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Crowdfunded frights: Auburn native publishes first collection of scary short stories

October 26, 2016 GMT

The summer of 2013, Hector Laureano went fishing with his brother, Paul Stratton.

The pair visited their usual spot: the Mud Lock on River Road near the village of Cayuga, where they spent much of their lives fishing with the rest of their family. And Laureano looked at his brother.

“I wonder if she’s checking in on us right now,” he said. And as the brothers fished on Cayuga Lake, Laureano’s first short story was born.

On May 28, 2013, Laureano’s mother, Laurie Stratton, passed away in Auburn. She was 57 years old.

“It wasn’t expected, she just got ill,” Laureano said in a phone call with The Citizen. “And a couple months after fishing with my brother, I wrote my first short story, which was about (our mother) checking in on us from the afterlife.”

Laureano has been writing ever since.

At first, he looked at it as a hobby. Born and raised in Auburn, he’d been more fascinated with film than books, creating short horror movies with his friends in high school. He then went to Cayuga Community College and graduated with a degree in graphic design before going to Vermont for culinary school. And finally, after an internship at Fenway Park, Laureano and his wife, Amy, moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where the 25-year-old works full-time as a chef in a gourmet grocery shop.

“I didn’t even think of myself as a writer until maybe a year and a half ago, when I realized I was doing it pretty steadily,” he said, noting that he’d always tried telling stories with pictures growing up, making films and drawing comic books. “At some point, I realized you can write without needing the illustrations. You can have so much more in a story.”

And it’s a lot more for a lot less, Laureano added.

“One of the best things about writing is you can have $3 to your name and you can buy a pencil and paper and write a story,” Laureano said. “It’s not Hollywood. You don’t need $100 million to tell a story.”

For three years, in between cooking and catering at Formaggio in the south end of Boston, Laureano put pen to paper and wrote dozens of short stories, many of them inspired by his longtime love of horror.

His fascination with supernatural and psychological thrillers began back when Laureano was 9 or 10 years old, after he and a friend watched “Halloween H2O.”

Laureano soon watched every horror film he could find. He entered Halloween costume contests with his sister at Auburn High School, and read a book of stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Years later, he discovered authors like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Jack Ketchum.

“Ketchum is one of my favorite authors,” Laureano said. “He’s much more interested in human interaction, the horror that we see in ourselves and how we hurt each other, which is very interesting and a little more unsettling. ... So I really enjoy horror writing because even within that one genre, there’s so much more to explore.”

Laureano has now added his own name to the list of spooky storytellers with his first book, “The Dying of the Light,” a 268-page collection of short stories he self-published through Lulu Press.

The book made its debut Oct. 14 at Rock and Shock, a horror convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Laureano purchased a table with the help of donations on GoFundMe.

According to Laureano, he printed 50 books — he sold 30 of them at the show and the other 20 went back to the people who gave him money through GoFundMe.

“Everybody who funded the (project) got something in return,” he said. “Each received a copy of my book and five people also got their own short story written about them. They just had to send me their name and what their favorite type of horror was.”

Then, after the convention and some positive feedback from fundraisers, Laureano decided to publish a second collection, “Country of Ghosts,” an 88-page book containing the five short stories he wrote for the winners of his contest.

As for what’s next for the full-time chef, Laureano said he and his wife may move to Providence, Rhode Island, where there’s a “great culinary scene and a lot of really great writers.”

“Cooking is always going to be a part of my life,” he said. “But if I could make a living as a writer, putting out books every year, that’s what I’d like to do. ... And I think when the time is right, someday we’ll end up back near Auburn where it all began.”