"Girl ... Monster ... Girl ... Monster"
An Introduction to by Rick Hautala
Nightstone, my third published novel, should have made me a
world-wide best-selling author and a household name like-you know, that
"other horror writer" from Maine.
When the book was first published in October, 1986, it was everywhere,
at least in the United States. It was in bookstores, on newsstands, at
airports, grocery stores, and pharmacies all around the country.
And why was that?
Sad to say, I don't think it was because of the contents. It was because
of the book's cover. If you bought an early printing of the book, you've
seen it: the one with the hologram on the cover. Flip it from side to
side, and the three-dimensional girl's face turns into something hideous
and back again.
"Girl ... Monster ... Girl ... Monster ..."
This cover made publishing history. It was the first piece of original
holographic artwork used on a paperback original. It even won some
Sure, it was a gimmick—but it worked.
The book sold well over a million copies. I have labored my entire
career under the suspicion that people bought my third novel—not
because they thought they'd enjoy the story or the writing. (No. As you
read this book now, you will see—as do I—far more awkward
sentences and energetic but clumsy storytelling than I would like ...
More on that in a second.) People bought Nightstone in such
numbers because—apparently—people are like crows; they like
sparkly things, and my book's cover sure as hell did sparkle.
Now, as to the writing and the story.
I wrote this book almost thirty years ago. I was, as they say, a
"young pup." And while I don't remember much about its
composition other than that I poured everything I had into the story
with a youthful energy I obviously can't feel, now that I'm in my
sixties, I do remember one incident. I had started writing the first
draft on a manual typewriter. (Kids. Ask your parents what those were.)
At some point, though, I got my first honest to gosh computer—a
KayPro—and I wrote the rest of the drafts staring at a
three-by-five inch glowing green rectangle of a screen instead of that
legendary "blank piece of paper."
And I remember, when I was finally finished and printing out the hard
copy of the last draft, I realized that Chapter Seven was missing.
Yeah ... Somehow, I had not saved that chapter to the "floppy
disk." I was in despair. I had to deal (not for the last time, mind
you) with lost writing due, I am sure, to "computer error,"
not human error. Panicked to make my deadline, I had to reconstruct the
missing chapter ... which I did, but I was never satisfied with that
chapter. It felt ... "reconstructed."
Now as for to the writing ...
Like I said, this was my third novel written to completion, and I am
painfully aware that over the ensuing close-to-thirty years, I have
learned at least a thing or two about writing. In a perfect world, I
would have time to revise and edit the work of a very much younger me, a
young man I can hardly remember being. I would remove the exclamation
points; I would correct the punctuation mistakes and the misuses of
passive voice. I would eliminate as many uses of "he saw" and
"he thought" and "he heard," etc., and make the
descriptions much more immediate.
But this isn't a better world, and I don't have time to do this; so for
better or worse, for whatever historical (perhaps hysterical) value,
this is the book the way it originally appeared in 1986.
There's one funny story I'll leave you with.
Once the book was done and delivered, I
waited—impatiently—to see the galley proofs, what publishers
call the "dead matter" once a book is published. (Please
excuse my use of the passive voice in that last sentence.)
Well, I got the galleys, and I soon saw that some over-zealous copy
editor, who had been advised to "tone the language down," had
proceeded to remove every, and I mean absolutely every use of any
profanity in the book. It was as if Mr. Bowlder himself had edited me.
I called my editor and ... well, there's no nice word for it—I
used most of those missing words, some in unique combinations in my
conversation with her. She assured me that all of my "shits"
and "fucks" would be restored, and I was happy to see that they
So one last question: Why didn't Nightstone make me a household
The easy answer is this.
Based on the amazing sales numbers of Nightstone, I got an offer
from another publishing house—a very attractive offer it would
have been impossible for me to refuse. The problem was, I owed my
current publisher two more books (they turned out to be Little
Brothers and Moonwalker), and once they got wind of the deal
I had with the other publisher ... well, understandably they didn't have
much inclination to push me as a writer into that "household
name" category only to lose me to someone else.
Good business sense that, unfortunately, crushed my budding career.
So Little Brothers, the next book ... the one to follow up the hugely
best-selling Nightstone—which had an initial print run of
900,000 copies and numerous reprints ... how was it treated? What was
the initial print run?
From what I could glean, around 100,00 copies.
Yeah, around 800,00 copies short of Nightstone's initial print
run. That meant, for every nine readers who read Nightstone and
might have enjoyed it enough to buy my follow-up book, there was only
one book on the stands to buy.
And as for the "full cover hologram" they promised me for
They slapped that on another author's book, and sales went through the
roof for that book because—well, because people like sparkly
things. Little Brothers has since found its own little cult of loyal
readers—not over 900,000, but a fair number of fans.
And now, I'll step aside and let you read
Nightstone—"third novel" warts and all—on a
Kindle or iPad or some other sparkly thing. And while the book is not
the "first" of anything any more, let's pretend it has a
three-dimensional front page that is going to grab your attention and
pull you into the a story that, even after all these years, I think is a
purty damned good story.
April 19, 2011
Copyright © 2010 by Rick Hautala. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.