A pivotal moment in my life occurred when I did not have a book to read for an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) period one day in eighth grade. I asked a classmate if she had an extra book I could borrow and thus I began Pet Sematary by Stephen King. A couple days later I returned it, equally thrilled and terrified by the reanimation-gone-evil plot line. I had never before had such a strong awareness that things were not going to turn out well yet was extremely anxious to know how everything ended. Ironically, one of the lasting impressions I had from reading that book was that I could tell how much fun King had in writing it. To this day whenever I read something by Stephen King, I enjoy his ability to completely immerse the reader into the world he is creating.
Two years later I asked my high school librarian if she could recommend any good scary novels. She immediately pulled The Keep by F. Paul Wilson off the shelf and gave it to me. It was about something ripping heads off of Nazi soldiers in an old castle during World War II - I was hooked. While reading it, I was fascinated by Wilson's ability to take this simple premise and create an epic novel through great characterization and a superb sense of suspense. This is a novel I return to every few years.
A third turning point on my highway of becoming a horror fiction enthusiast was a late-night discussion with a good friend of mine in college. The subject of Howard Phillips Lovecraft came up and I professed my ignorance of the name. Shocked, my friend made sure I left that night with a couple volumes of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. As I read them and learned the mastery of his story techniques, I came to understand that Lovecraft was a dominating force of pulp horror-writing in the first part of the 20th century: almost like a missing link between Edgar Allan Poe and modern horror authors. The story I enjoyed the most (ie. gave me the most heebie-jeebies) was The Whisperer in Darkness. I had never felt my skin crawl quite like that before.
I won't even go into how I met Richard Matheson (staying up all night to read Hell House instead of studying for college finals) as I'm sure you get the idea. My question for you: do you let this upcoming scary holiday affect your fiction choices? If so, how?