FEATURE: Nightmares turned to inspiration for horror fan Simon
Simon Parker has never forgotten the night terrors that tormented him as a child.
He would wake in a panic gripped by imaginary horrors.
Then someone suggested it might help to write down his experiences.
They could never have guessed the consequences ... that 40 years later he would be planning to make a living writing horror stories.
“I was a very shy and nervous boy, with a terrible fear of the dark,” said Simon. “The night terrors really freaked me out.
“I think it was a doctor who said I should write them down like a dream diary to get them out of my head.
“So I started doing that, and then I bought a couple of horror comics at a scouts’ jumble sale for 10p each and absolutely loved them.
“From writing down my terrors I went on to writing from my imagination.
“Since then I’ve always been fascinated by the dark and mysterious.”
In his late teens he began sending stories to anthologies in the hope of getting them published.
But a couple of rejection letters put him off. “Being 19, I just thought, OK, I’ll stop, and I didn’t write any more.
“A few years ago, clearing out some boxes, I found some of my old manuscripts and thought these aren’t bad.
“I edited them and in 2012 my first collection of short stories was picked up by a publisher,” said Simon.
Early this year a book of his horror stories, Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre, was published by US-based Foundations Books.
“Delve into the mind of a serial killer, bathe in the darkness and solitude that is Hell, fight the undead and unleash the demons,” says the publisher’s synopsis.
Scary stuff. But if his early work was dripping with gore, Simon says it is maturing now towards a fascination with the psychological elements of horror.
“I want to scare people, not gross them out,” he says.
He is working on his first full length novel, The Thirteenth Wolf, a supernatural fantasy that centres round a complex plot to reincarnate Hitler.
His creative side does not stop at writing. He also paints, draws, and customises upcycled furniture – often with sinister themes.
“My whole life revolves around being creative. I would love to make writing and art my full time career,” he says.
For now, he supplements his income working as a painter and decorator.
“It’s lovely walking in somewhere that’s all shabby and leaving it crisp and clean,” he said. “I try to get commissions for murals too.”
But applying a fresh coat of magnolia does not stop his mind straying into gruesome territory dreaming up plots for new stories.
“It’s true that sometimes I’m painting a wall or doing some sanding with dark thoughts swirling round in my head,” he says.
Simon, 48, was brought up in Fulbourn near Cambridge, and now lives in Brandon with wife Samantha and daughters Alyssa, 11, and Angelia, 8.
“My dad was very artistic, and a real bookworm, and my mum worked in a library. That’s where I got my love or art and books,” he said.
“I used to love watching Dad paint. Once he made me look at a lily for about an hour.
“At first when he said tell me what you see, it was just a flower.
“But then I started to see all the texture and little lines, and colours. and realised what you have to do to make a picture.
“Now I’m trying to pass that on to my girls. My youngest wants to be a tattoo artist.
“I’ve got quite a few tattoos and she has watched them being done on me.
“I love the whole idea of expressing yourself through body art.”
Simon’s first job was creative in a different way, as a chef.
He did his apprenticeship at Clare College, Cambridge, where he helped prepare a meal for royal visitors Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
“I only did things like peeling the spuds, but afterwards we all had to put on clean whites to be presented to them.
“It was a really interesting place to work. I got to taste swan – the college is allowed six a year to be served to the fellows.”
For a while his work as a chef overlapped with a new career in interior design and decorating.
He met Samantha when he was cooking at the Red Lion pub in Hockwold, and she came in looking for a job.
“It really was like love at first sight,” he says.
They moved to Lakenheath in 2006, then to Brandon eight years ago.
Discovering the other side of Simon’s life can come as a shock when people meet him for the first time.
They will see nothing in the family’s two-bed semi to suggest he is the man behind such terrifying tales.
“I’m a very gentle, caring husband and father,” he says. “When new friends find out they find it hard to believe.”
Some of Simon’s stories are going to be published in graphic novel form, with artwork by Brandon artist Danny Robertson.
They met through Danny’s wife Simone, who used to be in the same online writing and publishing group as Simon.
Another work in progress is a film called The Guardians. “I wrote the screenplay and filmed and directed it with a small cast of friends and family.
“It’s still in the editing process, but I’m hoping to have it ready for release on YouTube later this year.
“The horror fanbase is immense. I seem to be moving in the right circles and meeting the right people, within a couple of steps of people who have made it big.
“We have friends in common on Facebook, including one who is a friend of (world-famous horror writer) Stephen King.”
Simon keeps a notebook to hand to jot down ideas when they occur to him.
“Some plots land fully formed, sometimes it will be just a line of dialogue.
“I have enough ideas for 20 or 30 full length novels, and loads of short stories.
“To get myself in the mood to write I listen to scary music like horror film soundtracks, or storm sounds.
“I have to wear headphones, though, because most likely the girls will be listening to Justin Bieber.”
Tales of the Mysterious and Macabre by Simon Parker is available on Amazon.