WIHM 2022: Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Who’s Afraid of the Dark? 

By: Rachael Tamayo


When I was a child, like most, I was afraid of the dark. Terrible nightmares haunted my dreams, making me afraid to sleep. I’d say my prayers and ask God to blot out my dreams, terrified of the visions that might come to me. Sleeping with my closet door was a must, as well, since the things that lived just beyond the door liked to tease me into terror that would send me running to my parent’s room in the middle of the night only to get kicked back to my own bed.

I learned to manage, I struggled alone with my fear of the dark. That and the nightmares that my parents swore were caused by demons and devils, I learned to manipulate my dreams and be terrified of sleeping until I was a much older adult. 

Years later, I discovered that I had medical reasons for the nightmares, and I was not being taunted by demons as I dozed. Finally, sleep was less terrifying. Then, in my late twenties, I was hired on as a 911 and emergency dispatcher for a local police department and spent twelve years mining the darkness that is humanity on the other side of a 911 call. Once again, that darkness found me. 

The monsters in my dreams had become nothing but shadows, but this darkness was very real, and much more haunting. The screams of the living are much more terrifying than the screams of the imagined. 

When I started writing, I began with romance, as many authors do. I was afraid of thrillers. The fear that I wasn’t good enough, that it would be too hard, were both things that held me back. All while I was writing romance, and not feeling that I fit into the genre properly, my books even getting rejected at first because they were too dark to be proper romances. I should have taken the hint! A few books in, I got brave and wrote my first psychological thriller, Crazy Love, and realized that I was home in the genre. I learned to embrace the things that I was used to, the dark things in my mind that were trying to get out. As I’ve written over the years, I’ve realized what I am.

I am a dark psychological thriller writer. 

 It’s where I’m comfortable, home, and do my best work. Spinning tales that keep readers asking questions and looking over their shoulders is what I do best. Embracing the things that scared me as a child, and the exposure to twisted humanity I experienced after twelve years answering 911, I learned that not only can I use these things to keep readers coming back, but I can use them to help people. 

Sometimes we fight what we are, afraid to accept that thing deep down that is screaming silently at us. When we struggle to fit in, forcing ourselves where we think other people (my parents in my case) say we ought to be, and ending up being a square peg roughly jammed into a round hole. Not fitting, uncomfortable, and not at our best.  I found that I’m happiest, best, most comfortable in the places that scared me as a child.  

I will ever remember something I was told as a child to help me when I was afraid, and it rings true to this day. There is nothing in the dark, that isn’t also in the light.

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