By Katharine Whitcomb
T.J. Tranchell saw his first horror movie at age five.
His hero is Stephen King. His favorite King novel is “Bag of Bones.”
Tranchell, 37, met his Blysster Press publisher at Crypticon in Seattle in 2014. He was encouraged to attend this gathering by his professors/instructors at our Department of English.
He has published two macabre books: Cry Down Dark (novella) and Asleep in the Nightmare Room (short stories), and has two more in the offing. These tales are not for the weak of heart.
Tranchell received his B.A. degree in English with a Writing Specialization from the College of Arts and Humanities’ English Department in 2013. Two years later, he earned his CWU M.A. degree in Literature.
Thumbing through Tranchell’s newly published Asleep in the Nightmare Room in which he vividly recounts his nightmares about creepy, crawly spiders; he immediately acknowledges the contributions of his teachers including: Laila Abdalla, Liahna Armstrong, Xavier Cavazos, George Drake, Lisa Norris, myself, and others.
Tranchell recalled his first meeting with me, and how the English Department was a great place to ‘do your own thing.’ He also bonded with Professor Armstrong over all things, Alfred Hitchcock. Tranchell told LaunchPad that he would not have reached his level of literary accomplishment without his teachers.
After a budding career in journalism came to an end, when his wife was selected for a job in Yakima, Tranchell decided the time had come to earn his degree in English with an emphasis on writing fiction.
Tranchell recognizes that journalism and creative writing both require story telling skills, but said that fiction is far more satisfying.
When asked if he worked on horror writing following a full-work week as a reporter covering stories, he demonstrated his love for metaphors: “The last thing a dish washer wants to do is go home and wash his own dishes.” Point made.
Tranchell said his professors and instructors at Central gave him the “freedom” to pursue his love of horror writing, but still made sure he was making “progress” toward his undergraduate degree in English, and later his graduate degree in Literature. He said his teachers made him better as a writer.
“I enjoy hearing people scream.” – T.J. Tranchell
He contends that horror books are scarier than movies of the same genre. Tranchell said that humans crave an emotional reaction in confronting their own worst fears in a safe environment. He questions why some will happily board the scariest roller coaster, but will cringe and cower at the thought of watching a Vincent Price or Jack Nicholson movie based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King respectively.
Tranchell said his CWU professors and instructors encouraged him to capitalize on his vivid imagination and pursue his fascination of horror. He said the collective philosophy of his teachers was: “Whatever the genre, good writing is good writing.”
Does Tranchell ever have to overcome the dreaded and scary, “writer’s block?” He replied that when he is “actively writing” that he is in a zone. His biggest impediments to writing are the demands of daily life.
Most recently he directed student media at the University of Idaho for two years, a position that ended on the last day of June. Today, he is a full-time “stay-at-home dad” and a novelist focusing on all things scary.
And instead of being the second-coming of Stephen King, he wants to the first iteration of T.J. Tranchell. Congratulations to T.J. and his readers.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.