Everyone writes, just as everyone does art. The difference is that some of us don’t stop. Most people are storytellers at heart, and I’m no different than anyone else in that sense. Even during periods when I wasn’t writing fiction, I spent a lot of time playing and running role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, and Champions. There’s a strong collaborative storytelling aspect to that form of gaming, and I was always drawn to that.
After many years of writing without success, I finally made some decisions about my goals and the process. The thing that led to creating publishable work in my case was switching from novels to short stories. I had two complete novels, some aborted attempts, and a screenplay, but the fiction wasn’t good enough to take to a publisher or an agent. I think the screenplay is adequate, but the novels are flawed. When I decided to focus on short fiction it was really a revelation. In a year I was able to go through the process of down-draft, revision, and polishing on about twenty-five pieces. I had over a hundred rejections, but I got some great feedback and made sales. I think that, had I continued to wrestle with the long form, I would still be struggling with down-drafts and structural problems. Instead, I have a growing number of anthology appearances and work as an assistant editor for Dark Discoveries magazine. I needed that experience, and think a finished novel is now more viable. I do enjoy the short form though, and will continue to write in that range. I may put out a collection, but I think that the pieces I have are too diverse in tone and genre to merit that just yet. Right now, I publish horror and some science fiction. No matter the genre, I tend towards darker themes. I’m interested in the horror of existence, human pain, and alienation.
As a kid, I enjoyed a steady diet of Creature Double Feature and Kung Fu Theater on WLVI-TV Channel 56 in Boston. Most of those films don’t hold up well when you go back and see them with adult eyes, but many of them did have elements of good storytelling or compelling moments. I think my more pulp sensibilities can be traced back to those influences, although I don’t think that often shows in my writing. There were also some wonderful films in the theaters, like Jaws, Star Wars, Alien, and Excalibur, that really stretched my imagination. My sense of myth is strongly colored by that period. I remember sitting in the front row of the theater the first time I saw Star Wars, and the sense of awe and excitement as the star destroyer emerged from the top of the screen and just seemed to keep going forever. What an amazing sense of scale. Despite that, I think that my writing influences are more in literature, philosophy, and non-fiction. I read a ton of science writing, history, and geopolitics. I love the research process, even though most of it doesn’t make the final draft. It’s part of how I process information. Hopefully that translates into stories that people enjoy.
K. H. Vaughan has a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches at colleges in Rhode Island. He is a member of the New England Horror Writers and the Association of Rhode Island Authors. He can be found on Facebook and at http://www.khvaughan.com.