When you think of Nosleep, some of you will remember back when it was a very different place. When people would post creepypasta and scary photos, but Wil was among the first to convert Nosleep into the bone-chilling Sub we know today.
Wil Dalphin has his only collection of horror stories called Don’t look away which is available in paperback and kindle
Hey Wil, Thanks for taking the time out to answer some of the questions from my horror fans. Let’s begin with:
Where are you from?
I currently reside in Haverhill, MA, the birthplace of Rob Zombie. I was born in Fort Wayne, IN, but my family moved around quite a bit when I was little. I really consider Vermont to be my home state, as it was the one that resonated most with me.
Q: Do you have a day job, if so what?
I am a software engineer, primarily quality assurance, and validation. I’ve been working in the field for 17 years now.
Q: What do you do to unwind?
I’m an avid gamer. Video games, card games, board games. My favorite game is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, because of its atmosphere of 80s music and Miami Vice. I also like movies and graphic novels/comics. My favorite would probably be Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo.
Q: Tell us a bit about your family?
Growing up, I was the fourth of five children in the household. These days I have a family of my own with my wife and two daughters who sometimes play into my stories. My wife is a science teacher.
Q: You’re on death row, and you have your last meal. Starters, Main and Dessert. What are they?
Might as well make it something unhealthy that I enjoy! Fried chicken with steamed broccoli and wild rice. Delicious. This is obviously hypothetical; they would never catch me.
Q1: What was the first piece you published and was it any good? You can link here as well?
A: That’s a tricky question, because “published” has several interpretations. I posted “She Found Her Way Into My Home” on /r/nosleep in February of 2011. The story was a mix of a remembered short story from my youth and an idea I had late at night one evening. The story itself is fair. If I posted it now, it would probably get overlooked in favor of other fresher ideas, but in 2011 Nosleep was a different place. People mainly posted images and videos and talked about “Does anybody remember Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark?”
If someone wrote a post, it was to detail a real-life event, like a visit to a haunted stretch of road and what they saw. Nobody really posted fiction. So when I did, nobody knew what to make of it. Suddenly here’s a story being told as if it’s really happening about a guy being tormented by this ghostly woman who just stands there and stares at him every night. It freaked people out, and they started writing me private messages, advising me how to proceed, offering help, asking if they could come see. I started adding updates to it daily, tacked on to the original story in the comments, and people followed along, fascinated. It got shared in /r/bestof.
Eventually, though, I had to stop adding to it. The story really had nowhere to go, and the events happening in it, (my daughter got attacked when I told the ghost to leave) turned people on me. People who accepted that I was really experiencing these events but couldn’t accept that it was a ghost, accused me of harming my child and sent me threatening PMs saying that they were going to call the police. So I ended the story and explained it wasn’t true, but thank you for supporting my first writing effort.
A lot of people got angry that they had been tricked, but a lot more were really happy to have been there for the ride. Ultimately, this led to a boom in creative writing in the sub, and a month or so later, the mods decided to convert Nosleep to strictly stories, banning images and video posts. A few years later, Nosleep became a default subreddit. So… was my story good? I’ve seen plenty of fair criticism of the story’s plot in the years since, but I still like to think it can hold up. But more importantly to me, I’m proud of it for the way it helped pave the way to the /r/Nosleep we have today.
Q2: Are you afraid that the tragedy you pen on paper, will be incarnated as an event in the real world?
A: I’m really not afraid of my stories becoming real. Many of them involve supernatural elements and those that could happen likely never will. But the underlying fear in some of the stories is based on my own fears, primarily harm being done to children. As a parent, that became my biggest fear the day my first daughter was born… what could happen to her. Some people have accused me of writing a lot about bad things happening to children, but it’s not because I fantasize about harming kids, it’s because that’s what scares me.
Q3: What is your scariest creation/creature?
A: The scariest thing I’ve created to a painting of a hallway, or rather the thing that lives in the painting. Several stories I wrote involve a creeping terror that slowly but steadily is coming for you and there’s nothing you can do about it. The idea of the painting is that the moment you look away, the thing in the painting gets closer.
The original idea was about a closet that every now and then would open into a hallway of doors, and at the end of the hall was this shambling monstrosity. As soon as I saw it, it looked and saw me, grinned, and came shambling toward me. I’d slam the door shut, but every now and then a new door would open into the same hallway, and every time I’d find myself looking into this hallway, that horror would still be there, getting ever closer. As if time in its world were frozen when the door was shut, so the only way to keep it from eventually reaching me was to never open a door, lest the door I opened lead to the hallway.
Q4: Who or what most inspires your work?
A: My biggest inspirations are Stephen King and Clive Barker, along with the movie Poltergeist. I saw that film when I was five, and it haunted me for years. Then I got my hands on a collection of King’s short stories, as well as a couple of Barker’s Books of Blood, and they stirred my imagination. I used to draw really bad comics and incorporate elements of horror in them. I also took creative writing in high school, but writing even then wasn’t more than a thing to do in my spare time and share with nobody.
I didn’t sit around writing horror stories for years; it really wasn’t until that night in February 2011 that I felt a twinge of inspiration and something took hold and lead me to writing it and sharing it with people I didn’t know. I’m also a fan of bad or really old horror films, like the kind they watch on Mystery Science Theater. Even the worst of those films can have a really good idea from time to time. And they help remind me that if someone paid to get something that bad made, what have I got to lose?
Q5: What fruit would you have your character use to kill someone?
