Posts Tagged ‘murderer’


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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While it’s true that Mimi and I wrote Beautiful Monster with an indeterminate ending, I’m not sure either of us had a sequel in mind, let alone that the storyline would evolve into a trilogy, but God help us, that’s the current plan.

Really this is my fault. It started with a dream I had one night several weeks ago ~ cheesy though that may be. I dreamed that she and I were talking, and she kept making references to “The Beautiful Books.” I even heard each of the titles: “Beautiful Monster,” “Beautiful Liar,” and “Beautiful Damnation.” When I woke up, I didn’t think of this as anything worth giving much thought to, but through a conversation with someone else that I had later in the day, it occurred me that maybe I should approach Mimi with the topic. I knew before I brought it up to her that it wasn’t something I wanted to try and sell her on…  I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea myself. I just wanted to make casual mention of the dream and let her response to it decide whether or not this was worthy of pursuit.

Her response was, “Omigod, we should!” or something along those lines. She started throwing out possible ideas then, and as soon as she told me her vision for the ultimate ending in Beautiful Damnation, I was well-invested. We talked about it in sporadic bursts through e-mail and texts for the next few days, but it wasn’t until we headed to Iowa for the 2012 Iowa Writer’s Conference that we really started mapping the second story out. So, between workshops, lectures, our downtime during the conference, and our travel-time, Mimi and I wrote a chapter by chapter synopsis of the story, and were able to get all but the last two chapters mapped out. Things often evolve in unexpected ways as the story is being written (which is why I don’t usually do real detailed outlines), so I’m interested to see what will end up in the final draft.

My vision for Beautiful Liar is a bit different from its prequel. In this one, I want to take Sterling (my character) out of his element entirely. I want to take everything away from him. I want to see how far he’s willing to go to get what he wants: Brenna (Mimi’s character). And… I want him to suffer ~ not only for the horrible things he did in Beautiful Monster, but also for the horrendous plans he has in the sequel. I don’t plan to give him a single moment of peace this time. He is the bad guy, after all. So, without giving anything away, the plan this time around is to see what he’s really made of, and I’m curious to find out.

We realize we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We barely got a contract signed on the first book and plenty could still go wrong with that ~ unfortunately, it happens ~ so to assume the publisher will be interested in a second (let alone a third) book may seem a little overconfident. Luckily, that’s not why we’re doing it. I know that I want to do this for a few reasons. One, I am not done with Sterling Bronson and I want to see what else he has up his imported-silk sleeves. Second, I want resolution; not only for Sterling, but for Brenna as well. Third, I am in love with this story and really want to see its ultimate ending… and four, I work well with Mimi and am looking forward to doing another project with her. If a publisher never looks at it twice, then it will have been good practice and good times, and really, that’s what this is all about anyway. I admit that I’m not real eager to get back to world through Sterling’s bloodthirsty, crazy eyes, but why not make the most of the opportunity that we’ve been given?

And so it begins. Again. Wish us luck!


    

     I like to kill people and as of this moment, I have killed eleven of them. Not real ones of course, but fictional ones. I don’t know that I would enjoy murdering a real person. I don’t think I would be very good at it for one thing, and for another, it just seems too messy… but give me paper, a pen and a storyline, and it’s all I can do to let anyone get off of the page alive.

     I don’t know what it says about my psyche, that I so enjoy murdering make-believe people. Believe it or not, I don’t have any unusual fixations with death or violence, but it would be interesting to see what a psychologist might say about it. My best personal guess is that it derives from a childhood spent watching horror movies and reading gory books. Then again, I have to wonder what drew me to that kind of story in the first place~ so it becomes a kind of what came first, The chicken or the egg? ordeal. I don’t know the answer to that, and for the most part, I’ve given up trying to figure it out, but sometimes, something makes you stop and wonder why you are the way you are.

     I was at a writing event with my friend Joe a few weeks ago, and as we introduced ourselves, we were asked, “So, what do you write?” Joe’s answer was quick and confident, but when I was asked the same question, I hesitated. “Ummm… horror, I guess,” was my answer. This awarded me some chuckles and some confused looks. “I don’t ever set out to write horror,” I said, explaining myself, “but that’s just the direction it always seems to go.” They nodded their heads in understanding and I realized I was among others who understood the strange phenomenon of fiction writing; that I was home so to speak, and it made me wonder how much of what we write is a conscious decision and how much of it just is what it is.

Although I knew that the project I am currently working on with Kim Williams-Justesen was going to be horror from the beginning, I still didn’t expect it to be quite so gruesome. And as for the one I wrote before it, I had no intention of it going so dark. It will be interesting to see what shape my next project takes on as I don’t see any way it could possibly fall under the horror genre. Still, I somehow get the feeling that a little bit of that will creep into the story, with or without my consent. The question then is, do I allow nature to run its course, or do I steer the story in a milder direction? Is horror just a part of my writing voice that I need to accept, or is it  something I need to learn to control? And is that even possible? Again, I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I will soon find out.

