Posts Tagged ‘dead bodies’


As we get closer to the release of Beautiful Monster (September 1st, 2012!), I begin thinking more and more about the sequel. Mimi A. Williams (Kim Williams-Justesen~ my mentor and co-author), and I decided shortly after the manuscript was accepted for publication, that we’d like to make this a three-part story. Whether or not this will be of any interest to the publisher or not, we don’t yet know, but if the only reason we do it is for ourselves, that’s reason enough for us.

We’ve outlined the second novel, which we are planning to call Beautiful Liar, and I have written the first scene of my first chapter. As I get going again, there’s only one thing I’m not looking forward to: seeing the world through the eyes of my deranged main character, Sterling Bronson. Sterling came into existence as the result of more than a year’s worth of intensive research on serial killers, sociopaths, narcissists and a variety of other psychologically disturbed social deviants. I know Sterling well, and this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, knowing him makes him easier to write. On the other hand, he disturbs me.

Writing fiction seems to be a lot like acting in many ways. When you’re inside the mind of your characters, you really become these characters, and when you’re writing a true monster of a man, as is the case with Sterling, this is not always a pleasant thing. For one thing, you subject yourself to the possibility of nightmares. I have had many disrupted nights of sleep because of Sterling, and I was glad when we finished Beautiful Monster because of that. Now that we’re going again, I have already dreamed of him twice. In one dream, he was just standing on a bridge looking at me, nothing serious. In the most recent dream, however, he was digging up the floorboards in a house to show me all the bodies he had hidden there. For the sakes of the more sensitive readers, I won’t go in to details, but the point is, Sterling is back to his old self again, and eagerly showing me the worst side of his nature.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I feel truly blessed that someone finally believed in me enough to publish one of my books. And that it didn’t take the statistical seven to nine years of rejection after rejection is something I’m truly grateful for. There’s just a small part of me though, that wishes it had been a different, more pleasant novel of mine that caught the eye of a publisher. I didn’t write Beautiful Monster with any real expectation of it ever being published. I thought it was too graphic and too offensive to ever get picked up… but, go figure, it’s the one that made the cut. Again, I am neither complaining nor apologizing. I’m just not looking forward to seeing life through a maniac’s eyes again. I don’t like wondering what kind of mentality is required to take a human life. I don’t like wondering what someone’s flesh, under the blade of a knife, would look like as it separated from itself. I don’t like thinking about the last words a person might utter as their life is being taken away from them. I don’t like the fact that in order to believably write this character (again), I need to really understand the wicked twists and bizarre kinks of his mind.

But I’ll do it. I’ll do it because I want to tell this story. I’ll do it because, despite the horrors this character is composed of, I’ve somehow come to like him, and I want to see how his story plays itself out. I will do it because I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to prove myself, and if I treat it like a hobby, everyone else will treat it like a hobby, and I don’t have time for another hobby. I’ll do it because it’s my job. And… I’ll do it because if I don’t, I’m afraid of what Sterling might do to me!

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     Plowing through my collaborative novel with my mentor/writing partner Kim, I’ve recently come across some interesting issues.  I’m writing about a guy who lures beautiful women into his home, murders them, and then stores them in a mine he calls, “The Gallery” in some far off canyon.  The problem is that, as far as the death scenes go, I have no idea what I’m talking about.  I did a google search of all things death related and of course, found only meager pieces of valuable information buried deep in the trenches of nonsense, morbidity for its own sake, and things I couldn’t even be sure were true.  I should have expressed my uncertainties on this topic to Kim earlier on.  As it turns out, one of her good friends of about twenty years just so happens to be a mortician. (On a disturbing side note, he is also a professional masseuse, but that, hilarious as it is, is neither here nor there.)  When I told Kim about my uncertainties, she recommended we meet with this guy.  I, of course, was all over it.

     Because of scheduling conflicts, we were unable to meet with the man in person, so instead, we set a time, called him, put him on speaker phone and took very scrupulous notes.  What first struck me about this guy was his incredible sense of humor and lighthearted approach to the subjects of death and dying.  I suppose that on some level, I bought into the cliché that in order to be a mortician, one needed to possess that introverted, far away, brooding disposition, complete no doubt, with an eerie glazed over look in the eyes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This guy was completely normal (well, except that he’s a mortician/massage therapist anyway).  The point is, I felt comfortable with him immediately and had no hesitation to ask him even the most hideous questions concerning the macabre topic of death.

          He left the conversation wide open to us, answering whatever questions we had, no matter how intimate, about the dying process, rigor mortis, decomposition, and even, for story purposes,  what effects a snug plastic wrap job would have on a body.  I was repeatedly stunned by his easy way of describing to us the goriest details of this sensitive topic.  Many people are not comfortable with those details, and so for their sake, I will forego them and simply say that yesterday, I learned more in under an hour than I have in just about any classroom I’ve occupied in the past.

     I’m glad we asked.  As it turns out, there were a couple erroneous pitfalls that blew holes in the story which really needed to be fixed.  Consequently, I will need to tweak the murderous methods of my main character to match reality, but I’m glad I found out now rather than later. 

     I blogged not too long ago on writing research and the fascinating places it takes you, but my experience yesterday, I must say, trumps even the kink parties and church hopping.  The reason I say this is because the things this man told me went far beyond necessary informational material for me.  It’s death, after all.  It’s personal, and I was D, all of the above! (startled, mortified, relieved and baffled) by the things I learned.  And this is just one facet of writing that I love.  Granted, I had terrible dreams last night and was plagued throughout the day by images of things I’d never before conceived of, but that is, in all its terrible glory, the beauty of writing.  The mortician, or as I called him, “The Stiff Stacker,” turned out to be an invaluable resource, one that, given the general direction my writing tends to go, I will undoubtedly utilize in the future.  Kim and I are setting another date with him, in person this time, do further discuss the horrible truths of this topic.  I figure as long as he doesn’t look like John Wayne Gacy, I will be okay.

   And by the way, before I got off the phone with him, I did say to him, “I have a personal question for you.  Tell me… do you see the morbid humor in the fact that you are both a mortician and a masseuse?”  He was quiet for just a moment and then, “Yes,” he said, “as a matter of fact… I do.”