Have No Fear by Michaelbrent Collings 
On March 1, 2024 | 0 Comments

When people ask why I started writing, a hundred answers come to mind, with a thousand memories attached. 

When they ask why I started writing things that would scare folks, it’s almost always just one. 

I was around ten. My family had just come home from a late dinner at my grandparents’ house. It was dark. Creeper vines threw strange shadows across the walk. The porch light was out. And something…lurked in the shadows of the porch.  

My father pulled out a small light. He pointed it at the thing, illuminating a box, about eighteen inches square. Leaning closer, he read the return address:  

“Stephen King—Bangor, Maine.” 

Dad turned to us, shining his light under his chin, turning his kind face into a mask of shadow and dread, he intoned, “If there’s a human head in there, I’ll be very disappointed.” 

We laughed. All of us: Mom, Dad, and the four kids who ranged from ten to four years old. Because this was normal. After all, we lived in a house where things like that happened. Where Dad would invite a promising student filmmaker over for dinner—a filmmaker named Frank Darabont, who would go on to direct hits like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, and co-create The Walking Dead TV show. Where Mom and Dad would get ready for a date, and when we kids asked where, they’d say, “Grandpa Dean’s housewarming”—then would head out to tour the estate Dean Koontz had just purchased. 

Everyone gets it. Everyone understands. At least, they do until I mention that I also teach Sunday School and have served as a member of the clergy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not just as a Sunday School teacher, either. I’ve been in a bishopric, I’ve been the president of the Elders Quorum (the men’s group in each congregation) numerous times, and just about everything else.

At this point, the story goes one of two ways:

In the first, the person looks genuinely excited and says, ‘Oh, I’m so glad there are other people like me: who go to church, who believe in God…and who also enjoy Halloween and can’t wait for the next ghost movie to hit the theaters.’

In the second, the person looks genuinely confused and says, ‘I don’t get it. If you believe in God, why would you want to write stories where people get hurt?’

To which I answer: ‘You’ve got it all wrong. I don’t want to write stories where people get hurt. I want to write stories where people get destroyed.’ When the person looks even more confused at this point, I continue, ‘Some scary stories exist for the purpose of scaring people…then letting them know that life is nothing but fear. That things are hopeless, empty, and bleak. But I don’t write that kind of horror.

“I write stories that show life can be terrible and dark…but if we try our hardest and make good choices, there is laughter and joy waiting. There is light beyond the darkness. So the stories I write usually involve characters who have everything to live for…and I take every one of those things away. I strip my characters of everything they thought they were and throw them into a deep, dark place without anything or anyone. I make sure they’re alone, afraid, nothing to keep them from giving up. But for some reason, they don’t give up. For some reason, against all odds, those characters begin to make their way out of the darkness. They are faced with a choice: to make selfish choices that hurt others, or to make good choices that help make the world a better place. Those characters who choose the good choices climb out of the pit of their own destruction and —through those good choices (and often the good choices of other selfless, kind people) they survive. Everything says they shouldn’t, but they do. They climb out of the dark, into the light, and the light is all the more bright and beautiful for the experience.”

I’ve written a lot of stories in my life. I’ve written bestsellers on numerous continents in just about every genre you can think of. I’ve written humor, romance, drama, adventure, action. I just released a middle-grade fantasy called GRIMMWORLD: The Witch in the Woods. It’s full of light-hearted jokes, humor, and fun.

And it’s also tinged with darkness, as all my stories are. But the young characters in Grimmworld sometimes worry, or sometimes are even afraid, they never give up. Because they know the darkness is not all. There is always light. There is always hope.

And again, the point isn’t to celebrate the darkness. It’s to show that darkness only exists in the absence of light. But that means the light is real. It exists, somewhere, and it is the characters’ goal—their purpose, their whole reason for being—to try to find it. Not with bank accounts, not with worldly achievements or the honor or applause of others. Just with their own bravery, their own kindness, their own refusal to give up. 

I write books because I was raised in a home full of words. A home where books were the preferred mode of play, and where stories were the best way to pass the time. 

I write scary books because I was raised in a home full of love. A home where dark days came, and sometimes it seemed like the end of the world. But it never was. Not quite. 

When I was a child, my mother was diagnosed with exceptionally severe rheumatoid arthritis. I can remember her lying in her bed and sobbing and moaning—scary, for an eight-year-old to see that! I can remember a few years later, when my little sister was diagnosed with the same. And, looming over it all (though we didn’t know it at the time), was the very long shadow of severe mental illness. 

It was enough to make us cry. It was enough to make us want to just throw up our hands and give up. 

But we never did. Not quite. No matter how far we fell, no matter how deep into the darkness we found ourselves, we reached out and felt for each other. We held each other. We shivered, but we shivered together…and warmed ourselves as we did so. 

I write stories. 

Sometimes the stories are meant to make people laugh. 

Sometimes the stories are meant to make people cry. 

Sometimes the stories are meant to make people fall in love. 

But in all my stories—all of them—there is an element of fear, an element of loss. Not because I celebrate those things; certainly not because I love them. But because I’ve been through those things myself. I’ve seen them firsthand, and have seen some people give up because they weren’t aware of this one true thing:

We are more than the sum of our fears. We are more than the losses that touch every life. We are all born with strength, with an inherent value that can help us through those dark and difficult times that all of us must pass through. It is the lot of humans to hurt…but the only lasting pain comes when we lose hope. When the pain swallows our faith—in each other, in people who love us, and in ourselves. 

I’ve seen that happen. It’s one of the worst things to witness. So, I tell stories that, hopefully, make people laugh, or cry, or pump their fists in excitement. But also, where the darkness comes. So that the hero can get through it. So that the villains can be punished. 

And so that, at the end of it all, the reader can close the cover and continue and know that no matter what has happened in the story, no matter who triumphed or who was defeated, the reader continues on. The reader is strong. The reader can square their shoulders and face their lives. Dark or light, rain or shine, they have survived the story of someone else…and, hopefully, that reminds them that they also have the strength to survive their own stories and thrive in the doing. 

More than just a guy with a weird first name, Michaelbrent Collings is an international bestseller and multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist. Best known as a master of thrills and chills, he has written bestsellers in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, YA, middle grade, suspense, humor, urban fantasy, and even Western romance. He also makes pretty good chocolate chip waffles.

NEW! GIMMWORLD: The Witch in the Woods: Strange and terrifying things are suddenly happening in a mysterious town where people are disappearing and changing into characters from the Grimm fairy tales.