Posts Tagged ‘Beautiful Monster’


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Nine months ago, something happened that I’d been working very long and hard for: Beautiful Monster got published. It was picked up by Damnation Books, a wonderful publisher in California that I absolutely adore. There was much to be excited about as Monster went through the process of publication, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I immediately started planning my future as a writer. I began revising The White Room, a manuscript I wrote before Beautiful Monster which needed some work before being an acceptable candidate for publication. On top of this, I began an equally exciting top-secret side project—that I can’t really get into at this point—that I’m totally stoked about. Things were going swimmingly—my days and nights absorbed in the fictional worlds of my own creation—until, about three months ago, something else happened: I hit a brick wall. And it wasn’t writer’s block.

This brick wall was far scarier than writer’s block because at least there are things you can do to lubricate a stubborn story. What I faced was something I never expected to: doubt… and not the doubt that I could be a writer—that’s a given—but the doubt that I wanted to be a writer.

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So, I stopped writing—which given my life circumstances at the time—wasn’t all that hard. I was in the middle of moving—again—and I’d met some fascinating writers from the old-school who made me feel like one of them. It was easy to coast for a while, but in truth, I wasn’t coasting at all. I was thinking. I was wondering how, after so many years of dreaming of this, of working toward this, I could possibly feel this way once those dreams were finally coming true. But that’s where I was at, and it wasn’t very fun.

After a while, the people around me started asking questions. They wanted to know why I wasn’t writing. I never told them the truth. I didn’t want to be influenced in any way because I knew this was something I needed to figure out for myself. I was working, just not in any way that was visible. In those months, I produced nothing that would help my career in any way, but I did strip down the layers of who I am, and I did figure a few things out.

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I figured out that the glitter is gone, the shine has dulled, and reality has cast its shadow over the dream. I have a different understanding of what it means to be a writer now—it’s not a better understanding—just a different understanding. I figured out that writing is—in truth—a lot of time spent sitting in front of a computer. It’s picking up the thousands of little pieces of a scattered story and spending hours, days, weeks, and months trying to fit them together in the most cohesive, relatable—and salable—way. It’s sacrificing a lot of time with friends and family. It’s being asked outright in public settings how much money you make. It’s work. It’s a daily decision to sit down and create something that may or may not ever even see the light of day. It’s the choice to devote a lot of time and effort to an entirely unknown outcome. It’s a risk.

I realized that the glamour of being a writer—if there ever was any—doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the world would like to believe. I’ve met my heroes, and they’ve now become my friends—people I talk to on the phone, exchange emails with, and discuss the most tedious details of my life with. This doesn’t make them unglamorous, this simply makes them real. It makes all of this real—and that’s not a bad thing—it’s just a different thing.

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In the beginning, when this was still a dream, I made some conscious choices. I would steer clear of any unattainable expectations. I would not put anyone on a pedestal or hold my heroes to superhuman standards… and in truth, I’m neither disenchanted by the path nor in any way disappointed in anyone I’ve met. But the dream, as it manifests into reality, is grating and unsettling… it feels a little like walking off a ledge. It made me decide I needed to take stock. I needed to step back and look at writing from a realistic perspective. I needed to then ask myself if this was ultimately going to make me very happy. So, that’s what I did… and the past couple weeks have finally brought things into enough focus that I can proceed in what I’m confident is the right direction.

Ultimately, nothing has changed for me except my approach to it. The dream is still intact. Somehow, I still want this, but now I know that only the love of this—and nothing else—is strong enough to withstand the demands and lack of certainty that writing requires. There isn’t enough ego to uphold this—there isn’t enough money to justify it—and there isn’t enough comfort to sustain it. But at the core of who I am, this is what I do—what I’ve always done—and it gets me closer to happiness than anything ever has before. And perhaps the greatest persuasion has been the incredible and unbearable gnawing, gnashing need to write even when I’ve given myself permission to break from it for a while. If nothing else, this has slowly convinced me that my writing days are far from being over. I’ve made some great self-discoveries these past months, but that hasn’t stopped the stories from tumbling in, the characters from blathering on, or the fingers from seeking the keys.

