donderdag 4 augustus 2016

about gore and sequel writing

One of my favorite things in the world is getting messages from people who have read (or are reading) my books. I’m not quite famous enough to get hundreds of fan letters, so every time someone takes a moment to seek me out and tell me they enjoyed my work, it’s very special.

Now, (bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this) I write stories in quite a few genres. I’m really into my speculative fiction, and can’t pick a favorite. Out of all the different categories, I think ‘horror’ one is the most awkward to talk to people about.

One of my most read books is Angel Manor, and let’s face it… it’s not exactly the fluffiest thing I have ever written. I didn't pull punches on this one. Not that I ever pull punches, because I would argue that Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath is by far the most horrifying thing I've ever written... but it's not horrifying in the 'disgusting' sense of the word. Angel Manor is.
I think the funniest review I’ve gotten to date for that is ‘ieuw’ (The reader gave it 4 stars, so I’m taking it as a compliment).

This is also the book where I’ve had to most awkward moments with readers. Some of them were funny, where people would send me messages wondering what I had against eye-balls, etc. Others could be quite emotional.

Once I had a conversation with a lovely guy who was in the middle of reading it. He was telling me how one of the characters made him very sentimental, because they reminded him of one of his departed friends. At that moment I was grateful he couldn’t see my face, because I was definitely having an ‘OH NO’ moment, knowing that I killed that character off quite brutally a few chapters later. Sure enough, I read on Goodreads that the reader needed a break from reading when he hit that particular chapter. In the end, he did finish it, and he was very positive about the book. But it was a moment I won’t soon forget.

One of my readers said something along the lines of ‘if you have trigger warnings, this book probably hits all of them.’ On the one hand, that’s a compliment, but at the same time, I’m not a fan of traumatizing people either. It’s part of that weird territory that comes with horror writing. I feel this mixture of pride and wanting to ask if the other person is okay.

Recently someone contacted me and told me that they weren’t sure they could read on, because the prologue was just too shocking for them. I felt terrible when I told them that it would only get worse as the book goes along (I always want to say in an ominous voice: beware of chapter 22). There was a reason why I made the prologue brutal: you can read the first chapter at Amazon, and I thought it would be fair warning of what was to come. (Not that the entire book is nothing but horrible deaths. I like to think there’s a story hidden in there too)
I totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Sometimes I wonder what made me go ‘all out’ with Angel Manor. I’m not usually an extreme horror
writer. Have I mentioned how squeamish I am? Because I am… it’s ironic, I know.
I’ll add a bit of blood and guts to all my tales of terror, sure, but I like to think that most of my stories are more psychological horror than a gore-fest. Perhaps Angel Manor was my proverbial middle finger to the people who told me that women couldn’t write scary things. (Yup, met a few of those online. Apparently we just can’t go all the way, when it comes to horror, and we write more gothic romances.) I don’t know what it was, I let the story guide me, and it took me to horrible places. The funny thing is, it seems to pull people towards it, more than my other work does.

Angel Manor is brutal, and when I started to write the sequel, I realized that it wasn’t half as brutal as the first. Don’t get me wrong, I still put in a decent amount of gore, but I don’t think the sequel is as ‘extreme’ as the first. It focuses more on the story that surrounds the manor and that which slumbers within. There is more adventure.

I’m not going to lie, I worry about the difference. Do people expect just another blood and carnage fest? Or do they want to read more about the actual story behind it? I went along with the story that I wanted to tell.

The Lucifer Falls series is part of a larger story, that I combine with the Celestial series which I’m writing. They’re much darker than the Celestial books, and focus on completely different parts of the story, but there is a cross-over. They’re also part of the same world as the Even Hell Has Standards series.
The benefits to having all these different books in the same world is that I have a really richly worked out setting.
The disadvantages is that it’s very complicated to write something this large. I constantly need to
consider when writing the one series, what will happen in the other series, so that I don’t mess up the bigger plot. (Even Hell Has Standards doesn’t really directly influence the story lines too much)

These series makes me nervous. I’m worried about what my publisher will think of it, and what my readers will think. Personally, I like the turn the story took, but will others agree? My Beta reader, Greg Faherty, was a huge support in the writing
process. He got me through the moments where I wanted to slam my face into the keyboard.

Writing sequels is quite a challenge. It’s nothing like writing individual books or stories.
When I wrote ‘Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly’ I hit a few snags too. There are so many questions that come up while writing a sequel. Does the second story live up to the first? Are the characters consistent? Does the story line still work? Did I forget something?

I guess we’ll find out when it comes out. And then I have an even more daunting task; not only do I have to write another sequel, it has to be the one that ends the trilogy. Now that’s truly scary.

If you want to read what all the fuss is about, you can find Angel Manor here or if you live in the UK you can find it here.

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