A: What fruit? I don’t know, probably one that appears harmless but is actually poisonous. Actually, a play off the trope of the poisoned apple from Snow White would work well in a story. Sometimes taking a classic bit of literature and finding a way to twist it in a new direction can lead to something fun and original. They used Snow White as a theme in the film In Dreams with Robert Downey Jr, and Annette Benning. That worked kinda well, but maybe a story about a child whose father remarries, and the child has seen Snow White a hundred times and is convinced that her stepmother is secretly a witch out to kill her, so she decides to beat her at her own game. That could be interesting.
Q6: Do you worry about your sanity when you craft your twisted stories? Scary yourself so much that it leaves you thinking “where did that come from?”
A: I’m careful about what I write about because I don’t want people to think I sit around thinking some of the thoughts that characters think or thinking about the things some characters do. For example, I recently posted a story on Nosleep called A Tiller of the Ground, that’s about a small, deeply religious family on a farm, and there’s some rather disturbing sexual oddities going on. I told the story to a family member, and she said, “So this is what you think about?” That’s not really a fair question. I don’t sit around fantasizing about these ideas, I get a notion for something that disturbs me and I contemplate all the ways that would lead to it and then pick the one that calls to me. I don’t think about killing my kids (all the time) or going out and finding some random person and torturing/mutilating them, I’m just not scared to face those thoughts if they come up and visualize how they would come to pass.
Q7: How much of your work is influenced by your daily life?
A: A lot of my work is influenced by my daily life or events of my life. I use places I’ve lived as places in my stories; I’ve used members of my family with their names changed as people in my stories. It’s a lot easier to write about something if you can see it in your head. It just makes sense to describe things you already know how to describe. I’ve been asked countless times over the past few years for what advice I would give to an aspiring writer, and my advice is always the same: “Write about what you know.” That’s one of the biggest pieces of advice anyway. The other most common piece of advice I give is, “Write for yourself.”
Q8: What advice would you give a newbie horror writer?
A: Oh yeah, see, there we go! Okay, advice to newbie writers: You are your own most important audience. Especially as a horror writer, if what you’re writing about doesn’t unnerve or scare you, how can you expect it to scare someone else? At a certain point, certainly, you will reach a place where the ideas just don’t seem to frighten you as easily. Because everything awful seems to have been written, but by then you’ll know the tropes. The ideas that you like that work best with others, and THEN you can try to pattern your writing to an audience of strangers, but starting out, think first of the things that scare or used to scare you. Second, if you don’t know something, research it.
One of the worst things you can do is write about something you know nothing about and then have someone correct you because you got it all wrong. You don’t have to go get a Ph.D. in psychology to write about a psychologist, but you can look up other stories that include them or hell, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST. A little bit of research can go a long way to adding that air of legitimacy to a story. Also, PROOFREAD. Don’t just write once and then send it off. Go back and reread it. I’m not just talking about spelling and punctuation either, does the story flow? Are there moments that seem unnecessary or you just get hung up on them? Do you hear the same word being repeated multiple times in quick succession? Find a different word then! I’ve had a number of new writers ask me to read something they wrote, and the biggest problem I see often is reusing the same word over and over and over, especially in a single paragraph. Or the same sentence structure.
Q9: What scares you?
A: What scares me personally? Going blind. The loss of my hands. I’m very visual and hands-on, so being unable to see or work with my hands isn’t so much scary, but an idea I don’t like to fathom. Of course also the loss of my family. When we live in a world where one in four women is assaulted in their lifetime; being the father of two girls means worrying about their safety daily. Deep-rooted fears, I have an intense fear of deep water. I can’t even look at photos of underwater without becoming intensely uncomfortable. When I was little, we had a book about dinosaurs, and there was a page with a plesiosaur on it, swimming toward the viewer. It was so terrifying that I memorized exactly what page it was on so that I could skip it whenever I read the book. In that same light, deep space is terrifying to me. I’ve seen gigantic, high-quality photos of the Pillars of Creation and they fill me with intense dread. The idea of so much vast emptiness is deeply unsettling to me.
Q10: The perception of horror writes is that he/she is just a little bit weirder than everybody else. In your experience, do you find yourself — and other horror authors — to be stranger than the average person?
A: Horror writers are no different or weird or eccentric than anybody else. Some try to act like or like to think that they are, but they’re really not. This need to feel like you’re weird or different is unnecessary. Everybody’s different. Acting wacky or “evil” is just a personal preference. If you really want to unsettle people, ACT REALLY NORMAL. Then when you start talking about how you wrote a story about an old man who murdered his wife and kept her head on his dresser while he slept curled up next to her body. You do a much better job of selling yourself than if you walk around dressed all in black and asking people if you can share some pamphlets on the benefits of Satanism with them. I mean, if a writer wants to make a personal for themselves to help sell their work, there’s no harm, but I prefer to be myself and let my work speak for itself.
Horror fans can find me on my Facebook author page: as well as on Reddit, where I keep an updated list of my stories. I just recently published a book of my stories available on Amazon, “Don’t Look Away.”
The book was illustrated by a couple of amazing illustrators. When the topic of publishing came up, I said, “If I’m going to publish a book of my stories, I want it to be illustrated just like the Alvin Schwartz books I grew up with.” so that’s what they did, and it looks fantastic. Please give it a read if you like short horror, and then feel free to talk to me on Facebook or on Twitter and let me know what stories resonated with you and what ones didn’t! Thank you.