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I now have what I believe is a deeper, more accurate understanding of being a writer. It’s not pretty anymore, but it’s mine, and it’s real. I’ve learned that even when I’m “not” writing, I’m still writing, and so—at the risk of sounding melodramatic—how can I possibly not write? I can’t, but I do have a choice in how I proceed. I can either gather up the scattered pieces of story, glue them all together, and try to make something out of this that matters… or I can return to the days when jotted-down descriptions, disjointed dialogue, and fragmented portions of plot and poetry haunted me from hundreds of loose scraps of paper that invaded and overran any space within ten feet of me.

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For me, that choice is clear. After giving my soul a thorough strip-search, I’m realizing there isn’t really anything else I can do and be happy. The dream may be over now… the real world may have settled in… but there are still stories to be told.

And I’ll do my best to tell them.


As I’m sure I’ve already mentioned, character writing is my favorite part of the fiction process. Nothing else–except maybe the finished product–is as satisfying to me personally as the moment a character begins to tell his or her story. Sometimes, they reveal themselves in slow sections, teasing you with their secrets and the private details of their personas. Sometimes, they come fully-formed in an in-your-face moment of undeniable clarity.

My intrigue with the process of character development is what keeps me writing, and it is what has prompted me to elaborate on it here, and dig a little deeper into some of the characters I’ve created, with the purpose of learning more about the mystery of it in general, and maybe even learning a little more about my own process. And, one of the most frequently asked questions any writer receives is about the development of characters, so I thought it might also be fun for the folks who have read my work to see the inner workings of my imaginary friends 🙂

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The first character that comes to mind, for some reason, is Brytt Tanner, Sterling Bronson’s dim-witted side-kick in Beautiful Monster, so I’ll start with him.

Brytt came into existence pretty early on in the plotting of Monster,  and if I remember correctly, it all started–as it often does–with his name. My co-author, Mimi A. Williams, met a man named Brytt in the workplace. The moment she mentioned the guy’s name, I knew I had to use it.

The first thing I knew about Brytt was that he was a stripper. I’m not sure why that was–again, probably the name. It just sounds kind of strippery, I guess.

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Next came his physical appearance. I figured a bulky, muscle-bound blond guy would be an interesting antithesis to Sterling’s dark, brooding good looks. I don’t like to create characters who look too much alike, and second, I’m a sucker for contrast. After ascertaining the basics of Brytt’s appearance, the next thing I did was start browsing the internet for his doppelgänger. This isn’t something I always do, but at times, I’ve found it helpful. So, I found a photograph of a guy that fit the mold, and referred to said picture when I needed to expound on details. I considered posting that picture here, but have ultimately decided against it. I think it’s best to let readers fill in their own blanks and use their own imaginations.

Not all of Brytt was pre-planned. He–like all good characters–came with a little of his own agenda, and one of the first things that surprised me was his dim-wittedness. I don’t know that I would have deliberately created him to be such a lunkhead, but as is so often the case, this is how he kind of “revealed” himself as I wrote him.

And it worked… which is also very often the case when you trust your characters to do their own things.

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It was also a surprise to me that Brytt was almost–but not quite–as morally corrupt, sexually deviant, and as dangerous as Sterling. In the beginning, Brytt was created, I think, simply as a means to give Sterling–who lives by himself–more opportunity for dialogue. But as the story progressed and began to demand artistic unity, Brytt began to play a significant role in the novel.

Brytt’s last name was tricky. A strange thing happened as we got further into the story. We started noticing a pattern… an absolute overuse–and abuse, really–of the letter C. We had Claire, Connie, Carlson, Cassidy, Carson, Carlisle, and probably several other names that began with the letter. I wish I could tell you why C became such a prominent player, but I can’t–I don’t know. Wierd things happen sometimes. So, after we made the discovery of the letter Cs undeniable overuse, Brytt’s last name–Carson–was changed to Tanner. Tanner, because at the time, I worked for a company with the word “Tanner” in the title. I’d been at the company for thirteen years, and figured it deserved some kind of recognition for paying my bills all that time. Unfortunately, Brytt probably isn’t really the most complimentary thing to be associated with, but for what’s it’s worth, I like him. He amused the hell out of me… and hey, it’s the thought that counts…

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I can’t remember if Brytt’s addiction to cocaine was a surprise or part of the plan, but this was the most fun, and most challenging thing about him. His constant “pit stops” kind of became his calling card, his personal catch-phrase in a sense, and it was interesting to describe the physical symptoms, like his glassy eyes and powder-congealed nostrils–and it was a total blast describing the actual snorting of the cocaine. I know… I’m kinda twisted that way, but it was fun. The snorting of coke is not glamorous. I wanted that to be very clear when Brytt did his thing, and it turned out being more hilarious than anything.

