Author pens book on 'Terrorklown' invasion
For more than 25 years, Williamsport native J. Lee Dodson has been in pursuit of what seemed like an unachievable dream — to write and publish a book about the clowns he couldn’t escape from. And last October, on Halloween night, the horror enthusiast, video blogger and now, published author’s dream came true with the release of his first novel “The Evil Klown Survival Guide: Preparing for a TERRORKLOWN Invasion,” about an invasion of “klowns” and how we can fight and defend against them. It even has been described by legendary horror icon Lloyd Kaufman as “tromarific.”
Over the course of those 25 years, Dodson’s idea came out through a multitude of different creative platforms and media outlets — from his very own “terrorklown” comic series to his own YouTube channel, where he invented catchphrases like “take scare” and “record life, review everything” and reviewed everything from horror props to Sheetz hot dogs and McDonald’s Happy Meals. In most of those days, and even recently, Dodson often could be sighted in full clown costume lurking the streets of downtown Williamsport. He’s also been known to sport a mad doctor costume named “Doctor Vlogenstein” on his YouTube channel.
His dedication has been highlighted through all of these circumstances, and even his willingness to sit outside of comic con’s he can’t afford to get into to promote his storytelling capabilities — also in clown costume.
And it all started with an inkling of an idea. “I only created about four clowns at the time,” Dodson said. “I found the love for creating imaginative worlds when I was 14. As I got into art school in college, my love of writing started developing and after I joined the U.S. Navy I taught myself how to write.”
Then inspiration just hit. “One day, in 2013, I said to myself, ‘You need to write this book and get out everything you have created about these twisted new breeds of clowns on paper,’ “ Dodson said. And after two years of writing and editing, “The Evil Klown Survival Guide” was completed and released by his publisher, Grimlock Press.
It was never easy for Dodson, and the shock of accomplishing something he never believed he could sits with him to this day. “My 14-year-old self had no idea he would be a published author,” Dodson said. “And now you can read it on Amazon.”
Inspired by “Goosbumps” author R.L. Stine, 80s and 90s horror films and, most notably, Max Brooks “The Zombie Survival Guide,” which he used as a template, “The Evil Klown Survival Guide” is a cultivation of everything he’s worked on and been inspired by over this last quarter century.
When it came to releasing it, some good luck and a rare phenomenon struck — the United States was hit with an actual invasion of clowns, and buzz for the book began to grow. As a result, “The Evil Klown Survival Guide” was downloaded or bought more than 500 times that week alone. And it all forced Dodson to pinpoint the moment he discovered what he wanted to do with his life.
“As far as I can think back, it was a day while sitting on the YWCA steps with my stack of freshly bought comics and listening to Metallica on my cassette tape,” Dodson said. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment business. I knew I wanted to bring my imagination to life.”
It even granted Dodson an opportunity to find himself on live television, where he gave us some of the tips and tricks to survive the clown invasion as Dr. Vlogenstein. “Going on PA Live was fantastic,” he said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”
Today, Dodson finds himself writing up to 2,000 words a day between shifts at his job, where he sands cabinets in a factory. But the pursuit of his dream never ends, and Dodson seems more inspired than ever. “I am still learning today, as with everything, you can’t stop learning your trade.” he said.
His newest project, “The Monster Smashers,” about a “group of unlikely friends who join to battle monsters in Erie” was inspired by his love for young adult fiction books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Goosebumps.” He even plans on having a spinoff of “The Evil Klown Survival Guide” titled “Krampus vs TERRORKLOWNS” out this fall.
But what Dodson hopes to achieve most from his writing is the ability to inspire others. “Writing is one of the professions you can do until you die,” Dodson said. “I look forward to having a lasting effect on someone. To be an influence on a young person, or inspiring them to take up the craft would be a great honor.”
For more information or to keep up on Dodson’s career, visit www.facebook.com/themonstersmashersclub or follow him on twitter @JLeeDodson. “The Evil Klown Survival Guide” is available to buy from Grimlock Press at www.amazon.com.