My writing partner, Jared Anderson, and I have been anticipating the release of our book Beautiful Monster, and it is finally here! What follows is a conversation we had concerning the book, the process of writing it, and what it meant to us as writers and as friends. ENJOY!
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 books, 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” in real life, 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!
Beautiful Monster from Damnation Books (www.damnationbooks.com)
Available for Nook and Kindle through Amazon.com, B&N.com and other eBook retailers.
eBook ISBN: 9781615727742
Print ISBN: 9781615727759