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Brytt is, believe it or not, one of my favorites. He was fun because he didn’t allow Sterling to take himself so seriously. Well, maybe Sterling took himself seriously, but Brytt made it impossible for me to take him–and the rest of the story–as seriously. Brytt is one of the reasons Beautiful Monster was so much fun for me. He moved the story along like a good character, he played by the rules by not demanding more stage time than his part required, and he forced me to learn more about the darker, sleazier side of life. I absolutely love him, and I have no doubt he will reincarnate, in some form or another, in my future writes.

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Beautiful Monster is available in paperback and ebook format at www.damnationbooks.com, and everywhere books are sold.

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Since an early age, I have had make-believe people in my head.  I know how that sounds and I am willing to admit its psychotic connotations. But quirky, questionable, batshit crazy, or otherwise, it’s the truth.  Psychologists might say I was unhappy and turned to creating an alternate reality to escape the misery of my own world.  But I don’t believe that.  I was a perfectly happy child.  Odd, but happy.  I just liked the idea of making up my own people whose lives I could script and design, and … who would live or die under my ruthless command (insert evil laugh here).

In the beginning of life, I suppose it seemed very normal.  Most kids have imaginary friends and the like… but mine weren’t really what I’d call imaginary friends.  I never interacted with my make-believe people, I just knew all about their lives: their names, jobs, locations, likes and dislikes, etc.  I used to sketch them out, and occasionally, I would put them in little stories, but many of them just sat until, by the time I was a teenager, I had notebooks populated with the profiles of these fictional characters and no idea why, or what to do with them.

By the time I was nearing twenty years old, I’d thrown away my stuffed animals and done away with ninety percent of my childhood fancies.  But one thing never changed: the people living in my head.  As I got older, they became more and more like real-life, three-dimensional human beings.  I suspect that as I matured, I began drawing on the traits of those around me, and those I saw on television.

You’d think that by now, when I sat down to write a story, I’d just pull out an old notebook and pick and choose characters. Instead, however, I’m still coming up with new people all the time. Different stories require different personalities, some of which haven’t yet come to my attention.

One of the most fascinating things about being a fiction writer, in my opinion, is getting into the minds of the characters. I use the word fascinating rather than fun because it isn’t always fun. For example, while writing Beautiful Monster, I was mortified at times to be in Sterling Bronson’s head. I remember frequently asking myself in various situations, What would Sterling do? and shuddering at the thought.

Currently, I am working on two projects. One is The White Room, which I still intend to have finished sometime near the end of summer. I’ve made this manuscript a lot more fun by discovering the joys of third person narrative. In this book, I get to explore multiple points of view, and now that I’ve begun doing it this way,I wonder how on earth I ever wrote from just one character’s perspective. The White Room is full of all kinds of fascinating points of view. There are good guys, villains, victims, sexually deviant women, men with addiction issues, living people, some undead folks, and even a guy with obsessive compulsive personality disorder. I’m seeing the world through several different pairs of eyes and I’ve never had as much fun writing as I am with this one.

The other project I’m working on is much different in a lot of ways. I can’t elaborate on this one too much because it’s still kind of top-secret… but it’s getting written, and it’s going well. For this one,  I am also exploring a few different points of view, but this is a whole new experience because I’m writing from a ten-year-old boy’s point of view…as well as a very old woman’s. This project is teaching me new things, expanding me in fascinating ways, and forcing me to stick to the point as it’s not intended to be a full length novel.

Having learned to see one story through the eyes of multiple characters has shown me new layers to the stories, as well as cleared up numerous issues I’ve had with past manuscripts which never reached completion. To be honest, I don’t know if I will ever return to first person…unless, of course, it seriously benefits a story I’m writing.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from readers and other writers on this topic. I’d like to know what readers love–and hate–about characters. I’d also love to hear from other writers about their process in character development.

