When I was a kid, I wanted to be a coroner. No, really, that’s what I wanted to do. Yeah, okay, stop looking at me like that. I know it’s weird, but hear me out. Couple of things played into this morbid fascination. The first was that I loved science. Biology, AP Bio, Anatomy & Phys – you name it, I loved it. Chemistry I was less “ooh and aah” over for some reason, but biological function? Dissecting cats and pigs and starfish and worms? You bet. My cat-dissection team even had a nickname for our cat. It was Socks. Because when we, uhh, peeled the cat? We couldn’t get the fur off his feet. Gallows humor even at sixteen.
Rest in peace, Socks. You were good to give your life to my scalpel.
So the reasonable person says, “Hillary, if you loved science, why not be a doctor?” The real reason? I’ve never been a particular fan of people. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, make friends pretty well and generally enjoy being around them, but I like to do it on my terms. If Cranky-Ass Cranky comes into my doctor’s office and proceeds to be a turdmonster in my general direction, I’m going to want to stab him with a needle. In the eye. I think that’s against the Hippocratic Oath, to stab grumpy old men for grumping, so I avoided lawsuits by avoiding science with live, talking people. Science with non-alive, non-talking dead people it was, then.
Another reason I slanted toward this whole coroner bit was I read a lot — and I do mean a lot — of crime fiction. Non-fiction crime stuff, too. And I’m not talking James Patterson stuff. I’m talking books written by people who were coroners or medical examiners and they took that knowledge and parlayed it into thrillers. Those were my faves – when the authors really delved into the science and criminology slant of the stories they crafted. I know Thomas Harris is a boring-ass read for a lot of people. The dude is about as dry as Michener for presentation of words, but hot damn if I didn’t eat up all the creepy little details. And knowing that SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was based on REAL apeshit murderer creepers? Yep. Was all over it. HELTER SKELTER on the non-fiction side, yep. Anything by Bugliosi, actually, because he presented his cases in a compelling way.
Here’s the really sick part, though. I loved the pictures. I don’t even know why. This is what makes me think that maybe I’m 4.3% serial killer because I am the worst rubbernecker. It’s not like it excites me. It’s actually quite the opposite. I’m so horrified I can’t look away, and yet I’m compelled to flip the page and digest the next awful thing. When there were pictures from a Ted Bundy crime scene linked online? I knew I shouldn’t. But I did. Worse? It was so horrific the images stuck with me and gave me nightmares, but every single goddamned time someone puts crime scene photos in front of me, I look.
It’s probably no great surprise that I love the show Bones or all those real crime autopsy shows. I love anything that shows FBI profilers. I’ll watch documentaries about serial killers or unsolved crimes any day of the week. When I really delve into ‘WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS, HILLARY?” I guess it’s that I can’t fathom people being that cruel or terrible to other human beings. I’m a pretty smart gal. I understand a lot of things even if I haven’t directly experienced them. This is one of the things I can and never will be able to grok – WHY and HOW people are like this. Something is broken about them and I’ll never grasp that. I think it’s that mystery that keeps me coming back. It’s like, “If I watch enough or read enough, one day I’ll get how someone can get so utterly batshit.”
I suppose in a way I shouldn’t want that because that might make me one of those chicks that writes to deathrow inmates with letters like I TOTALLY GET YOU, SLASHER MIKEY. I UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN. Only I wouldn’t because my mother would beat me to death with a shoe. Justifiably so, in this case.
Anyway, the point of all of this! I’m a writer. I write horror. Some people would think with this coroner wanna-be background, I’d write thrillers or more realistic horror, but I actually have no leaning that way for the very simple reason of, “It scares me too much.” Silly but true, human cruelty scares the piss out of me. I find if I gussy up my horror in the supernatural, if I send a horrible monster your way, I’m okay with it because it’s not real. I can tell myself it’s not real and so the maimings aren’t something plausible and thus acceptable. But after so much exposure to how bent some people in our world are? Yeah, I don’t want to write about the real life horrors because those happen too much. Watch the news if you want to see that stuff. I simply can’t put it in my books.
Except I probably will one day because that’s how my rat-trap brain works, but still. For now if you see something creepy spewing from my fingers? It’s gonna be the non-possible. The Boogie Man and Slender Man and Bloody Mary and all that jazz. Fake is good. Fake is fun. Fake is not putting body parts in freezers so you can have Charlie pot pie later on.