This here is my first retro-blog. I chose this blog to republish partly because it references Blood Relations, which just became available at Barnes & Noble, and partly because I drew inspiration from this same apartment in my upcoming release, Trompe L’oeil, which is on the coming soon page at Loose Id – YAY!
My first apartment was a hole, for various and sundry reasons. But I’m a writer… which means it also gave me a lot of inspiration (when I wasn’t cowering in the corner thinking I should call the cops or wondering just how many cockroaches qualified as a public health hazard).
The apartment was in a old, large house that had been cut up into small, separate living spaces. As such, my kitchen and bedroom were on the ground level, but I had to go down a flight of stairs into the basement to get to my bathroom. My bathroom wasn’t shared… exactly. But it did house the only entrance to the fuse boxes and meters for all eight apartments. Yep, every time someone needed to read the meter or change a fuse, I had to let them into my bathroom. Nice, eh?
The guy in one of the basement apartments greeted everyone with a hearty “Hey, Neighbour!” He had long hair, thinning on top, and always wore a bandana and a black rock band t-shirt. He looked like the quintessential aging biker. To add to his “allure”, the ledge by the stairwell leading into his apartment was lined with empty Jack Daniels bottles, ALL of his windows were boarded up and he had a security camera over the front door. Which he either had hooked up to an alarm or he monitored obsessively — as I discovered when the landlord (in my bathroom) accidentally removed the wrong fuse. Mere seconds passed before “Hey, Neighbour!” guy was pounding on my door, demanding to know why his camera was out.
If that wasn’t enough to get the creative juices flowing, the two guys in suits who came to my door asking about him sure did. I suppose they could have been Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to save him, but let’s say I’m skeptical. Speculation did, however, run rampant through my brain after that.
If we go with Occam’s razor and assume the simplest explanation is the truth, “Hey, Neighbour!” guy probably had a small home grow-op. My husband (then boyfriend) was convinced he was a draft dodger, as well. Could be. It was Canada, and he was the right age. Or maybe he was just a harmless, eccentric and/or paranoid older man whose appearance made people (like me) jump to conclusions.
But that’s the beauty of writing fiction. I could easily take “Hey, Neighbour!” guy and make him a serial killer, or make his apartment the entrance to a secret lab for spies or a detention center for werewolves or vampires.
I’ve incorporated memories of that apartment into many of my stories, in a few subtle ways. Adam’s apartment in Wolfsbane and Frazer’s apartment in Blood Relations carry echoes of my first apartment. If I write a horror story, I’ll be sure to include the cockroaches — all I’m going to say here is that I now know what a cockroach infestation SMELLS like. Eeeeeewwwww!
What I liked best about that apartment? There was so much creative mileage I was able to get from it. “Hey Neighbour” guy had other incidents… the old guy who lived in the other basement apartment… the landlord… the cougar… it’s like the gift that keeps on giving (but thankfully sans bugs).