Uncertainty At Its Finest

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?

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10 thoughts on “Uncertainty At Its Finest

  1. Ania, I think the question really is, can you deal with what if? If I were in your position and I chose to write what everyone expects, that story would nag me and I’d either write it while it calls to me or write it later when it drives me mad. I couldn’t sit there and have it rattling in my brain going I could be the best story ever and I’m still in your head!

    A writer takes a chance of the book being called bad every time they put pen to paper or open word and start typing. There will be some people that like it and some people that don’t but I think in the end you would be happier.

    I also find if the writer isn’t happy with what they’re writing that’ll affect quality too. I say go for it. When I became a reviewer, I was asked if I review erotica which was at the time out of my comfort zone. That would have cut me off from a lot of amazing people had I said no.

  2. Darlin, write what you’re gonna write. Don’t listen to the haters. Your stories need to be told the way they’re going to be told, and you’re an excellent writer, whose skill will show through to those who give enough of a damn to care.

    I’m in your corner, whatever comes. But you knew that.

  3. Let me make something very clear to you, Ania: you’re my hero. I have watched in unparallel delight as I’ve seen you do the impossible. You write the story that wants to be written. You are true to yourself and have a fabulous voice. The passion in your writing resonates on each page.

    Write the story you want to write. If you’re really worried about what it would do to your “IDENTITY” as a writer, talk to your amazon contacts about writing under a psuedonym. Stephen King wrote under multiple names until he “made it” for that exact reason.

    I’ll read anything you write.
    Even if its about sparkly vampires.

  4. I love horror. I haven’t read Seed, but I own it. I did read The Neighbors and I loved it. There are so many layers of the horror genre, and maybe The Neighbors is the horror lurking just under the surface, while Seed is what lays further in the core.

    I think you need to write what you want to write, tell the stories that are currently living within you. The only sell-outs are authors who are only writing what they think will sell even if they long ago lost interest in what they’re writing.

    I tend to be pretty loyal once I read a book by an author that I like, and am more willing to read them again even if they come out with a novel I don’t particularly like. I try really hard to trust authors with the story, and bury my inner Annie Wilkes that wants to force my favorite authors to write a book just for me. 😉

  5. Just keep doing it, Ania. I love your stories for their characters, and particularly their believability. You are writing of a world I see and feel about me. I never doubt what your characters do or think. They have a verity I look for in what I read. The rest is windowdressing. If it’s horror or suspense, or whatever, you just keep doing it; I’m along for the ride

  6. Ania, as far as I am concerned I think you should write what YOU want. Those of us that appreciate your writing style…no matter the genre…will read your work. I think a bit of uncertainty and anxiety are important for the creative process.

    I loved the first two books and I look forward to the next book!

  7. I liked The Neighbors and Seed. I don’t want to read the same story over and over. You’re a good writer, so I think that whatever you write, you will be ok. Of course, my opinion doesn’t mean much but there it is. Good luck!

  8. The Neighbors was completely different to Seed, but that’s not a bad thing. Both were well drawn stories that I certainly enjoyed reading.

    I always think it’s more about you having a clear vision of where the story goes rather than it conforming to a particular genre. Write the stories you see and if they are as well written as your first two, you’ll have more happy readers than unhappy ones.

    The fifth project sounds intriguing for sure. If the story has been with you this long, then it deserves to be told.

  9. I have read both your books, Seed and The Neighbors, they are both unique and great for their own reasons. I say write whatever story you want to, there’s no law that says you can only write one genre, in the mean time I will be waiting for your next story to be available for me to read. Thank you also for having your books in digital format so I can enjoy them on my Amazon Kindle. 🙂

  10. You’re amazing. You’re an inspiration for so many of us. I’ve read Seed and I loved it, and maybe that’s because my favourite genre is horror. But I think you should totally write about whatever you want, it’s impossible to give EVERYONE exactly what they want. You should just do it. I can’t wait.

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