Joseph Pinto usually spends his writing days in Elmwood Park steeped in the alternative worlds of the underground. But every November, the Hasbrouck Heights native pulls out the letter "P."
The "P" is for pancreatic cancer and November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, with the 17th being World Pancreatic Cancer Day.
The horror writer took a departure from his genre in the writing of "Dusk and Summer," a tribute to the death of his father Joseph, a Lodi High School football great who fell in love with the ocean while raising his family in Hasbrouck Heights. His birthday was Nov. 1; he would have been 69 in June.
"I didn’t see my dad die; I watched his soul grow. It was almost, in a weird way, like a gift," said Pinto, 46, who has published two horror novels. "It's a horrible disease, pancreatic cancer. He was such a strong man. The book was a way to immortalize that fight ... and my father."
Pinto wrote and self published "Dusk and Summer" in about four months, just after his father died nine years ago. But it wasn't until 2014 that Sirens Call Publications took the novella under its wings.
The book is about the love between a father and his son and an urgent but cryptic message that passes between the two near the time of death.
"I bled for that book. It was a very emotional write. I did it almost as a way of saving myself," Pinto said. "When my dad was dying, I had to stay very strong for him. There was never a talk of surrendering. When he finally succumbed, I didn't know what to do with that."
Sirens Call Publications handled Pinto's horror book "Memorial" and didn't know about "Dusk and Summer" until he tweeted something about it.
"They do horror so I didn't look to them. I wrote the book for me and my father. I didn't want anything from it except maybe to help someone," he said.
But his voice as both as writer, and in his genre, crept through in "Dusk and Summer." It ended up being a story that was about much more than his own grief.
"People told me my voice is there. My bread and butter is horror writing and this was a complete departure of what I normally write," he said.
Pinto hopes "Dusk and Summer" can help others overcome grief. "Every night I wrote this book, I was crying. It was painful."
Sirens Call Publishing's Nina D’Arcangela and Julianne Snow, along with editor Gloria Bobrowicz, helped him make the book better than he first envisioned, though he didn't change much beyond basic edits.
"I wasn't open to editing this book like I was about my horror books. I couldn't add 100 pages like another publisher wanted me to do," he said.
The book, although written in tribute to his father, is not directly about his dad or pancreatic cancer.
"It’s about my love for my dad. The mermaid angle, that's part of my horror roots," he said. "It’s very easy to write 'I love you.' But much harder to write it without saying those words, to explain that love."
During November, Pinto is donating his book sale profits to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research .
Pinto is at work on a new horror book and has a book of prose coming out in early 2017.