Painful Beginnings

Going back to the beginning.

Starting anew.

Getting a fresh start.

It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, when you’re starting something over, it’s hard.  Ever tried to save a batch of chocolate chip cookies with too much salt?  Trust me, despite the agony of throwing it all out, it is the better choice.

I started an exercise program several months ago.  I made great progress, dropped several pounds, even lost a clothing size.  Then life got hectic as life is want to do at times. I quit going to the gym, stopped following the diet, and found the pounds I’d lost had come back with a vengeance. So I went back to the gym and started over with everything, and I’m pretty sure it hurts worse by 200 percent more than it did when I started originally.

Now I’m doing something almost as painful: I’m rewriting one of my novels, starting over from scratch because I just can’t seem to fix it in bits and pieces. I’m rethinking the characters, I’m reworking the plot, and I’m sorting through some of the subplots and secondary characters to decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. It’s a far more painful process than I had anticipated it would be, and I find that I come to the writing part of my day and I am reluctant, even a bit bitter, about going through with the work. After all, I created this world and populated it and set it in motion – I liked it enough at the time to see it through, and I liked it enough when I finished it to begin submitting it. Now, here I am, the fickle god who is destroying my beloved creation.

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The truth is, though, that I didn’t get it right the first time. I need to start over because the story isn’t working as it is, and simple revisions won’t be enough to fix the issues. As much as I like some of the characters, and as much as I thought I had worked out a solid plot, I realize now that the story really needs a new start – no matter how painful it might feel right now.

In a way, I’m hopeful that this process will seem easier – eventually – than writing the original story did. I already know the basic thread of the plot, and I know the key characters (even if they will change a bit), so in a way, the story is somewhat written already. I’m trying to think of this in terms of a piece of clay: I molded it one way, but the result wasn’t as appealing as I’d hoped, so now I’m reshaping it into something more attractive and useful.

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It would be easy to toss the whole story aside and say, “Oh well, better luck next time,” but I really believe in this story, and I really think it will find a home and finds its life outside my computer. I think I know the answers to the issues I’ve uncovered, and I’ve had good readers willing to look it over to share their insights as well. I know it will be better, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Writing at its very core is a painful process, but now I’m compounding that pain, and doing it on purpose. I guess that makes me some kind of masochist – which is a pretty funny thought.

So, it’s off to work again on a novel called The Afterward. Hopefully this time I can release its full potential. I just don’t think I have the heart to rip it apart yet again.

So What’s the Big Deal with Adverbs?

I read a post on Facebook recently where someone asked, “So what’s the big deal with adverbs?” There were numerous comments that  said that using adverbs in writing was no big deal. There were even a few somewhat snarky comments about writers who eschew the use of them. I know writers who will do anything within their power to avoid the use of adverbs. I also know writers who think nothing of having fifteen or twenty of them on a page.  I don’t think either extreme makes a lot of sense. Writing is never an all-or-nothing deal.  So why the big issue over this particular part of speech more so than any other? Good question.  I happen to be among the group of writers who don’t like using adverbs, and I’ll explain why.

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Just as with all other parts of speech, adverbs have their place. I’ve had someone ask me why I hate adverbs so much. In truth, I don’t hate them. That’s sort of ridiculous, honestly! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  Sometimes adverbs are necessary to provide detail or clarity, but many times, they become the cop-out, the lazy writer’s way of adding detail or clarity.  It’s unfortunate, but many otherwise talented writers fall into the trap of relying on adverbs instead of pushing their writing to a better level.  That doesn’t mean that you should never, ever, under any circumstances use an adverb, but rather that they should be used in limited doses.

First, you have to understand what an adverb does. An adverb modifies (adds to the meaning of) a verb, such as “The woman sang loudly.”

An adverb can also modify another adverb: “The woman sang very loudly.” And they modify adjectives: “The dog was really cute.” 

