Dear reader,

as I write this, I’m feeling pretty great. I’m looking forward to seeing my two sons tomorrow and across the weekend. I’ve enjoyed the best part of two weeks out in some really lovely sunshine and it’s done wonders for my state of mind – sunshine always works, but sometimes I can be so low that I can’t force myself out the door to drink it in.

I’ve made some changes. About two weeks ago, I forced myself to enjoy salad. Yes, you read correctly. I had to force myself to like it. And for two weeks I have had a salad as my main meal every single day. This week, I have embarked upon intermittent fasting – fitting any food I am to consume into an 8-hour window, leaving me 16 hours to rest my digestive system and burn some residual calories. No cheating. No snacks. I’m looking to do this 3 or 4 days a week. Already, some of the fat I was carrying in my face has started to burn off. I’ve even started a kettle-bell workout at home – nothing too strenuous, but interesting enough to keep me invested, and easy enough that I can do it at home.

And this feeling of well-being comes even as my downstairs neighbour has commenced a campaign of sleep-depriving anti-social behaviour. Poor sleep is one of the main triggers of my anxiety, and yet, so far and touch wood, not even that idiot is bringing me down. Oh, and I’ve decided to start weening myself off my prescribed medication. I’ve dropped down to a tablet every second day instead of every day. And yet still, nothing is bringing me down.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. The comeback trail is long, but I’m no longer crawling along it – I just started to jog it and the urge to break into a sprint is swelling up in my chest.

I can’t believe it, and yet I can feel it. I’m almost back.

I’ve got the plot of my next novel laid out, with just a few more little pieces of the puzzle to set in place. I can’t wait to get into it properly, but the planning process is fun, digging out this new version of a story I’ve known for years.

While it’s not the sort of thing I usually go in for, I watched an motivational talk delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger that popped up in my YouTube feed. Apparently, it broke the internet at the time it was released, so I suppose I’m probably the last person on the internet to watch that thing – and in the event I’m not the last, you can find it here.

Right away, he talks about the importance of identifying your goal. And I always thought my goal was clear: I want to write dark fiction. Seems simple, right? But I’ve realised that is way too vague – it’s vague, and it’s inaccurate. And it took another writer of horror to spell it out for me.

The fantastic Adam Nevill (The Ritual, Apartment 16, Last Days), in his book Cries From The Crypt, reveals his approach to writing in various interviews and exercises. He is incredibly well-read across the horror canon and has made it his business, his goal, to elevate horror fiction to the level of literature, rather than becoming bogged down by the genre’s tropes and stylings that have ensure horror is often seen as the poor relation in genre fiction.

I’ll talk about Adam Nevill more in future posts, I’m certain, if for no other reason than for me to tell you exactly why he has become my absolute favourite horror writer. But he and Arnie have unknowingly teamed up and made me focus on what my goal really is. Learning of Nevill’s quest for horror perfection – and having read some of the fruits of this quest (and let me assure you, he’s nailing it), I’ve come to understand my own desires and stumbling blocks. Sometimes, in prepping stories I wanted to write, I’d get lost in wondering, “Is this horror?” But Nevill says a writer must write what he or she is compelled to. And all of a sudden, after reading that, I realised that I is okay for me to write dark fiction that tells a horrific tale, but which takes us down a path perhaps more familiar to readers of other genres.

It’s not about what it looks like. It’s about the nuts and bolts, how I do it, and how I lead the reader into this new world and convince them it is utterly real.

And so I have decided that the time has come to solidify the overall goal, and I will spend the rest of my writing career working towards that goal:

to take you into the darkest fictional corners of our world and deliver it as a new reality – as convincingly as a Booker Prize-winning author would deliver a straight-out literary piece.

No, that’s not me declaring that I want to take the Booker Prize. I just think that Adam Nevill is right: horror doesn’t need to be that overlooked, underappreciated genre that it is, and my writing doesn’t have to play ball. I can take the time to craft thoughtful tales that will shock, stun and seem terrifyingly real, while at the same time being like nothing else and nowhere else on earth. And every new piece I release from now on will be measured against that goal.

It won’t be easy. I have a ton of writing to do, but most importantly, I have got a lot of reading to catch up on.

Right after Stranger Things Season 3.

Sorry. But it has to be done.

I remain,

Your humble dark fiction writer,

Jack Rollins

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