There comes a moment in every authors life where we’re torn between what we’re expected to write vs. what we want to write. That is, at least, what I tell myself if only to not feel so absolutely uncertain.
If there’s one thing I hope my readers understand about me, it’s that I never want to be disappointing. I put everything into my work. I am, in essence, the perfect example of the tortured artist cliché. I toil. I worry. I toil some more. I have anxiety attacks and momentary breakdowns. One day, I’ll be completely sure about what I’m working on. The next, I’m a mess of self-doubt. Again, I tell myself that this is all normal. I assure myself that these neuroses aren’t exclusively my own.
The Neighbors has received mixed reviews, and in a way I suppose I expected as much. Seed being the book it is, I knew hardcore fans of my first book would be slightly surprised by the tone of my sophomore effort. The Neighbors is less hardcore horror and more psychological thriller. Where Seed has an air of classic creepiness, The Neighbors has disconcerting sex appeal. If they were colors rather than stories, Seed would sport root-like tendrils of red slithering across a background of black. The Neighbors would be reflected in pale blues and yellows, vibrant fresh-cut greens with a splash of menacing darks hidden in between. I’ve been criticized as a result. It’s been suggested that I “sold out” to write something more mainstream rather than stick to my gory roots.
I have a confession to make: my roots aren’t as gory as you think.
I love horror. It makes me giddy. But I love subtlety just as much. I love it when things strike me as “off” rather than as overtly wrong. I like the mystery that veils the darkness–the mask of normalcy that hides the monster, the shadows that shield the wickedness that lurks just beneath the shade. It was that delicious sense of discomfort that made me write The Neighbors, that skin-crawling concept of seeing someone evil walk in the sun, flashing a charming smile in your direction while, inside your head, you can’t help but to think “this is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
My roots are dark, soaked in psychopathy and blood. But they don’t all lead to horror.
I have a feeling that I’ll be criticized for this sort of thing throughout my career. “She should stick to what she’s good at, horror.” Or, on the flip side, “The Neighbors was elegant, why she writes trash like Seed, I’ll never know.” And for that, I apologize. I’m sorry. I’m just intrigued by way too many things.
That brings us to the point of this blog post. My next (and fifth) project. Yes, fifth. The third, The Shuddering, is completely done and will be in your hands (more than likely) within the next six months. My fourth novel, which is currently untitled, is being toted around by my agent and editor. I’ve yet to hear what they think. And yet, here I am again, a mixed bag. The Shuddering is definitive horror. There’s absolutely no question of it’s genre. But the fourth, I have no idea how it’ll be categorized. It could be horror. It could be a supernatural thriller. Hell, it could be a love story. All I know is that it’s the story that materialized as I wrote it. It’s the story that wanted to be told.
But my fifth project is what’s really scaring me. The story that wants to be told is far out there. Quite frankly, it’s outside my comfort zone. It is, in essence, a social commentary that can either hail me as some sort of brave, incredible mind or result in the crucification of an author that should have stuck to horror and should have left the heavy-lifting to the big boys. I’m not going to reveal what it’s about here because that isn’t the point. The point is, I’m a little scared… not of writing it, but of what you’ll think of me when I do.
Time and time again, I’ve said that you, my readers, are the most important thing to me when it comes to my career. You guys are what make me, what drive me, what inspire me to keep going. So naturally, faced with a project that I’m afraid will alienate you… well, it’s enough to make me curl up into a ball and not want to think about it. A few days ago I almost said “screw it”. For a few hours I convinced myself that I don’t want to write this at all, that it’s nuts. But that was a lie. I’ve wanted to write what I’m planning on writing since 1999. Nearly fourteen years in the making. It’s horrible, but it isn’t horror. It’s scary, but it isn’t a thriller. It’s a whole other animal, and that’s what’s terrifying.
I guess I’m writing this to put my anxiety on the table. I like to think of myself as an open and honest person, especially when it comes to my writing. I don’t like bullshit and I don’t know how to hide my emotions. I like to think that this is a somewhat appreciated trait. In a world where so many are closed-off and inaccessible, I want to be the opposite. So, here it is, all laid out. Project number five scares the shit out of me. I’m worried that, once it’s out there, you’ll hate it. That you’ll furrow your eyebrows and say “well, it’s interesting, but this isn’t what I expected.” I’m waiting for a barrage of “stop being something you aren’t” despite the fact that I’ve wanted to write this story in some shape or form for over a decade.
In regard to The Neighbors, I was told that “it wasn’t written by the writer I thought I knew.” And I wonder, is that bad? Wouldn’t it be disappointing to know me after a single book? Or even a third or a fourth? At this point, this is the one thought that’s giving me courage. Maybe instead of the being horror’s sweetheart, I’ll simply be known as the girl who blurred the genre lines, the girl who wrote whatever she wanted, the unpredictable one that’s exciting because of that very fact: Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
I just hope you guys like chocolate.
I just hope I don’t lose you, because without you, what will I do?