Posts Tagged ‘thriller’


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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In honor of the release of Beautiful Monster, the twisted, kinky, thriller/horror novel by me and Mimi A. Williams, we are posting this blog, which began as a conversation between the two of us, and turned into a kind of interview we did on each other. We’ve been amazed by the interest people have taken in this project, so what we wanted to do was give a kind of inside look at the making of this book, and show people where we were coming from with this. I hope you enjoy it.

Beautiful Monster is available in eBook format right now at: http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-ebook/dp/B00948Q0DK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346515405&sr=8-1&keywords=beautiful+monster+jared

And at: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742

The paperback version will also be available in just a few more weeks.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this, and for all the folks who have supported us and this book.

MIMI: It’s HERE!!! Can you believe it? How long have we talked about this book becoming a reality? I’m so excited that I’ve been doing the happy dance for weeks!

JARED: Me too. And it happened a lot faster than I thought it would.

MIMI: One of the most amazing parts of this book – to me, anyway – is that we finished it at all. There was so much personal chaos for both of us at that time that I seriously doubted we would get it done. I remember sitting in your office, writing that last chapter, while you were packing boxes around me and taking things out to the moving truck. It was kind of surreal.

JARED: It definitely wasn’t easy, but you have to admit, we did pretty good. We didn’t get into any serious fights.

MIMI: I think I only threatened to strangle you once. Okay, maybe twice.

JARED: Ha ha. But you never did.

So for those who don’t know, Beautiful Monster is the book we’re talking about. It was accepted for publication by Damnation Books a few months ago, and today it is officially released. Mimi and I started talking about writing this book almost two years ago, when she was mentoring me on my first novel, The White Room. We found that we had an almost magical synergy when it came to writing, and when she suggested we collaborate on a novel, I was all for it.

MIMI: Ha ha! I thought you suggested it! Oh well – not that it matters now!

JARED: Beautiful Monster is a story about a serial killer and his victim. We wanted to capture both sides of the predator/prey scenario, so we wrote it in alternating chapters, Mimi writing from the victim’s point-of-view, and I took the serial killer’s side of the story. It was a lot of fun and we’re pretty proud of it.

MIMI: Initially, I wanted to write a story about a kidnapper and a victim who develops something like Stockholm syndrome -but she actually falls in love with her captor. Jared talked me out of that when he suggested we make it about a serial killer instead. My character pretends to be in love with her captor as a way of staying alive. But Jared’s character is bonkers – that’s a technical psychological term I think.

JARED: He is bonkers, and I am nothing like him, by the way! Sterling, my character, becomes more interested in Brenna, Mimi’s character, as the story deepens, when he learns that she possesses a virtue he’s never been able to take from anyone else before: virginity.

MIMI: Brenna is kind of naive. I was really naive at her age, too. But she has a good heart. She is a genuinely kind person who wants to do the right thing. One of the most fun – and most frustrating things – about writing this book, was knowing all the rotten things Jared had planned for his character to put my character through. It was a challenge because I couldn’t allow the character to know, and I really did want to warn her and keep her safe!

JARED: Planning out all the horrible evil things to do to Brenna was a little unnerving at times for me, too. I really like Brenna, so some of the stuff Sterling does to her was pretty horrible for me to write about. Mimi, what would you say is your favorite scene in this book?

MIMI: For as terrible as this will sound, one of my favorite scenes is when Brenna confesses to Sterling that she is a virgin. She is so vulnerable and so strong at the same time. The reader knows this guy is scum, but her heart is golden in that moment and she is willing to risk his ridicule to be true to herself.  What I want to know, given all the horrible stuff Sterling does, is what was the hardest (or one of the hardest) scenes for you to write?

JARED: I would have to say the hardest part to write for me was when he took his first victim to up to “the gallery.” I had no idea how corpses “behave,” and that’s where our friend, the mortician, really helped me out. I had a hard time learning all the facts about death, because, I think, it’s human nature to not want to look at death that closely.

I was disturbed by a lot of the things I learned from the mortician. So, the hardest part for me was becoming intimate with death and the process of dying, and then turning around and trying to put it on the page in a believable way. I think that the knowledge I gained from that experience also has a silver lining, though. I was relieved to learn that the actual act of dying (excepting violent circumstances) is not necessarily an unpleasant thing.

What about you? What would you say is one of the most significant things you’ve taken away with you as a result of writing this book?

