Misery Rides Out
By T.J. Tranchell
I was eleven, so don’t think less of me because I saw the movie Misery before I’d read the book. I had a friend, Nick, whose parents let him watch whatever he wanted and so one day, when I was at his house, we watched Misery and I was floored. This wasn’t long after Kathy Bates won her Oscar for playing Annie Wilkes and I fancied myself as someone who watched award-winning films. (Silence of the Lambs would soon follow, but that’s another story.)
We watched every tense second of the movie and I came away with one abiding need: I must read this book.
I lived in small-town Utah (not the town I base much of my fiction in, but still an influential one), but we had a decent library and I had my own library card. One day I walked, went to the K section of fiction, and there it was: Misery.
I grabbed it and walked confidently to the checkout counter, set the book and my library card down, and waited. The librarian took the card from its envelope in the book (this was before everything was on digital), stamped it, and handed me back the book. I don’t remember if she said anything and I doubt that she did. I walked out, book in hand, and went home. I’m sure it was summer: my mom and stepfather working either swing or night shifts, my older sister hanging out with her friends, and my little brothers playing with their toys. I went to my room and began to read.
That night, and many over the next two weeks, the book ended up thrown under my bed. Not because I was hiding, either, but because I was scared. I needed to read it, but I didn’t want to look at it at night. Annie Wilkes frightened me. She was almost too real. She wasn’t some otherworldly monster but rather someone who could live in my town or even be related to. Annie was real and the only way to beat her was to write.
Soon after, I began writing my own stories. One of the first that gained me notice was an assignment to finish an R.L Stine story from a Scholastic book order form. Later, I learned King did this same thing in 1977 with “The Cat from Hell.” My classmates became enamored with Stine’s Goosebumps books while I plowed away at other King books, so full of words I didn’t fully comprehend, but knew I shouldn’t say out loud.
But I could write them. I could have my own Laughing Place, like Annie had. A place to go laugh but a place where there was more screaming. That, for me, is the page.
So this is the first of what we are calling Annie’s Laughing Place. I’ll talk about experiencing horror. Sometimes it will be those first encounters with an author or a movie. Sometimes it will be a more meaningful engagement, like seeing something on the big screen with a crowd. I hope you’ll laugh with me and scream with me.
Put on your Liberace records and let’s get going. We’re only at the beginning, “the marvelous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun,” as King wrote in Misery.
T.J. Tranchell was born on Halloween, grew up in Utah, and now lives in Washington with his wife and son. His first two books, CRY DOWN DARK and ASLEEP IN THE NIGHTMARE ROOM were published by Blysster Press and are available on Amazon, or www.blysster.com. In 2020, Giles Press will release TELL NO MAN. Find Tranchell on the web at www.tjtranchell.comof on Twitter @TJ_Tranchell.