Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Steve Rasnic Tem.

About Steve Rasnic Tem:

Steve Rasnic Tem was born in Lee County Virginia in the heart of Appalachia. He is the author of over 350 published short stories and is a past winner of the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. His story collections include City Fishing, The Far Side of the Lake, and In Concert (with wife Melanie Tem). Forthcoming collections include Ugly Behavior (crime) and Celestial Inventories (contemporary fantasy). An audio collection, Invisible, is also available. His novels include Excavation, The Book of Days, Daughters, The Man In The Ceiling (with Melanie Tem),  Deadfall Hotel, Blood Kin, Ubo and The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack.

Click here to visit his official website.

About The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack:

Fall is Laura’s favorite time of year, but this autumn, things are different. She’s a teenager now, and the season brings new changes and challenges. Laura’s decided she’s too old for trick-or-treating and wants a more grown-up Halloween experience with her friends. Unfortunately for Laura, her parents tell her she has to take her little brother, Trevor, out trick-or-treating first. When they go shopping for Halloween costumes, they stumble upon a very strange shop and its even stranger proprietor. When Trevor tries on the wrong mask, the consequences are exciting... and dangerous.

GUEST POST: Inspirations for The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack by Steve Rasnic Tem

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is about the wild experiences of two children during Halloween. I have a long history with Halloween. It hasn’t always been my favorite holiday. When I was very young I was enthralled by the idea of masks and costumes, that you could create something fantastic and magical to wear and people might not know who you were inside that outfit. I used to spend hours turning myself into a robot or a mummy, and although those costumes weren’t always successful—in fact they usually fell apart long before trick-or-treating was over—they were still great fun to imagine and work on.

But as I got older and my own self-image became darker and more complicated, Halloween became the night I expressed my worst inner doubts. I began dressing up as criminals and executioners, mad scientists and thieves. I was a troubled kid who was afraid people would discover he wasn’t that nice a person after all. Halloween gave me the opportunity to dress up as the bad person I was afraid I really was. But instead of freeing me, it made me sad and depressed. I’d come home and eat every piece of candy I’d collected, which often left me ill and listless and angry with myself for days.

After high school and during my college years Halloween was not something I gave much thought. I was a serious young man and Halloween seemed to be a frivolous holiday, an excuse to beg for candy and play pranks on people. By this time, I knew I wanted to be a writer and I’d read a great deal about the origins of Halloween, how the celebration marked a change in the seasons, when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred, when the ghosts of the dead are said to return to earth. It was about remembering the dead and communing with them. Not exactly kids’ stuff, I thought. The popular holiday it had become felt like a trivialization of something serious and important, an avoidance of the very things it was supposed to be about. With the black cats and bats, the orange pumpkins and grinning white skulls, the classic movie monster costumes, it all seemed terribly cartoonish.

Eventually I did become a professional writer, specializing in dark fiction, the fears and trepidations most of us are reluctant to talk about. The very fact that these subjects were difficult to talk about actually increased my interest in them. As we all know, being told you shouldn’t think about something tends to make you think about it even more.

Still, I didn’t think much of Halloween. It was my children who eventually changed my mind.

My wife Melanie and I adopted five children over a period of about ten years. They’d all been through abuse and trauma, and when they first came to us we were very careful about scary stories and scary movies, or anything else that might remind them of what they’d been through.

But they loved Halloween, loved dressing up both as fairy princesses and scary monsters. They even liked scary stories as long as the scares weren’t too extreme, and things worked out okay in the end.

As it turns out, children—even traumatized children—enjoy a little bit of creepiness. That’s one reason I really appreciate the quote Kirkus Reviews gave me for Doctor Blaack— “A light enjoyable horror story with just the right amount of creepiness for younger readers.” Over the years it became obvious that my children wanted and needed to explore the differences between real danger and pretend danger within the support of a safe and loving environment. Just the right amount of creepiness helped them to defuse the very real darkness which had haunted their early lives.

Halloween became an important time in our family, and eventually, my favorite holiday. We carved pumpkins and decorated the front porch with lights and scary props, and both Melanie and I dressed up to hand out treats. She insisted we have healthy choices available for the smaller kids and finding something nice to say about every costume became my assigned task.

I always took it as my sacred responsibility to find good quality reading materials for my kids and grandkids. So, each year I would buy them the Newbery and Caldecott Award winners, and I would study the best recommended lists I could find for readers their age. And of course, I would read the books first before I gave them to them. Over the course of a few decades I developed a pretty good knowledge of children’s and young adult literature, and discovered I had a genuine love for it. The storytelling in the best examples is strong and far-ranging, and highly imaginative. It really is a literature for all ages.

Eventually I tried adding children’s literature to my own creative repertoire, and over the years I’ve published a couple of dozen short stories for children and young adults. The best of these will be collected in my book Everything Is Fine Now, out early next year from Omnium Gatherum press.

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is my first full-length novel for children and young adults. It shows not only my love of Halloween but that of my children’s and grandchildren’s as well. It’s been influenced by almost all the children’s literature I’ve read, but especially by the darker works of such writers as Roald Dahl, John Bellairs, Edward Gorey, and Ray Bradbury.

Steve Rasnic Tem, www.stevetem.com

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