My ah-ha moment was a little more big picture for me. I am a reader, writer, and life-long fan of horror fiction, but my ah-ha moment was the realization that I didn't always have to write horror stories.
When I first started writing, "horror writer" was a badge and I wore it with great pride, if not with stubbornness. I say stubbornness because the badge meant that whatever story idea I had, I'd then try to shoehorn it into a horror story framework, even if it didn't quite fit.
My ah-ha moment happened was me waking up one fine morning and telling myself that I wasn't a horror writer. Instead, I was a writer who writes horror. It didn't mean that I wasn't proud to have written horror fiction or that I would stop doing so. It meant that I was going to serve the story's needs first and foremost, and not try to force it into being something that it wasn't. If the story was going to be about a narcoleptic private detective, then so be it. If it was going to be a wacky SF/dystopia with people in Chicken suits and exploding donkeys, okay then, write it. If it was about a secret society of cannibals who stuff bodies into mannequins who then leave them on train tracks, great, let's go with it.
I was never concerned that I was going to leave horror writing; my interests are too dark, and I always have and always will write horror (the novel I'm working on right now is horror). But my ah-ha moment was about my deciding to serve the story--whatever that story would end up being--to the best of my abilities.
A little bit about the author:
Paul is the president of the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has a master's degree in Mathematics, has no uvula, and he is represented by Stephen Barbara of Foundry Literary + Media.