For many years, Terence Taylor has spent his life writing for television shows that educate and entertain children. Now he’s pursuing another career writing horror stories to scare the pants out of those kids who grew up to be adults.
The author of the “Vampire Testament” series horror novels and screenwriter for children’s TV shows, spoke about his journey as a writer at his Park Slope loft, surrounded by toys like a Homer Simpson action figure and a horror movie poster on a wall. He explained why he quit writing children’s television, what drew him to horror writing, and how a child can have fun using a piece of slate from a construction site.
How can you be writing horror novels for adults when you use to write for children’s programs?
One of the things that people have often raised an eyebrow over is the fact that I came out of children’s television and went into writing horror for adults. They’re like, “Really? Isn’t that totally different?” The thing is it’s not really. You’re trying to tell stories about the real world by working in a fantasy world. For children the fantasy could be a realistic looking one. What I always found in the horror stories is that you had the very same arc. You had characters who went into a crisis. It was metamorphized in terms of a monster or a situation. And in trying to resolve this external conflict their internal conflicts gets resolved as well.
How did you get into writing horror?
I use to love the old DC horror comics books and all the 50s horror movies and all that sort of stuff. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother over the years and she got me into horror movies and comics.
What was it like writing for children’s television and why did you leave?
It was the 70s. Children’s television was very much an open field. The people who I met working at children’s television at the time were people who largely really loved children’s television. It was a fun wonderful place to be in. At certain point that changed. It became much more commercial. I continued to work in it but my interest dwindled over time. I’d been writing fiction on the side for years but never really committed myself. So I made the decision in 2001 to leave L.A., go back to New York and try to finish a novel I’d been kicking around for years.
What was the most popular series you worked on?
The more popular ones were “3-2-1 Contact.” It was a science show that the Children’s Television Workshop did. The other show that was a surprise to me that I didn’t realize quite how popular it was for decades was “You Can’t Do That On Television.” This was a Canadian kids comedy show. The green slime joke that’s connected to Nickelodeon to this day came from “You Can’t Do That On Television.” Ultimately, I think more than anything else I’ll be remembered for my work for “You Can’t Do That On Television”, which could be worst. At least I might be remembered.
When did you start writing stories?
The initial impetus into writing was storytelling. When I was a kid I made up stories all the time. I made little Batman figures before there were action figures you could buy. I made my own and I would sit in a room as a kid with a piece of slate I’d found on some construction site or something and that was my Batcave. So I’ve always been writing stories in my head as a kid. It just never occurred to me to really write them down.
How do you view yourself now as a writer having jumped from different genres and industries?
When I was writing for television, I was a television writer. Now I see myself as a storyteller. I say I’m a storyteller because the first two novels were vampire novels. But I also know I have another idea for a thriller. I know my identity isn’t locked into the type of writing I’m doing, that my creative life shifts from project to project. But the one thing that all those things have in common is that I’m telling stories.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED BY CESAR BUSTAMANTE, JR.