MIMI: One of the most significant things about writing this book for me was that, through the entire process, I was able to do something that I normally do by myself, share the process with someone else, and come out of it in the end not only remaining friends, but actually with a better friendship than when we started. There were some scenes in this book which, if I’d had to write them alone, might have been enough for me to just stop writing. The support of my writing partner and friend – you – made getting through some of those more difficult scenes bearable.  At times when I wanted to hold back and not remain true to the emotional elements of the story and the character, you wouldn’t let me slack. There were moments that were downright brutal, but I think this book is better because you pushed me, and I think I’m a better writer as a result of that.  So tell me what you will remember most about writing this book.

JARED:  I’ll remember the way the story developed. It’s interesting to think back to the beginning ideas for this book and realize how far it’s come since then. I’ll remember those times the character just kind of sprouted wings and started telling the story themselves. I’ll remember how interesting it is that, even when you have an outline, the story kind of takes off on its own and develops itself. That’s almost a kind of magic to me. It’s fascinating. What about you? What do you think is the most fascinating aspect of this story? Was there anything about it that was somewhat magical for you?

MIMI: A lot of it was magical! I can remember thinking about a scene, wanting to include something, and you would call me up and say, “Hey, what if we did this?” and we would have exactly the same idea! That was weird, but fun! It was interesting, too, the way the characters would cross from one writer to another – I would write a scene with Sterling and you would tell me that it was exactly how you would have written it, or you would write a scene with Brenna and the dialog would be spot-on!  So what did it feel like to you when we read those last pages that I wrote at the last minute right before the big move? As we sat out on the patio at your new place and finished the read-through – how did you feel?

JARED: There was a lot going on at that time and I think I overlooked a lot of obvious flaws with the story because of that. As far as how I felt about reading the final product, there’s always something really intense about that. On one hand, you’re ecstatic because it’s finally finished. On the other hand, you’re sad because you know it’s over.

To be honest, it took me a long time to fall in love with this story. For one thing, I didn’t think it was marketable, so I never let myself get too attached. I thought it was too violent and too borderline-pornographic to ever get picked up. Also, I hated Sterling. It wasn’t until the Fiend showed up several chapters into the story that I began to understand him and was able to sympathize with him, but the whole time I was writing the book, I worried that I may never love this story.

The day we read it beginning to end was the day I learned my fears were empty. I realized I did love the story that day, and that I actually had loved it for a long time. As we finished the book, I also remember thinking, this is one of those memories in motion, and I knew I would never forget it.

What part of this story, or the process of writing it, did you like the least?

MIMI: I hated writing the rape scenes. They were brutal on me emotionally, and the first couple of attempts were weak and ineffective because I was so afraid to go into the scenes with real, genuine emotion. I hated, too, that you would call me out on those scenes and make me face them as a writer. Those chapters were tough, but I think ultimately, they are real. Readers might be offended – and I hope they are. It’s an offensive subject, but it’s very real for many women, and I was just as honest as I could be about that most horrible experience. I hope it rattles the cages of some readers and helps them to build a little empathy for anyone – male or female – who has been sexually assaulted.

So what are you most looking forward to now that this book is a reality?

JARED: The thing I am most looking forward to, now that the book is out, is to, in a sense, move on to other things. I love this book, don’t get me wrong. But I’m excited about some other projects I’m working on, and I am looking very forward to being able to put my focus on them. I have many more stories to tell, and they need to get told now. Beautiful Monster has been the point of focus in my life for almost two years now, and I’m eager to let it go into the world and do its own thing now. That last round of revisions was a far sweeter thing than it was bitter. There was a sadness that we were finished, yes, but I was ready to be done and that eclipsed the sense of finality for me.

That being said, I still feel a strong sense of this story not being entirely finished. This book is finished, but the story as a whole seems unfinished. You and I have talked about writing a sequel, and possibly, a third installment. Now that we’ve seen Beautiful Monster to this point, how do you feel about a sequel (or a trilogy) now?

MIMI: Honestly, I agree. I don’t think this story is over, and we did leave the ending just vague enough to invite that opportunity. I didn’t think I’d ever want to go back to these characters, but now that I haven’t lived with them 24/7 for a while, I think I’m ready to look at a second, and even a third book.

So, my friend, any last thoughts as we launch this baby out into the world?