     In the meantime, I’m having a hell of a good time shedding fictitious blood by the bucketfuls and will be sad when my current project, where murder and violence are expected, is finished.  To me, there is true art in (fictional) murder, and everything from the shower scene in Psycho to the contemporary and far more complex murders in the Saw movies, make it clear to me that I am not the only one who feels this way.

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And P.S. ~ The beast has been unleashed.

Beautiful Monster is now available in eBook and paperback editions at Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-ebook/dp/B00948Q0DK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347132178&sr=8-2&keywords=Beautiful+Monster+Jared
and Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-monster-mimi-a-williams/1112783047?ean=9781615727759


   

     Earlier today, I had an unusual and rather in-depth conversation with a good friend of mine about sex.  We talked about everything from the obvious basics to the more sophisticated habits, rituals and desires of our fellow men and women, musing over the roots of their various tastes and beliefs.  Many hours later, I again wound up engaged in yet another sex-based discussion with a different friend entirely.  This talk centered more around sexual orientation rather than the act itself, but still, today’s sexual theme was not lost on me, and it made me wonder at the sudden prominence of the subject of sex.  After all, despite what it may sound like right now, I don’t usually sit around and discuss the various forms of human intimacy with everyone I know.   I don’t even know what inspired the topic in either case, but it got me thinking of how dominant of a force sex really is in our lives, and how important it is in writing.

     For all the years I’ve been writing, sex has never been one of my subjects until recently (except a little erotic poetry, of course).  I wasn’t avoiding the topic really, it’s just that until I began the book I’m working on now, there was never a place for sex.  I’ve been pretty diligent about incorporating all the other factors that make characters feel more human, such as bathing, brushing their teeth, changing their clothes and getting an occassional night’s sleep, but it never occurred to me that perhaps fictional people like having sex, too.  Until now.

     In the book I’m currently working on, it’s as if all the sex-starved characters of fiction’s past are exacting their revenge on me.  In this story, I don’t think a chapter has gone by that someone wasn’t getting skins, knocking boots, doing the horizontal hokey pokey, or at least getting well felt up.  The particularly challenging thing is, in this book, no one is having conventional sex.  The main character is a perverse, sexually deviant murderer, so most of the time, the sex isn’t even consensual, making this especially foreign territory for me.  But I’m learning.

     One thing I’ve determined about fictional sex is that it follows the same basic rules of fictional anything.  In the world of fiction, everything seems to be slightly dramatized. When fictional characters are rich, for example, they are filthy rich.  If they’re depressed, then they’re really tormented… and if they have sex, they have a lot of sex, and if it’s good sex, then it’s got to be mind-bogglingly great sex.  The key, of course, is striking a balance that is believable but also engaging.  If you don’t amp up the intensity of the characters lives and emotions, then you’ve got a story as dull and lifeless as, well… real life, and why would anyone want to read a book about someone whose life is as drab as their own?  But, on the other hand, if you aggrandize your character’s experiences too much, it becomes melodramatic and ultimately alienates the reader.  Regarding sex, striking this balance is an especially challenging feat for me.

     There are other problems also.  I’m finding that writing about sex (especially sex of the deviant variety) is a multi-faceted and precarious thing in that, on one hand, there’s the fear of repulsing and offending your reader, and on the other hand, setting out to do just that. After all, don’t I kind of want to repulse and offend the reader?  And if so, to what degree? 

     Also, there is description.  Just how much detail do we need?  Do we need to know how bad Martha wants it (or in my case, doesn’t want it), and is it important to mention the exact bodily and psychological responses of each character in this situation? 

     Finally, there is word choice.  This one is especially tricky because there are times that the clinical terms for certain acts (or parts of the anatomy) just don’t properly illustrate the mood you’re trying to create.  Which brings us back to the first problem: am I offending the reader? 

     It’s a cyclical and potentially stressful dilemma, writing about sex.  And add to this your mother’s voice (real or imagined) – disapproving and stunned by your foulness – to the mix, and you’ve got a pretty toxic cocktail of troublesome puzzles to contend with.

     For me, the key to overcoming the stumbling block that is sex can be found in two words:  just write.  I can’t stop and think about what the agent, the mother, the sister, the priest, or the produce manager at Wal-Mart is going to think of my book.  If I do that, then I’ll be writing to please other people.  And if I do that… then I’ve lost all integrity and should look into getting a new, tamer passion than writing.  No matter what you do, some people will love you and some people will hate you.  The way I see it, I’d garner just as much criticism if I wrote stories about butterflies and dandelions… so I might as well write what feels true to me, because in the end, my own truth is all I have… and honoring that is the only way I know how to sleep with a clear (well… somewhat dirty) conscience.