William Dalphin is a software engineer by trade and a short horror story writer by hobby who is celebrating the release of his short story collection titled “Don’t Look Away.” The book was created in partnership with the #horror franchise Chilling Entertainment, and it contains thirty-five original stories by William as well as original illustrations by Emily Holt and a cover by David Romero.

William grew up in Indiana, the son of parents who instilled a love of reading and words in him from a young age. Although he earned a degree in Computer Science, William never lost his love for writing. Now residing in Massachusetts with his wife and daughters, William recently discussed his stories, being an #Author, and his hopes for the future via an exclusive interview.

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Reddit, horror, and stories

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially interested you in writing and why do you gravitate towards horror?

William Dalphin (WD): I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was small, I drew pages upon pages of monsters and gave them all names. My father used to bring piles of paper home from work, extra print-outs and tax forms, and I’d draw on the backs of them. I started making comics to tell adventures and recorded stories on a cassette tape player.

As to why horror, well, I like being scared. Not truly frightened, like you’d feel having a gun in your face or something, but the kind of fear you feel when you’re in a dark place and your imagination starts suggesting the awful things that could be there when you turn the lights on. When I was five, my father sat us all down in front of the TV, and we watched “Poltergeist.” I was terrified.

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I had nightmares for years. Trees, closets, clowns, everything was a source of terror. But it was like a rollercoaster, you scream through the whole ride, but then you turn around and get back in line. When the nightmares started to ebb, I went looking for more. My sister had Stephen King books, so I read them. They were like nothing I had read before. It made me want to tell my own stories.

MM: How did you find out about Chilling Tales for Dark Nights and how involved were they in your book of #Short Stories?

WD: Some years back, Craig Groshek who runs Chilling Tales reached out to me through Reddit because he’d read one of my stories, “A Game of Flashlight Tag,” and wanted permission to turn it into an audio story for his YouTube channel. I didn’t care, people had been recording narrations of my stories for a while already, most never asked permission, so I told him to go ahead. After they had completed it, he sent me a link to listen, and it was good. A while later, he contacted me again, asking to do another recording, and I again agreed.

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Then back in 2015, Craig reached out to tell me that Chilling Tales had made a deal to start a syndicated podcast with PodcastOne, a major distributor. He wanted to use the recording of my story on their inaugural episode.

From there, we discussed taking all my stories and making a book out of them, published through Chilling Tales. It’s been Craig and me the whole way, mostly Craig finding the people to illustrate, to edit, to layout, and me approving. Without Craig and Chilling Tales, there’d be no book.

MM: Can you tell us a bit about the book and the process of writing it?

WD: The book is a collection of my stories that I’ve been writing on Reddit since 2011. Nothing was ever written with publication in mind. I just wrote my stories and shared them in NoSleep and basked in whatever minute applause I would get depending on the quality of the tale.

The first story, “She Found Her Way Into My Home” came about because I was doing laundry down in the basement one night, and as I was ascending the back stairs, I had a sudden memory of a horror story, “The Strangest Jigsaw Puzzle” by J B Stamper. In it, this girl does a jigsaw puzzle that she slowly realizes a picture of her and the room she’s in, the only difference being a terrifying inhuman face in the window behind her. Once the puzzle is complete, she turns, and there’s the face looking at her. I thought about what I would do if I turned and looked out the back door as I went up the stairs from the laundry room and saw someone looking back in at me. I got so spooked at just the notion that I took the stairs two at a time.

I then wrote a story about seeing a ghostly woman in my backyard who just stood there and stared at me. The thing of it was, nobody wrote horror fiction in NoSleep before, and I wrote the story so seriously that people thought it was real! I got hundreds of messages from people, some asking to see the ghost, others offering their services to come and exorcise her or just advice on how to protect myself.

I panicked, thinking I had made a mistake in sharing the story, that NoSleep was all about true horror, and that I’d get in trouble for writing fiction, so I spent several days continuing to update people on the story so that I wouldn’t get banned. Three days later, it became clear that it was okay, so I revealed that it was just a story. A couple of months later, the Nosleep moderators decided to change the subreddit to be entirely about writing stories. I was already hooked on writing them, the adrenaline rush of having people respond so passionately to what I had written was just too addictive.

Most of the time, I write about things that unnerve me or when I spook myself. I figure if you write something and it doesn’t bother or scare you, how can you expect it to scare someone else? I’ve always been my primary audience.

MM: The book features thirty-five stories. Are any especially interesting and do you have any favorites?

WD: My personal favorite is called “The Crawling House on Black Pond Road” which is about bugs. I hate bugs. Just the thought of them on me makes me itch. Stinging insects are the worst. When I was eight or nine, my brother and I stepped into a hornet’s nest and got swarmed by angry hornets. My brother ran one way and got one sting, I turned on my heel and sprinted straight home, where the Hornets were in my hair, my clothes, going for my eyes and neck. I was covered in hornets. It was horrible.

I really like “Painting of a Hallway” as well because it’s about a thing that you can’t escape, that’s always there, you see it, and it doesn’t care. Every time you turn away, it gets closer. Every time you blink, it gets closer. It’s like you’re playing red light-green light with an indescribable horror. The theme of something getting closer when you don’t look at it is one of the most frightening to me. In fact, that’s why the book is titled “Don’t Look Away.”

Lastly, I’m a big fan of messing with the reader’s perception of events. “We Don’t Talk About Sarah” is one of those. A number of YouTubers have narrated it, and I enjoy reading the comment sections of those videos and seeing the people discuss what they think the story was actually about. “Hunger” is like that too. It’s about two people having a conversation together, but each person is having an entirely different conversation than the other one, and neither realizes it.

MM: The book includes illustration, so how did that come about and are any images special favorites of yours?

WD: When Craig reached out to me about making a book, and I told him how much I thought illustrations added to the stories. Craig agreed, so we went hunting for an illustrator, and we found Emily Holt. She was fantastic; I wrote her a list of dozens of ideas for each story, and she picked one to three for each and made a variety of these fantastic images. I think my personal favorite is for “Dinner By Swamplight.” It depicts one of the creatures from the story, holding up its lantern for you to see its face.

Craig suggested we go with a full color, completely original cover illustration and introduced me to David Romero. He asked me what I wanted, and I did a really quick sketch of my idea. David took the description and pumped out this amazing illustration that not only worked as the front cover but beautifully blended in as the back cover too!

Writing, books, and the future

MM: What are the most rewarding aspects being a writer and what sorts of feedback have you gotten from readers?

WD: Seeing people share the stories with others is probably the most rewarding aspect to me. I regularly do an internet search for different story titles, to see if a new narration has been put up, or if someone has copied and pasted one somewhere. The term they use online is “Creepypasta,” which are horror stories that have been copied and pasted all over. They’re the urban legends of the digital age. It’s a thrill to see something you’ve written get spread like that. Knowing that one day I might be gone, but the stories are still being told to keep people up at night, it’s what it’s all about.

MM: What are your major goals for the future and is there anything else that you wish to discuss?

WD: I need to get back in the habit of writing and reading because the two are linked. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Reading stirs the imagination, connects the pathways in your brain that lead to ideas for new tales. I haven’t written any new short stories in over a year which is bad. Writing is like using a muscle, and it atrophies if you don’t exercise it regularly. I’ve got to get back into the habit of writing. I’ve got ideas; I just need to get them down.

Maybe in the future, when I’ve gotten back in the habit of writing, and hopefully with a favorable response to my book, I can make it my full-time job. I’d also like to improve my drawing, so I can one day do my illustrations.