JARED: All I have to say is that it’s been a pleasure. This has been a dream come true for me, despite a few small nightmares along the way. Overall, it’s been an incredible experience, and I’m excited about the future. I’m grateful that someone believed in us enough to give us a chance. We worked very hard for this.

MIMI: We did work hard, and I am also very thankful that Damnation Books was willing to take a chance on us. For as surreal as some parts of this journey have been, I think it has all been worthwhile – so much so that I think we should do it again! Are you ready?

JARED: I am ready!


I think we have the best cover artist in the world. When I found out Dawne Dominique was going to do the artwork for me and Mimi’s novel, Beautiful Monster, I was thrilled. After all, you don’t always get much say in the matter. You are the author, not the cover art designer, and therefore, you have to trust the people who do artwork as their profession to do a good job with your book. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

I am happy to say that when I first saw the artwork for Beautiful Monster, I was totally stoked. If I drank at all, I would have gone out and bought the biggest bottle of champagne (or vodka, or whiskey, or gin) that I could have gotten my hands on. Mimi was as pleased with it as I was. There he was… my character, staring me in the face. It was a bigger rush for me, oddly, than being accepted for publication. I suppose because seeing the cover art for the first time made the whole thing seem real.

There was one thing wrong, though. In all our excitement, we overlooked the fact that Sterling (my character) has striking blue eyes. It probably would not have been a huge deal, except that we made several references to the fact in the novel.

At first, I thought it best to just let it be. I worried that it might be too late to fix anyway. You get to see a few drafts of the artwork before signing off on the official completed draft, and after that, it’s out of your hands… and we already gave the okay for the cover art to go out the way it was. I couldn’t quit wishing we could change Sterling’s eyes though, and after giving it more thought, I decided to e-mail Dawne and ask her if it was too late for any alterations.

Dawne got back to me within twenty minutes (cuz she’s cool as hell like that) and said that had I waited another few days, it would have been too late, but that as it was, she could make the change. She sent me copy of the new cover, complete with Sterling’s new eyes, and I couldn’t be happier with it. So without further ado, here he is… new and improved:

P.S. ~ Beautiful Monster will be available by Damnation Books, LLC on September 1, 2012. Also, come back to read the upcoming interview with our cover artist, Dawne Dominique!

 


John Lutz is the author of more than forty novels and more than 200 short stories. He has written everything from horror and occult, to humor, thriller, mystery and suspense. His novel SWF Seeks Same was made into the movie Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. His novel The Ex was made into the HBO original movie of the same title, which he co-wrote the screenplay for. John is a past president of both Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. He has won such awards as the MWA Edgar, the Trophee 813 Award, the PWA Life Achievement Award, the PWA Shamus, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.

I met John Lutz at a book signing for his novel Serial. He signed a copy of the book for me, which I have to admit, was one of my most exciting rock star moments! I’ve been reading his books for many years, so when I actually met him in person, I was a little nervous. As it happened, I found him to be intelligent, funny in a charmingly quirky way, and very pleasant to be around. I asked him to be a part of the author interviews on my blog because he is one of the novelists who have inspired me to write. He’s a great guy who has taught me much through his excellent novels and his willingness to answer questions about the craft. I am thrilled and honored to pass on some of his views on storytelling, his thoughts on the publishing industry, and a little bit of insight into his own writing process. So… here are my questions, and here are his answers! (For more information, check out John Lutz Online at: http://www.johnlutzonline.com/)

Q: What year was your first book published, and what are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in publishing industry since then?

A) First short story in 1967. Thieves’ Honor, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. First novel in 1971. The Truth of the Matter, Pocketbooks.

I don’t think publishing changed much in fundamental ways until the advent of the e-book. Now it’s changing so fast, and in unpredictable ways, that it’s difficult to keep up with it. Scary, but truly interesting.

Q: When you first got published, what did you do to celebrate?

A) Exhaled. Had dinner with my wife.

Q: How many ‘No’s’ before you got a ‘Yes’?

A) “Many ‘No’s’.  Most writers of my time and ilk would say the same. Usually writers’ “first” novels weren’t first efforts. The e-book has made publishing easier, cheaper. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Q: As a writer, what has been your greatest disappointment?

A) There are a few things I’d sill like to see happen (like seeing one of my novels made into a play), but I don’t think in terms of disappointments. All in all, I feel that I’ve been extremely lucky.

Q: Your novel, SWF Seeks Same was made into a movie, Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. How did that come about, and what was it like for you?

