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Guest Post: A Book That Scares Dawn Metcalf

(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)

By Dawn Metcalf, author of LUMINOUS

The book still chills me. Here. Now. I re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes recently, having found a copy lying innocently atop a pile of children’s books at our local library’s annual summer book sale. I half-recalled fond memories of the shivers it gave me, curled up beneath several comforters in the bat-cave of my bed. I read it all in one sitting, eyes scratchy and wide. I don’t think I slept at all that night. I’d been caught up in a powerful mixture of awe and wonder and dread. Echoes of it called from across the years. Curious as an all-grown-up author instead of young tween reader, I bought the old and faded paperback and read it again.

I don’t think I slept at all that night.

The strangest thing is, I can’t precisely say why I was so terrified, then or now: it wasn’t any single description of the carnival or the autumn night, or any one of the sinister carny terrors: the illustrated man, the dwarf, the gypsy witch; nor precisely what it was about the dark carnival’s music or the aging carousel that completely infatuated me with horror… in fact, I think it was the opposite: the author left just enough space for my imagination to paint the most chilling details that were personally terrifying. It made the horror mine. I couldn’t put the book down and I couldn’t back away because I knew what it was wouldn’t stay within the pages; whatever had been unearthed by James Nightshade, Will and Charles Halloway, and the incredibly evil Mr. Dark, was part of me to begin with.

I just hadn’t known it yet.


Dawn Metcalf has no good excuse for the way she writes. She lived in a normal, loving, suburban home, studied hard, went to college, went to graduate school, got married, had babies, and settled down in northern Connecticut. Despite this wholesome lifestyle, she has clearly been corrupted by fairy tales, puppet visionaries, British humour, and graphic novels. As a result, she writes dark, quirky, and sometimes humorous speculative fiction. Her debut novel, Luminous, is available now.

Visit Dawn online at dawnmetcalf.com

Follow @dawnmetcalf on Twitter.




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23 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Book That Scares Dawn Metcalf

  1. SOMETHING WICKED is probably one of my favorite novels of all time, in or out of genre classification. It is certainly one of the most influential books in my personal mythology. Two boys born on opposite sides of the stroke of midnight (one light, one dark) and hovering on the cusp of puberty was the jumping off place for a manuscript I finished before realizing the debt I owed to Bradbury.

    But as well as a real build of tension, of a nameless fear (“No dad!” Will thinks when his father tells Mr. Dark his name- why should that frighten him? Why should it frighten us?). It is a fear that all boys (or at least the boy I once was) know and half-embrace.

    Because that fear is also a source of wonder and quick-breath joy and boundless adventure- why else would Will and Jim turn themselves in to the police for a half hour and then scamper off to tour the attics and basements of town, all while knowing something wicked is actually searching for them?

    Bradbury hit the ball out of the park on this one- full disclosure, I was never a huge fan of much of his work, but this book stands the test of time.

    Thanks Dawn!

  2. Amy’s Eyes is that way for me; when I read it as a kid I remember being vaguely disturbed but not being able to put my finger on why. Coming back to it as an adult was an eye-opening and honestly quite terrifying experience. It didn’t give me nightmares when I was younger, but it gave me nightmares later.

  3. And for some reason it didn’t keep me logged in to my wordpress account, but the above comment is Dot, email requiemofrain (at) hotmail (dot) com, just for tagging purposes.

  4. Yes! This was definitely one of those books that left a huge impression on me and I really ought to give it a grown-up read. Pretty certain I have a copy kicking around somewhere. And I can’t think of it without thinking of the line, which I will totally misquote here, that when we are asleep at 3 a.m. we are the closest to death that we will ever be as the living. It left impressions, to say the least. Thanks for calling it out!

  5. Wait, so is this based on Macbeth? I’ve never heard of it before. I really love this cover, though. I think I would read it just for the title and cover. :]

  6. I haven’t read Something Wicked This Way Comes, but now I want to! I think you’re right about space for the reader’s imagination to tell part of the story. What the reader imagines can be much more terrifying that when the author might have written. The beauty of it is that it’s different for every reader.

  7. This book has been on my to-read list for the longest time. Obviously time to bump it up!

    Someone told me once that true horror is not the axe cutting off someone’s head but that moment before the axe cuts off a person’s head, when it’s raised behind the person and about to come down. It’s always the spaces between that cause the shivers.

  8. Excellent! I am so excited to add yet another book to my MUST READ list. No wait, I’m going to add two more books because Luminous looks awesome in a crazy/creepy sort of way. :D
    Did I mention how much I am loving this blog series?

  9. I need to read this one! The cover alone creeps me out as it reminds of a Jack the Ripper picture. But it doesn’t sound like it’s about that.

  10. I haven’t read this and now I feel left out. It seems like everyone counts it as one of their creepy favorites. Must read before Halloween!

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