Tonya Hurley is a best-selling author with a background as interesting as her books. Before delving into YA horror, she was a publicist for several great rock bands and she is a founding board member of Brooklyn's Morbid Anatomy Museum. She's also a life-long fan of frightening books and movies.
HORROR BLESSING by Tonya Hurley
I write about death a lot but I never really thought of myself as a horror writer until one strange, and for me, terrifying day a few years back. My agent had only just sent out pitches to movie studios, producers and directors for ghostgirl, my first young adult book series. A few weeks later, the phone rang. It was my landline at home and my agent’s number popped up on my television. As ever, I had to make the difficult decision about whether to pick it up or let it go straight to voicemail. I felt very much like one of those terrorized teenagers in a Scream movie. I hate the phone.
It was early, unusually early for the Los Angeles reps, so I thought it might be important. This only complicated my thought process. I’d been waiting for some feedback on the project and this was probably it. Was it good news or bad? If it was bad, which is always my default assumption, was I prepared to have my day ruined? Everything ruined? Now, I was terrorizing myself.
I took a deep breath and bravely picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hi, Tonya. Great news,” my agent said. “Wes Craven loves ghostgirl and wants to talk to you.”
I don’t remember anything else she said after that. I was numb with excitement and a montage of all the Wes Craven films I’d loved my entire life began to unspool in my brain.
The call was arranged a few days later and in that waiting period I knew what real horror felt like. Insomnia, delusions, loss of appetite, paralyzing anxiety and brief bouts of nausea. All of it.
“Hello Tonya. It’s Wes Craven. I’m a real big fan yours and of ghostgirl.”
I went totally out of body. This, I thought, must be what a near-death experience feels like. It was staggering to me. A man whose work I’d admired all these years now complimenting my work? I was wondering when Freddie Krueger’s long, curled tongue would pop out of the receiver and lick my face. He immediately put me at ease and soon my fear melted away. We chatted about things we’d each been working on. I held back telling him what a fan I was for a while, but eventually the dam broke and I confessed my own fan girl crush on him and his work. He’d heard it all before a million times, but he listened graciously and appreciatively.
With the logrolling out of the way, he got right into ghostgirl and spoke about the characters and the plot points and it was evident to me that he’d actually read the books. He had a real sense not just of the obvious overtones, but of all the subtleties I’d try to weave in throughout the story. The horror and wistfulness of death and dying. The black comedy. The romance. He saw it all and described his own unique vision to realize it on film. I was floored. He made it clear that this was a something he was passionate about - something he wanted to make.
“Tonya, this story has it all – it’s heart-warming, thought-provoking, and hilarious at moments. Just how I like my horror.”
And there it was. He said it. The word horror. Here was the Master of Horror anointing me a horror writer. I felt like I had the blessing.
Eventually, ghostgirl found its rightful home with another brilliant director and producer Matthew Vaughn and his company MARV. It’s currently in development, but I still wonder what the Wes Craven version of ghostgirl would have looked like. I think about our conversation often - about what his encouragement meant at that moment and still today. How it keeps me going at times when I doubt everything – my abilities and my future as a storyteller. Being a writer is hard work, it takes a thick skin and, if you’re lucky, a Wes Craven along the way to keep you going.
Happy Women in Horror month!
Tonya Hurley is the New York Times and international bestselling author of the critically acclaimed ghostgirl series, currently optioned for film by Matthew Vaughan’s Marv Films, and The Blessed Trilogy. She has written and directed several independent films that have premiered at film festival around the world and have been broadcast on ABC, IFC and PBS. Hurley created two television shows - one for ABC Family and the other for Disney’s One Saturday Morning. She has directed commercials, book trailers and music videos. Hurley is an active member of the Writers Guild of America and the Horror Writers Association. She is a founding board member of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn. Her latest book is titled Feathervein and will be published fall 2017.
You can follow her at tonyahurley.com.
You can follow her at tonyahurley.com.