A) As with some other books that my agent thought had movie potential, the manuscript was sent to his west coast affiliate to shop around. And it found a home.  The rights were bought before the book was published. The entire movie thing was great fun. Yes, I did meet the cast. Watched filming in NYC. Attended premier in LA. Was presented with a screenplay signed by cast and crew. A very positive experience.

Q: Did you meet any of the actors?

A) Met them, watched them work, got to look over the director’s shoulder, tried not to trip over any of the cables. Actually seeing a book made into a movie strengthened my opinion that for best results the movie shouldn’t follow the book chapter and verse.

Q: In researching serial killers, what about them has surprised or intrigued you most?

A) The extent of the violence and physical damage in a stranger-on-stranger rape. And the fact that, according to FBI studies, once a serial killer takes a first step toward his intended victim, if there is no interruption, no matter what the intended victims does, there will be a confrontation. Most serial killers are kind of like guided missiles that have locked onto a target.

Q: What is one question you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer it?

A) “Are you going to write more books?” “Yes.”

Q: You’ve been featured in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines and in several anthologies edited by Alfred Hitchcock. Did you ever meet Alfred Hitchcock, and how did his editing style differ from other editors?

A) I never met Hitchcock. To my knowledge he never did any editing, but there was and is a distinct overarching “Hitchcock type” story, featuring suspense, dry humor, and surprising turns. When someone says “Hitchcockian” I think most people have a pretty good idea of what is meant.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception people have about you and your work?

A) I can’t be sure about that, because I don’t know what their misconceptions are. Many people do seem to think that writing fiction is easier than it is. You not only have to learn how to write. You have to learn to write. Like you have to learn how to dance before you learn to dance. Takes a lot of dancing.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception new and/or aspiring authors have about the industry?

A) That once their book is out there, it will automatically sell. To sell in large numbers books have to be actively sold, ideally through various kinds of advertising that reach large numbers of people. However, the rules are that there are no rules, and sometimes word of mouth can turn a book into a big seller. Or fortunate timing. And yes, now and then a book is so damned good it simply can’t be ignored. But most of those are heavily advertised as books that are so damned good they can’t be ignored. Having said all that, I am aware that I don’t really understand our rapidly changing industry. At this point, I don’t think anyone really understands, or can predict.

Q: In the course of your career, you’ve undoubtedly done an awful lot of book signings. Do you still enjoy them?

A) Sure. It’s nice to make contact with readers, see before you proof that they are actually out there and enjoy your work.

Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who was your favorite, and why?

A) Hard do say. Maybe Nudger, the star-crossed P.I. more suited to selling appliances, with a suicidal girlfriend, a fear of guns, an office above a doughnut shop, and a constant need for antacid tablets.

Q: Are there any of your books that you feel deserved more recognition?

A) Maybe BONEGRINDER, which got great reviews but remains largely unread. It’s kind of hard to fit into a category. Horror, maybe. Or maybe not. It’s recently been republished as an E-book.

Q: Since beginning your career, what invention has most impacted your life as a writer?

A) Has to be the electronic book, but I haven’t yet figured out how.

Q: As a writer myself, I cannot even imagine the days of writing, editing and revising on typewriters. What was it like having to use one for those purposes?

A) I like typewriters. When you’ve run several drafts through one, you have an intimate knowledge of the content, every letter. However, I like writing on computers more. It’s a lot easier in obvious ways, but it takes some tricky adaptation to make the most of it.

Q: Your novel, The Ex, was made into a HBO Original movie of the same title for which you co-wrote the screenplay. How does writing screenplays differ from writing novels, and how are they similar?

A) I think it seems easier to write a screenplay. Maybe it is easier to write a passable screenplay. But they are deceptively simple. To write a good screenplay, worthy of being translated to film or digitalization, is difficult. Lots of people can, and do, write screenplays, but there’s a reason why not a lot of  people write them successfully, and those people, with that rare ability make a lot of money.

Q: What do you consider the highlight of your writing career?

A) I suppose SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, when it was made into a hit movie. It was the number two movie in theaters, and number one in video sales. Would have been the #1 movie if it weren’t for UNFORGIVEN. Also it inspired a lot of women to get their hair cut and dyed in that hairdo that looked great on J,J, Leigh and B. Fonda. On the other hand, maybe I haven’t yet experienced the highlight of my career.

Q: If you could say one thing to a new writer, what would it be?

A) Write, write, write. Write some more.