Have you ever read a book and wondered, how the hell did the author come up with this?
Or watched a movie and said, “These crazy fuckers must have been tripping on acid when they made this!”
*Cough, cough* cue all those bizarre Tim Burton movies…
Chances are, if you’re an avid reader, you’ve wondered this about some of your go-to favorites. I know I have.
Unlike those prolific authors you’ve no doubt had this question about—Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien—I’ve only published one book. But I’m writing more. Some on paper, actively, and some in my head for future projects. And all of them have one thing in common:
So, how does a well-mannered preacher’s daughter from the South, who loves movies like Casablanca and An Affair To Remember, end up focusing her creative energy on developing killers?
By accident, mostly.
Let me explain…
When I set out to write my first book, Where the Shadow Lies, I had no genre in mind. No market to try to break into. I simply had an idea, and it needed to bleed onto paper. This idea wasn’t even centered around a villain or an antagonist. It was a simple one-liner—
There is no such thing as unconditional love except that between a parent and a child.
Given that theme, you’d think I would have ended up writing Women’s Fiction or even a non-HEA type Romance. And it actually started out that way. My plan was to write some sort of epic love story between a woman and a man, and her end up choosing her son over him. But then…it didn’t really feel right. Trying to create an instance where a woman would be forced to choose her child over a man seemed…easy. Who wouldn’t, right?
So, I needed to raise the stakes.
It couldn’t just be her choosing the love of her son over the love of a man. It needed to be more powerful than that.
In came the next idea.
What if she chose to give her life for her son over living a life with the man she fell in love with? That seemed more powerful. That felt right.
Here’s where the plot (literally) thickened.
I now needed to create a situation which would put my MC’s life in jeopardy. There had to be a reason she would give her life for her son. It could’ve gone a few different ways, here. Perhaps it’s the apocalypse, and she chooses to sacrifice herself to zombies? Or maybe there’s some sort of terrible accident? Or she throws herself in front of the barreling train? I wrote down all kinds of situations in which this could happen, but none of them felt right for me. None of them lit a fire under my ass.
Until one did.
‘A psychopath…’ my muse whispered.
Then something wonderful happened.
That train I’d dismissed hours before crashed into me with a whoosh of creativity. My hands shook. My brain did cartwheels. My heart burst. This was it. I’d found my story!
So, you’re thinking, a romantic suspense?!
That would have been the natural route. You take epic love story, add a psychopath, and boom you’ve got romantic suspense.
But my muse is such a fickle, flitting little fairy, and I took so long to find my way to psychopath, that she decided to totally flip the script on me.
Perhaps this next part should scare me, but suddenly, I was more excited about writing about this psychopath and what they do to this particular victim (my MC), than I was my original theme.
Remember that achingly lovely theme? Something about a parent’s love… Blah, blah, blah. This is what my creativity told me: Don’t get caught up in that theme. Don’t put your characters into that box. Don’t worry about anything other than the torture of your characters…both psychologically and physically.
Okay, yeah, maybe that should have really scared me.
But it didn’t.
It energized me.
This sadistic, evil fuck was in my head, now, and I was ready to tango. At this point, I opened my laptop. And something magical happened. I. Wrote. My. First. Chapter. As soon as those words were down, I knew the original theme was going to be set aside. I knew this was something more. I knew that this was what I was meant to write. That’s not to say Where the Shadow Lies isn’t rich in themes—it is. But they’re presented differently.
Since that moment, I’ve done all kinds of research about psychopathy. Everything from books, to Internet searches, to 9,871 episodes of Criminal Minds…twice. And you know what? It inspires me to write. I’ve got many books planned out, now. All of them having something to do with killers or psychos.
Should it scare me that I get inspired by dark, sadistic things?
And…I just asked my fiancee if he thinks so, to which he said, “Nope! Everyone has a dark side. You’re just brave enough to explore yours.”
So, I’m going with that for now. I’m going with the fact that’s it’s totally okay for a God-fearing, silly, mother of three to throw on her headphones, listen to rock music, turn down the lights, and write about evil.
What inspires you?
Think about that question, often, my friends. Allow your mind and muse to wander in places you never thought they would. Even if it scares you. You never know what could happen…
You can get a copy of Where the Shadow Lies here.