So, yes! They are very handy little parts of speech, and they definitely have a place in writing. So why all the hubbub? It’s easy for adverbs to be overused. They get put in places where they aren’t necessary, and they take up space where better word choices could be.

For example: “Gretchen sipped slowly from her  tea cup.” 11771007-sensual-blond-girl-with-hair-style-in-elegant-pink-dressover-holding-tea-set-drinking-tea-dark-fashi

The word “slowly” is unnecessary, because how do you sip? Wouldn’t a fast sip be considered slurping? In this case, the writer needs to consider what else is happening. Is the writer trying to set a mood? Is the writer just filling in time? If more detail is necessary, what kind of detail needs to be present for the reader to better understand this part of the story? It may be that this scene doesn’t need anything more because it’s not that important. Either way, the word “slowly” just doesn’t belong.

Here’s an example where the adverbs are just lazy writing: “He stared longingly into her eyes as she lifted her chin gracefully toward him. ”

There’s so much more that could happen with this. There is emotion and intensity waiting to happen, but this sentence falls flat because the adverbs prevent the reader from understanding at a deeper level. Would removing these adverbs and replacing them mean more words? Of course, but unless you’re writing with a very strict word limit, that’s not a problem. In this case, adverbs are restricting the moment and limiting the reader’s enjoyment. What writer wants to do that?

Sometimes an adverb can be useful. If a writer needs to set up a scene and move through the information quickly, then the adverb short cut isn’t a bad idea. But the problem comes when these short cuts become the norm, and the page becomes flooded with them to the point the reader is left with an uninteresting experience.

Bored-Reader

Writers typically try not to overuse any word because it creates an awkward experience for readers. Over using any word, but especially adverbs, cheats the reader and limits the effectiveness of the story. What’s wrong with adverbs? Absolutely nothing, unless you abuse them.

Research, Reviews, Revisions – Oh My!

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I’ll start with revisions. For one book, they’re done, for another, they’re just beginning. Two weeks ago I received the Advanced Unedited copies of my contemporary young adult novel THE DEEPEST BLUE from my publisher.

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This was the last possible chance to make any kind of changes to the book before publication. Nothing major – like I couldn’t change the ending, make big alterations to scenes, or anything of that nature. A few extra spaces were found, and a line that should have been deleted was probably the biggest glitch. The thing is, it was just an amazing thing to read the story all the way through for the first time since all the major revisions were done. It was frightening, but it was also exhilarating. I can tell you that at the end of it, I’m pleased – very pleased. I’m very critical of my work, and typically I’m harder on myself than anyone else ever would be, so the fact that I read through the entire book and didn’t hate it says something.

Now I’m gearing up for the revision process for my young adult paranormal novel called DEATH’S KISS. My publisher told me to expect the work to begin in earnest at the beginning of August. I actually like revisions because it’s a second chance (or third, or fourth, or whatever) to fine tune the story. It’s like working on a painting only now I get to go in with a tiny brush and add the details that bring the picture to life. And believe me, the excitement of having two books coming out within a month of each other is only getting bigger with each passing day!

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This brings me to reviews. The verbal feedback I’ve received from those who have read the two stories has, thus far,  been incredibly positive. I’m grateful for the comments of my beta readers and my editors. Their input has guided both stories and helped to make them stronger. But last week I got word that Kirkus Reviews was planning to publish a review of THE DEEPEST BLUE in their August 1st edition.

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I got a copy of the review, and while it is very positive, it is fairly critical of one aspect of the book, and that stung a bit. Well, no, it stung a lot. I’d be lying to say that my feelings weren’t just a bit hurt. The only remedy is to remind myself of the same words I’ve given to other writer friends in the same situation: reviews are really only one person’s opinion. If readers respond, that’s all that matters. Soon enough, I’ll have the answer.

So research – I’m working on a new young adult novel, a murder mystery. When I worked with my writing partner on BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, we interviewed a friend of mine who is a mortician to be sure that we got certain icky details correct.

