My best friend/writing partner and I developed the idea for “Beautiful Monster” after having worked with each other for nearly a year. The project went through several names. At first, we called it “Evil Heart” (that is still the file name on my thumb drive). Then when we were about 2/3 of the way through it, we started calling it “Gallery of Dolls” instead. This name stuck for quite a while, and very nearly ended up as the title of the book. But Jared wasn’t satisfied with the name, and so, as we worked on revisions we bounced around ideas for other names for this book. There were any number of candidates – good, bad, and downright stupid – but ultimately we settled on something that we felt captured the heart of the story – Beautiful Monster.
This title, most obviously, refers to the character of Sterling. He is beautiful – and incredibly vain – and he says and does beautiful things that cause Brenna to fall in love with him. But he is also a monster – a serial rapist and murder who uses pain, fear, and lies to torment his victims.
But this title is as much about Brenna as it is about Sterling. Brenna is, indeed, beautiful. However, the monsters in her life (other than Sterling) are insecurity and self-doubt. These monsters allow her to fall victim to someone like Sterling. Fear is another monster in Brenna’s life, and as Jared is so fond of telling me, “Fear is a liar.” Fear of her own sexuality, fear of love, and ultimately, fear of being “different” all lead Brenna to making mistakes and choosing to ignore her own instincts.
There are a lot of metaphors in this story – some we included on purpose, and others we discovered later! There is an over-arching theme, but rather than dwelling on that, I’d prefer to let readers discover their own meanings. There is also a lot of violence, and there are places that get so graphic that even I got embarrassed reading it, but that’s not saying much because I get embarrassed easily. We were not gratuitous. We tried to keep things realistic and only include those elements that we felt were essential to the story. Undoubtedly, there will be some readers who are offended. That can’t be helped. In in my children’s books I’ve had people complain about things that were “upsetting” so I guess that in this story, it’s just to be expected.
To be perfectly honest, I’m quite proud of this book. I’m proud of what it did for me as a writer – the levels I had to delve into in order to write this thing were the most challenging I’ve ever been to. I had to face some of my own darkest moments and draw on them in order to pull out what I needed for this character. Initially, I didn’t do so well with this, but over time and with Jared’s encouragement, I was able to confront my own monsters and write some very difficult scenes.
I’m proud, too, of this book because of the growth that Jared achieved in his writing. He began to understand story structure in a new way because of how we split the chapters. His writing tightened and became more polished, and he was also able to dig into some dark corners and come up with gems. And all of these things happened amid personal chaos for both us. This book became a place for us to release our frustrations in a healthy and satisfying way. It became a safe haven for our anger, and it made our friendship even stronger – in fact so strong that we both were talking about writing another book together before this one had even been finished.
Beautiful Monster is Jared’s first published work, and I am proud of him for that. While not my first published work, this is my first adult novel, and I am proud of that fact as well. I’ve become so excited about this book that I have my own personal countdown calendar to mark the passing of each day! As of the writing of this blog, it’s now 9 weeks and 1 day! Plans are underway for signings and possibly for a release party (though we are not sure both of us can be there, but we will try). And I have an awesome idea for a promotional thing near Halloween that I think will be fun – more on that later!
Of all the things I am most proud of about this book, I have to say that I am ecstatic that Jared and I became better friends. This process could be difficult for a lot of people, and it absolutely was for us at times, but if we didn’t have a solid foundation for our relationship, this process could have been brutal and we could have walked away hating this book and each other. We both worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen.
Nine weeks and one day – I hope the world is ready for this!