Thanks for reading!

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Remember that time she grounded you for no good reason? And the way she always felt it necessary to inject her unfavorable opinions about all your friends? She still does this, doesn’t she? Well, now is your chance to settle the score without all the guilt.

This year, give Mother the gift she deserves with Beautiful Monster. The unrelenting, soil-yourself terror will raise her heart rate which has been proven to improve heart health. The fear coursing through her veins will also strengthen her bladder control, saving money on adult diapers, while the more-than-is-good-for-you dose of explicit sex will increase her cardiovascular health as well as reignite her passion for life and remind her of her days of vitality.

On top of all this, the raw violence and unabbreviated horror is a great muscle-toner as Mother strains to maintain her position at the edge of her seat. With Beautiful Monster, you can both mortify Mother and increase her health, making this a win-win situation, so this year, say I love you with Sterling.

She may never forgive you for it, but hey… now she’ll know how you feel…

 

Beautiful Monster by Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams

“Finally, a serial killer women can sink their teeth into…”

Tamara Thorne

–Author of Haunted, Moonfall, and Candle Bay

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Beautiful Monster is available in eBook and Paperback at Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-monster-mimi-a-williams/1112783047?ean=9781615727759

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1354247199&sr=8-5&keywords=Beautiful+Monster

and everywhere books are sold.

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jerodscott77

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6517308.Jared_S_Anderson

Beautiful Monster fan page: http://www.facebook.com/beautifuldamnation?ref=hl


Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s a condition and those of us afflicted are intimately acquainted with the suffering we were born to endure. Because our tortured lives are lived in the service of our art, we strive to sacrifice our very souls at the altar of literature for the sake of presenting the world with the beauty of our pain.

Today, we have decided to share with you the burdensome joy of our oft-flailing endeavors to create for you, Dear Reader, the finest, most insightful fiction our poet-souls can spew forth.  We shall reveal our rituals and our deepest secrets so that you may understand what all writers go through every day of their tormented lives to give the gift of verseful prose and to keep the word-thirsty demons of our condition at bay and our sanity at least partially intact.

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TT: So, Jerod, I used to use heroin to spark my imagination, but that wasn’t quite elegiac enough, so now I make my own absinthe. Not only is it a staple of great literary tradition, I also find the color green clarifying and provocative and it allows me to maintain both creativity and beauty in my life. Do you have a similar support system?

JS: I gave up absinthe when my liver protested too much. I replaced that sweet nectar by the very bonnet Laura Ingalls Wilder wore when she was compelled to write her Little House on the Prairie series. It still brandishes the magic of long ago, which really was beneficial when channeling Sterling Bronson in Beautiful Monster. http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1364787121&sr=8-17&keywords=Beautiful+Monster Tamara, what attire do you don to conjure up your tortured brilliance?

TT: I dress as a Union gunnery officer, circa 1864, because after all, isn’t writing a war with words?  Words are my rifle, my computer is my sabre and rattling it is my life.  I’ve worn this outfit for all my novels except Moonfall when I found it necessary to dress in a full Felician nun’s habit, complete with the garters and holey leggings of the Benedictine monks.  Do you perform any rituals to enhance your performance?

JS:  I believe that to get to the creative depths of our souls, we must maintain the precarious balance of each of our universes by creating and destroying in equal portions. That being said, my rituals include but are not limited to breaking furniture, smashing mirrors, throwing champagne glasses into the fireplace, watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns, and animal husbandry.

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No, but seriously, my real rituals are far less spectacular than any of those.  I like to wear electronic nipple clamps while I’m slaving over my work. There’s something about the power juicing through my body that I believe adds an adventurous edge to my writing. I also center myself by counting the hairs on the back of my left hand.  There are many hairs and this helps me find inner peace. It’s my Zen moment of the day and I always look forward to it.  Do you have any rituals, Tamara?