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Now, I’ve started interviewing a good friend who is an attorney, and a friend of my parents’ who is a retired city detective. They are helping me to verify the details of  a cold case murder. I’m learning all sorts of legal and forensic information that will help me tell a better story. The cycle has started over, and I’m excited to be launching into a new adventure.  Of course, with three books in the works, I’m at three different stages in the writing process, so to say I’m starting over is only partially true.

This time in my writing life is busy, rewarding, and always interesting! I’ve worked hard for this, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have spent 15 years of my life (minus a few I took off when I didn’t think I could write) working toward the experience I am having right now. When I hear other writers whine that they haven’t achieved some level of literary greatness after three or four years, I just have to laugh. I’m happy. I’ve worked hard for this happiness. I will enjoy it to the fullest, and I will continue working to maintain it. Research will not slow me, revisions will not dissuade me, and reviews will not take it away. I’m having a blast!

A Brick Wall at 60 Miles an Hour

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Welcome to Writer’s Block – again.

I seem to go through this periodically. Sometimes it’s stress related, sometimes not. Stress doesn’t always trigger it, but sometimes it does.

But first, an explanation:

I’ve been trying to finish the revisions on my novel The Deepest Blue (set to come out in the fall of this year). I had every intention of getting it done before the end of the year, but the last two months of 2012 were just a hair shy of total insanity. I left a job I’d only been at for six months to take a job that lasted only two weeks. I didn’t know it was only going to last two weeks, but then I also didn’t know I’d been hired by crazy people. I also moved – which is a long and complex story that doesn’t really need to be given detail other than to say “I HATE MOVING!” Then, of course, the holidays were upon us, accompanied by frequent calls and visits to the unemployment office.  I kept working on the revisions, but I was moving at a pace that would embarrass a garden slug.

I swore, though, that in the new year (being as I was unemployed), I would get the revisions done.

And then I became blocked.

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There were a number of factors that went into causing this block. It took time to identify them, but it’s important to know what triggers a block so you can be more alert to potential blockages in the future! (It’s sort of like paying attention when your drain starts to run slow – better to clean out a small clump of gunk than to have a plumbing crisis on your hands.)

The first thing that contributed to the conundrum was putting deadlines on myself that might not have been reasonable given my circumstances. Moving, changing jobs, holidays, and dealing with government inefficiency all take a toll on one’s psyche. They drain away energy from where it is more useful and better served. Then there was the internal conflict I had over a scene that my editor wanted moved, changed, or deleted. I felt very strongly about the scene and it’s placement. I seriously agonized over how to please my editor while staying true to what I believed was necessary for the story. I rewrote the scene five or six times, and each time I felt it got worse. Enter contributor number three – the hyper-critical internal editor. Nothing pleases this chick! If I had to describe her, she would be six feet tall with long, straight, black hair, and fingernails that look like talons. She sneers, she gives exasperated sighs, and she says things like “That is the stupidest thing I think you’ve ever written. What were you even thinking? OH – I know – you weren’t thinking.” She’s a sarcastic wench, and she makes me doubt my ability to create (despite having six published books under my belt). At one point, I was so frustrated by this internal editor (which, YES – I KNOW – it’s my own self doubt and criticism. Sheesh, I’m not schizophrenic!) that I was about to call my editor in tears and tell her I’d pay back my advance because I just couldn’t write anymore.

It’s obvious NOW (of course, hindsight being 20/20) that my whole blockage was really self-inflicted, but in the midst of it, it felt like hitting a brick wall in your car going 60 miles an hour.

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Everything came to abrupt halt. Just the thought of sitting at my computer to try to revise would make me nauseous. I’ve gone through bouts of writer’s block a few times – which is really the Universe’s way of punishing me for saying once (a very long time ago) that there was no such thing as writer’s block – it was just a lazy writer’s excuse. Yeah – that’ll learn me.

