The morning I was born, my father had just finished working the graveyard shift at a cemetery on Halloween night. He was still in his zombie makeup. That was my introduction to horror.
My name is J.R. Leckman. Growing up, I found a ceaseless fascination with the written word. One of my prized possessions is a trophy my parents got for me in kindergarten for "Excellence in Reading." At that time, it was the Hardy Boys who captivated my attention. It was tough explaining to the other five and six year olds why my books had no pictures.
I wrote my first book in Kindergarten. It was a picture book with drawings of my favorite dinosaurs, their names typed out at the bottom. With the mental prowess of a child, I included a blank page with the text "No more dinosaurs." It was far funnier then.
My first dream job was to be a paleontologist. Then I wanted to be a fighter pilot. When I was a little older, I asked my father a very strange question.
"Who writes my books?" It had occurred to me at some point that the words that brought me such joy were not simply placed their by the school, God, or the government. Books were not some mechanical thing, created when you turned a crank. Rather, with my introduction to different genres, it occurred to me that the stories had to come from somewhere.
"Authors." That is the short version of my father's answer. On this day, I learned that people just like me had to come up with these stories in the first place. By the third grade, I was stealing titles from my father's bookshelf, disappointed in the lack of depth that my school's library provided. It was this year that I found a book on his shelf that intrigued me. On the cover, a man lay against a tree, obviously the worse for wear. A beautiful woman sat over his slumped figure, her face lined in concern. It was "The Druid of Shannara" by Terry Brooks. It was my first fantasy novel, and it was amazing.
I hungered for more. Over the years, I devoured fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, and everything else I could find. But I remember that Terry Brooks was the first author I saw as a human being, a man who sat down one night and imagined the characters and places in his book. I envied him.
That was the first time I dreamed of being an author. When it came time to write stories for class, I decided that horror would be my first stop. Using a scene from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," I murdered my heroine three pages in. Of course, I had learned by then that the devil was in the details, so I made sure to categorize the daft location and condition of every piece of her anatomy.
This resulted in a brief conference involving my parents and a couple of school professionals.
Understanding that I wasn't developing into a young sociopath, they suggested I avoid graphic detail in my stories from then on. The few classes I had since then that involved creative writing were among my favorites, and my teachers often groaned when my thirty page stack of handwritten story doubled their workload. I can also assume they experienced delight when I asked them every few hours if they had read my stories yet.
I did very little writing starting in middle school. Life wasn't necessarily kind to me, but it wasn't bad enough for a made for tv movie. High school was a blur of laziness and apathy, one of the sole highlights being that I met the woman I would someday marry. Several years later, I found myself working a mind numbing job with plenty of time to think.
The stories were coming back.
I had friends and coworkers read excerpts from them. What little criticism I received was enough to encourage me. As time passed, I quit my job to return to school. As I learned how to manipulate the universe around me with numbers, the universes inside me began screaming for release.
Now, here I am. I currently teach science to high schoolers by day, while writing at night. I live in a nice house with a beautiful wife. I want to write horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I want to write about dark things, moments of truth, and grand adventures. Most of all, I want to write something that people will enjoy.
I hope that someday, years from now, one of my stories will ignite that spark for someone else. That would be amazing.