TT: I do, but none as interesting as yours, I’m afraid.  I keep a framed signed photograph of a young Samuel Clemens over my computer.  It’s been handed down in my family since he presented it to my great-great-grandparents, Chester and Sarah Bellham as a wedding gift in 1859.  (They were traveling after their wedding on the very first steamboat he piloted after receiving his license.)  Each evening, at the end of the working day, I close my computer and light a votive candle kept on the little altar below the portrait.   Then I choose thirteen ants out of my husband’s ant farm and hold them, one by one, over the flame with long tweezers until they crisp while I recite these lines partially from Tolkien:

Cut the cloth and tread the fat!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Splash the wine on every door!

Hubba hubba shebop shebop

Hobbits, don’t let my new book flop!

 Those lines have spoken to me since I was ten years old in ways I can’t begin to explain, even to myself. Perhaps it’s merely silly superstition, but I believe that these small sacrifices aid my creativity.

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JS: That’s amazing, Tamara. I do the same thing, but I didn’t admit it earlier because I didn’t want PETA to go after me.  I do it a little differently. My altar includes a painting of Stevie Nicks and a tambourine, which I shake vigorously before sacrificing my ants to her. After the sacrifices have been executed, I look up to the Stevie Nicks painting and recite the following lines three times:

“Just like the white-winged dove…

Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’

Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh…”

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TT: Why Stevie Nicks?

JS:  Why Mark Twain?

TT: Good point.  We all contend with our private demons in our own ways.  Jerod, they say no book is written by just one person, so tell me what role your wife plays in your writing life.

JS: She lies. She tells people I’m a plumber because she’s very embarrassed, but in private, she’s quite supportive, going so far as to help me count the hairs on the back of my hand to help me focus. I couldn’t do it without her because she’s a far keener mathematician than I.  What of Robert Damien?  How does he cope with your literary mistress?

TT: Threesomes.  Well, Jerod, in closing, what advice would you give to new writers?

JS: As a natural born writer, you’re surely already hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads, so my advice to invest in plenty of anti-depressants, read books such as The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and of course, The Back Passage by James Lear. Also, find a good luck charm – worry stones. It’s nice to have something to rub whilst pounding away at your work, and according to ancient legend, worry stones are also good for your circulation depending on the vigor of your worry. Additionally, porn is good because it clears the mind, but make sure you have a keyboard cover.  Exercise.  Kegels are great because you can do them right at your desk and the keyboard cover also comes in handy. Also I glue leather elbow patches to my Lycra Spandex unitard and carry around a meerschaum pipe because it makes me look literary. I advise all new writers do something similar. Think like the writer — BE the writer! What’s your advice, TT?

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TT: I advise always taking writing very, very seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to being a Published Author.  This is a business, damn it, and you must be a professional at all times. Make sure, as well, that your subtext is well thought out and inserted consistently so that people will know just how brilliant you are–and obviously, you must be sure there are always many deeper meanings in whatever you are writing. Thinking like Camus is excellent for romance writers, and I recommend Nietzsche for humorists, but the cant of any serious philosopher will fit the other genres.

Any more to add, Jerod?

JS:  Yes. I agree one hundred and seven percent.  You must take your art as seriously as you do every breath you take. Each move you make and each claim you stake in writing is important. You don’t have to put on the red light. Just write. Write like the wind. And remember, I’ll be watching you.

TT: One last question, Jerod. However did you get the original Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet?

JS: eBay.

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During the first quarter of a book’s release, it stands to reason that family and friends will account for the majority of sales. Knowing that my loved ones had already procured their copies of Beautiful Monster, I’ve been especially eager ~ and a little nervous ~ about this quarter’s statistics since I figured it would more accurately reveal how interested the general public really is.

Well, tonight, I received that long-awaited December 1st through February 28th royalty report from my publisher… and I couldn’t be happier. Beautiful Monster has more than doubled its sales since last quarter 🙂

Between book signings, interviews, social media sites, and various other activities, we do a lot to market our books, but whether or not they succeed is ultimately up to the readers. I realize book sales wax and wane ~ and I’m told they drop significantly during summer months when people are outdoors doing more active things ~ but while the going’s good, I can’t help but be a little excited. So thank you to all the readers. The road to publication is a tough one, but you’ve all made it worth it. And thank you to Damnation Books, for giving me the chance.

I haven’t had much time to blog these past weeks ~ I think this is only my second post this month ~ but be sure to come back in a few days for another installment of “Serial Chat” with horror novelist Tamara Thorne, where we will be discussing the rituals of writing…


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