Thank the heavens for wise friends who know just what to say and just when to say it. I was expressing my frustration and telling a friend of mine that I just didn’t have what it takes anymore. I told her that I felt like I was a fraud by telling people I was a writer. She gave me a very kind smile and said, “Your thinking that you are a fraud is insecurity. Insecurity is a character defect, and underlying every character defect is fear.” She looked me in the eye and asked, “So, what are you afraid of?”

Before I could even think about it, the words fell out of my brain, into my mouth, and out into the open. “I’m afraid of disappointing people.”

Yeah – I’m a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me. I don’t want to make anyone upset at me and I felt like I was letting my editor down, letting my writing friends down (the ones who offered to help with the read-through), and letting everyone I’d ever told about this upcoming book down. That fear of disappointing people nearly paralyzed me.

Then I said, “I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.”

Whoa – that caught me by surprise. This book is still going through revisions. It isn’t meant to be perfect. It will never be “perfect” in the sense that no one anywhere will be able to find fault with it. I remember hearing Jane Yolen speak at a conference and talking about how there are scenes in her book “The Devil’s Arithmetic” that she would still go back and revise – and this book won all kinds of awards! I realized that I was trying to achieve a finished product, but it isn’t time yet.

I meditated a long time on what this friend had said and what my answers had been. In the mean time, I also started a new full-time job (also quite stressful), but while I was sitting at my desk at work, inputting numbers into a database (not real stressful), the solution to the block arrived. I almost couldn’t get through the rest of my day because I was so eager to get home and write! That was a magnificent feeling. I sat down, I dug in, and I solved the problem. I found a happy compromise for the scene my editor wanted changed and I didn’t (well, the scene isn’t happy, but resolving where to put it was). I got through the remaining chapters, and I sent the entire manuscript off to my wonderful editor before my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month!

Lessons learned? Um – many. First, I am terribly hard on myself, and I need to learn to just let it flow. Writing “Beautiful Monster” happened during one of the most stressful times in my life, but that story flowed because I allowed myself to admit there would be issues and errors, and I could go back and fix them later.  Second, I need to address my frustrations earlier. I do a lot of “I’m not blocked, I’m not blocked, I’m not blocked, OH CRUD! I’m blocked!” Backing off sooner, removing obstacles when they are small instead of when I’ve made them into demons – this is the better way. Finally – remember who you’re writing for. It’s not an editor, it’s not an audience. I’m writing for me. This is – and always has been – my passion. I do this for my soul and for no other reason. I’m going to make a sign that says exactly that and hang it right behind my computer.

Sigh.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

So first, I need to thank Jared S. Anderson for tagging me in this, and apologize that I’m a few days late (eek!). You should all check his blog at  http://jsascribes.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop/ to read his answers, or check out some of his other awesome possum stuff!

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book? The Deepest Blue

Where did the idea come from for the book? A number of places. First, I wanted to try writing from the POV of a male character. Second, two of my children went through the process of having a step-parent adopt them because of issues pertaining to a biological parent. I lived through this with them (my oldest daughter asked my husband to adopt her when she was 15, and my step-son asked me to adopt him when he was 16). For all of us, these were emotional and powerful experiences, and naturally, that makes for good fodder for books!

What genre does your book fall under? It is contemporary young adult fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Um – that’s a good question. I have no idea. I’m still fighting my way (literally and figuratively) through revisions. I’d have to do some investigating on that

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Sometimes it isn’t easy to fight for what you know is best for you, but ultimately, it is the best fight you’ll ever have.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? The publisher for this book is Tanglewood Press, a small (but rapidly growing and exceptionally high-quality) publisher based in Terre Haute, IN. I don’t have an agent currently, and I’ve been quite successful without one, so I don’t stress over it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Depending on how you look at it, it took almost five years. I was midway into the very first draft, and had just written the scene where the main character’s father dies, and then my own dad passed away right before Christmas. I tried repeatedly to keep going, but I wound up putting the book aside for over a year. Then I got busy doing other things and stopped writing for nearly two years. By the time I got back to the manuscript, I’d taken nearly four years off.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It’s a bit like “Missing May” by Cynthia Rylant, and a bit like “A Place to Call Home” by Jackie French Koller.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? My daughter and my son both inspired me.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There’s a great boat sinking!

