Rick Hautala
"Girl ... Monster ... Girl ... Monster" by Rick Hautala

"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.

Seriously.

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 publishing awards.

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 were.

So one last question: Why didn't Nightstone make me a household name?

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 Little Brothers?

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.

Westbrook, Maine
April 19, 2011


Copyright © 2010 by Rick Hautala. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Rick Hautala