (a series launched in 1977, originally conceived and executed by Amy, her brother David Wallechinsky, and their father Irving Wallace).
Well, you’re not gonna believe what happened next – it’s hard for me to believe – but big time publishers HarperCollins bought our proposal for The Book of Lists Horror.
Naturally, The Dark – and everything else - went wayyyyyy on the back burner.
Skipp understood. He even threw in massive amounts of hard work and moral support on The Book of Lists Horror as our “Fifth Beatle.”
Flash-forward a couple of years. Skipp edited his fourth successful anthology of zombie fiction. So successful that he was asked by its publisher to do a follow-up called Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beast Within.
Skipp invited me to contribute. I was killing myself to conceive something, anything, but the best I could come up with was “C.I.A. werewolves” (don’t ask).
Around that time I was catching up with my friend Pete Giglio, with whom I went to elementary, junior high, and high school. We’d gotten back in touch via the magic of the Internet; Pete had been reading and writing and pursuing his own creative endeavors.
So I said to Pete: “Should we take a crack at this shapeshifter thing for Skipp’s anthology together?”
Pete—always up for a challenge (and ask anyone, especially Pete – working with me is always a challenge)—was in. We worked out a story, inspired by the twisty-turny novels of William Goldman (we even have Skipp to thank for that, when he asked me, “Wonder what a shapeshifter story by Goldman would be like?”).
Wrote it. Sent it to Skipp. I didn’t think we had a chance of getting accepted, any more than I thought Amy, Del, and I would sell The Book of Lists Horror.
Needless to say, I’ve learned the power of negative thinking, ‘cause our tale, “The Better Half: A Love Story”, was accepted for Werewolves and Shapeshifters (I was in Hanoi, Vietnam, with my Dad when I got the email that Skipp dug the story; how cool is THAT?)
Call it a life-changer or a game-changer or…
…just call it two dumbasses from Springfield, Missouri, ending up in an anthology with the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Angela Carter and Chuck Palahniuk and Joe R. Lansdale and George R.R. Martin and the proverbial “many, many more.”
Bottom line: John Skipp pulled the trigger on our careers as fiction writers.
So—one more flash-forward (this is getting to be like a Nicolas Roeg movie or something, isn’t it?)—in 2011 Skipp was named Editor Maximus of Ravenous Shadows, the horror/suspense/mystery/thriller wing of Ravenous Romance.
After delivering this news, Skipp asked, “So what are you thinking about The Dark?”
I knew he’d been disappointed with me on the project, though - bless him - he never actually said it to me. Even with the extenuating circumstances of Book of Lists Horror, I’d done zero with The Dark. As in nothing.
Sometimes the fat manila envelope marked “The Dark Cards” would catch my eye; I’d turn away guiltily and start farting around on the Internet.
But now there was a new player in the game, and formidable one—Peter Giglio, who’s that rare combination of prolific and talented. In addition to being my oldest and dearest friend, he’s also the dream collaborator: Hard-working and dedicated to Getting It Right. Ready to concede a point or ready to argue, whatever it takes. Always without anger or ego; always in aid of solving the problem on any project he’s involved in.
“I was thinking about The Dark,” I said, “and wondering if I should do it with Pete.”
“You should definitely do it with Pete,” Skipp replied with an excited grin. “That way you might actually write it!”
And that’s how the novel you just read happened.
Los Angeles, CA
December 22, 2011 (Winter Solstice)
In 2007, not long after Scott and Skipp’s initial plotting of The Dark, I had the pleasure of getting back in touch with Scott. We’d met in the fourth grade, stayed friends through high school, and then gone our separate ways, as people often do when the time comes for higher education.
We reconnected on MySpace.
Ah, social media. Say what you will about it, but let me say this first: Without it, I never would have been reunited with my dear friend. And the novel that you just read or are getting ready to read…well…it might not exist at all.
Over the last four years, Scott and I have had many conversations. In them, Scott spoke of The Dark from time to time. He even laid out the plot a few times. And I listened to each telling like it was the first, because I dug the story.
No. I didn’t just dig it. I loved it! Still do!
But I had no illusions that I’d ever be part of it.
The Dark was a sacred gift to Scott Bradley from none other than horror legend John Skipp. I’m very fond of Skipp and his work, and I’m proud to call him a friend. But he’s more than that to Scott.
To Scott, he’s a brother, much the same way Scott’s a brother to me. And, as I’m sure you can understand, Scott was very protective of The Dark.
So, in the summer of 2011, when Scott asked me to write The Dark with him, I asked, “Are you sure?” He said something to the effect of, “If you’re sure you’re up it.” I was all-too-pleased to respond, “Hell yes!”
We set up a work schedule, had a few discussions, wrote a proposal, and the deal was set.
The Dark was going to be a novel by Scott Bradley & Peter Giglio, edited by John Skipp.
I was thrilled.
Scott, before flying to Southeast Asia on one of his fantastic Father-Son trips, sent me the note cards that he and Skipp had written four years earlier.
They were out of order.
But that wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, had they not been out of order, I might have shuffled them anyway. Putting the cards in order, trying to make sense out of them—for instance, a card would say “DARK D.J.,” the next card would say “Minefield,” then the next would say “Claire struggles with her inner-Dark,” and…you get the idea—was an important part of the process. It connected me to that long-ago night in the summer of 2007. I even had a few beers as I worked through the cards, just to get into the spirit of the whole thing.
I was part of The Dark.
Once the cards were in order—or as close to “in order” as I was going to get them—I started filling in the blanks. I pieced together a pretty strong outline (5,000 words) and sent it off to Scott. He made changes, and we had discussions, but that outline, for the most part, represents the structure of the novel we ended up writing. Much of it came from the cards. Much of it came from me. Ain’t collaboration a beautiful thing? I think so!
I’m pretty damned proud of that outline. Proud that I got it. And happy that I could be part of putting the story together. This wasn’t just going to be a paint-by-numbers assignment where I got to take part in writing someone else’s book. Trust me, I’d have been okay with that considering the story behind the story.
But I was elated it was going to be more. Positively giddy that I got to take chances, create characters and scenes, and have some fun.
I won’t bore you with a lot of stories from the writing process.
We had good days.
We had bad days (Scott actually spent one day in the ER and two days in the ICU due to complications from Type 1 Diabetes during the writing of this novel).
We had arguments (No, Scott, you don’t land a joke right after a beloved character dies).
And we, since we were never in the same room (or, for that matter, the same state) during the writing of The Dark, gave each other several virtual high-fives—again, thanks to the miracle of social media (though we’ve both, happily, upgraded to Facebook).
That’s my story of The Dark. And I’m sticking to it!
January 2, 2012