Sadly, the friends whom I asked to join in on this weren’t able to, so I’ll direct you back to Jared’s blog for some other great blogs to check out!

http://jsascribes.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop/

Beta Readers, Editors, and the Craft of Revision

I started writing my YA novel, “The Deepest Blue”, nearly six years ago. I knew the story and was excited about tackling a story that was more of a challenge. The main character’s father dies and it is a shock to the main character and to the readers (or at least I hope so). Then, early into the first draft, my own dad died, and I just couldn’t go back to this book. It sat for several years until my friend and writing partner Jared urged me to pick it up again and finish it.  I did get it done, and started submitting, but all the rejections said the same thing: the market is too soft for a book like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I let the story languish on a thumb drive, figuring I’d get back to it eventually. I wrote another novel and began submitting it instead. Then a year and a half after rejecting it, my editor at Tanglewood asked about The Deepest Blue. “Where is it? Have you sold it?”

“No,” I told her, “it’s on my computer.”

“I want it,” she said. That was December of 2011. She said it would be a Fall of 2013 release, so we had lots of time to work on revisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book had already been through several revisions, and Jared had read it and given me his input. But my editor wanted to give it to a reader in the target audience and let him comment as well. We sent it off to him after the new year, then I waited for him to finish and give comments. Unfortunately, this kid dropped off the face of the earth.

Not to worry, though! My editor had another young man who was eager to be a reader for us. Early this summer, I got his comments (hand written on a sheet of yellow note paper!) and he offered some wonderful insights for me. I think I’m a pretty good writer, and I have a good ear for dialog and for shaping the plot of a novel. However, I have never been a 15-year-old boy, and that was clear in some of my passages.  I worked through the story again with this young man’s comments, and I also got Jared to go through it with me and offer his own masculine perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished the revisions in August and sent the newly crafted story back to my editor.  She sent me wonderful, uplifting comments about the changes and the new strength in the story, and then told me she would get to work on her own revisions right away.

I got those revisions last night – and I am so grateful to have such an amazing editor! We talked about adjusting the tone in the beginning of the story, about deepening the emotional impact, and about pushing the envelope in ways that I hadn’t quite envisioned. And this is the benefit of a professional editor. My self-published friends will not like this, but the fact is that without a quality editor to work on your story, you may not see the things that take a story to the next level. Beta readers are also crucial to this process. My writing partner and the young man who read the story this spring both gave me needed insights into the male mind that I couldn’t have had on my own because, quite simply, I’m not a guy! They helped me to push the story to a more realistic level, giving it an authenticity that I couldn’t have achieved on my own. This, in turn, opened the door for my editor to dig even deeper and develop the story to a point that – in her own words – will allow her to submit this book for awards.  If that isn’t music to a writer’s ears, I’m not certain what is!

I don’t honestly know how many revisions this book has been through. I know it’s a lot – but that’s sort of the writing part of writing, if you ask me. Being willing to let others tear into your story and offer you suggestions is an important and valuable step in the whole process. I’m regularly stunned by writers who don’t want anyone to touch their work for fear it won’t remain true to their glorious original concept.  Frankly, I don’t know what I’d do without Jared and my many beta reader friends who offer insight into my work from a reader’s perspective. 

Someone asked me if I was sick of this story yet, and my answer is “yes and no.” Yes, I think I could recite the whole book front to back from memory, and that begins to wear on me. No, because each round of revision is a chance to look deeper into what I’ve created and to try to add meaning and depth to the story. I want to get better with each story I write, so if there are folks who want to help me achieve that, then I welcome their input. Hopefully, I can repay their kindnesses.

Finally! It is HERE!

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