I was 10 the year my parents drove from Michigan to the Rocky Mountains for summer vacation. The trip meant six weeks in the back of a truck camper: no TV, no radio. No parental supervision, since they rode in the cab of the truck. These were the days before handheld video games or home computers or smart phones.
Mostly, my brother stared out the window and slept. Mostly, I read. I had a stack of books checked out the public library. I’d just recently started reading novels. One of these was Dracula.
There’s a photograph of me sitting on a boulder outside the campground at Rocky Mountain National Park. It was beautiful there and I was excited about seeing mountains, but my dad and the camper were queued up in a very long line of campers and cars, waiting to see if there would be any campsites for the night. We weren’t going anywhere for hours.
In the picture, I’m sitting on a boulder with a book on my lap. There might be a slight flush to my cheeks that has nothing to do with the fresh air and sunshine.
My mom, who was a librarian, had a theory: everything I was too young for, I would misunderstand anyway. Even if I didn’t grasp the subtext, my world was rocked when Dracula drinks Mina’s blood, then slices open a vein in his chest and feeds her blood back. And she likes it.
Every horror story I write descends from that moment: when submission turns to pleasure, then to glee, then to hunger.