Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Twisted

By Andrew E. Kaufman

Illustration by Justin Amos

I'm just going to put this out there right now. I don't write about puppies and rainbows. Far from it. My novels tend to lean toward the gritty, if not peculiar, side of life (read: twisted). But here's the thing: Just because I write it, doesn't mean I live it—I don't. After all, it is fiction, and therein lies a common misperception, that authors who write twisted stories are themselves twisted.

Case in point: at least once a week—maybe more—I'll get an email from a reader that goes something like this: “You look like such a nice guy …but then I read your book...” Or this: “Man, you're one seriously twisted dude! Where do you get this stuff?” What usually follows directly after that is: “So when's your next one coming out?”

Hmm.

You see, comments like that always make me wonder why readers think that suspense and horror authors actually live out that which they write. Are all romance writers great lovers? Do all historical writers live in 1800s? Of course not. So why would folks question our sanity just because we write about those who don't seem to have any?

I recently spoke with bestselling author
Tess Gerritsen about this. The murders in her novels can be particularly gruesome. She said, “Well, I think I'm perfectly sane. As a group, horror and thriller writers strike me as a mild-mannered bunch, not at all prone to violence, and less combative than other genre writers. Perhaps it's because we get out all our aggressions on the page!”

She makes a good point. While I hurt people on paper, I'd never harm anyone or anything in real life. I'm a vegetarian, for heaven's sake. And I don't think I've ever met a knife-wielding horror or suspense author before. For the most part, they do tend to appear quite sane—except for when they're trying to finish a novel, that is. Another story, completely.

Robert W. Walker's novels are about as twisted as they come. On whether his readers think he's warped, he says, “I get it a lot, like at signings, people saying, 'I thought you'd have horns.' I continually ask readers 'why do you pose the author with the villain when in fact most of us share much more with the hero or heroine?'”

He adds that, as writers, we're similar to actors because, “You have to become the point of view character, so if you write scenes from the POV of the killer, then you have to play the part just as an actor, like John Malcovich, has to pretend twisted, pretend evil."

I'd have to agree with him there. Just as with any character, good or bad, I need to get inside his head in order to give him dimension, make him seem real, otherwise he comes across as forced, something the reader will pick up instantly. Not always easy for me to do, however, because it can take its toll on an emotional level. But it has to be done, and truth be known, I do tend to identify with my heros more than my villains.

Lisa Gardner takes a more humorous approach as only she can do. She says, “I suspect I was dropped on my head a lot as a child. I’m honestly not sure where the ideas come from. They simply come to me, particularly creepy, scary ones. I guess it’s a good thing I can turn ideas into novels, because being an ax murderer doesn’t pay nearly as well.”

Okay, folks. Here's your chance to find out just how twisted I can be from a first-hand point of view (
on paper, that is): become a follower of this blog, then add your comment below, and I may kill you (on paper, that is). One lucky winner gets a character named after him or her in my upcoming psychological thriller, The Lion, the Lamb, and the Hunted, then gets whacked. Anyone brave enough to put their life in my hands (on paper, that is)?

I warn you, it won't be pretty.

36 comments:

  1. I'm not sure how I'd handle reading about my own whacking! I have a hard enough time reading about the gruesome murders of characters I barely know...This is an interesting post, and I appreciate the insight. It helps me toward my own definition of writer. Good stuff! MMF

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  2. Great post, I really like your work and can't wait for another book.
    Candy

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  3. I've read your work and don't really think I want to be killed off in one of your novels; however, I did want to let you know I thought this was a great post. Oddly enough, readers do tend to think authors are going to be somewhat like they write. And, I'd say we brand the more "twisted" authors the most for some reason. Great comparison to other genres. Made me say "of course" -- Still not sure I'd be willing to spend much time alone with you, my friend! :)

    Congratulations on the upcoming release.

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  4. Well said, Drew! It won't make me a horror fan, by any means, but I certainly see your point! And I can't wait to read your psychological thriller or any other thrillers you may write in the future!

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  5. Love the post; how true! I'm already a follower so won't get killed off this time (on paper!) :)

    Thanks for the post.
    cb
    http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

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  6. Hi, Caroline. You still qualify for the contest if you leave a comment, even if you're already a follower, so I may end up killing you (on paper, that is) ;)

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  7. I've been killed in a book. Didn't hurt at all!

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  8. Terrific post! You are indeed a pretty terrific guy, but I for one am glad your brain is wired the way it is.

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  9. Excellent post, Drew! I can relate to what you said, somewhat. I'm not a writer, but I've had some less than flattering remarks made about me based on things I read. I do enjoy horror and suspense, but I don't read them to get ideas on how to kill people. And I enjoy romance. Don't read those to learn anything either and I certainly don't live the lifestyle that a lot of the characters do. It's fiction and for entertainment purposes only. :)

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  10. Very true, Nissie. You are what you eat ...but not what you read or write!

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  11. Totally with you on reader "perceptions." I write romantic suspense, and many characters have met their not-so-pretty demise, but all anyone ever asks me is how I research my sex scenes.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  12. Stephen King once wrote an article he entitled "Ever Et Raw Meat?" which was a collection of some of his wierdest fan letters, and they reflected on the fans far more than they did on King. One asked the title question of King. "Where do you get your ideas" is the most commonly asked question of an author, but for us it gets a little "twist" -- "Where do you get your weird-ass ideas?"

    I will say that I also subscribe to a Kingism -- When you can't 'legitimately' scare 'em, go for the gross out (or the juglar, I'd add). Turn the knife one more time than you think they can take, and guess what they can take it all right. If you kill it, will they come?

    Oddly, I have gotten into far more trouble for the number of animals my serial killers kill than the number of human victims in a horror or serial killer romp. But smart readers know when an author is having fun -- it is when the reader physically throws the book across the room and later goes searching for it to finish it.

    There is a powerful connection authors have with their readers and sometimes it is that 'twisted' element. How can you write this 'shit'> best response -- "How can you read this shit?" HA!

    rob walker
    Bayou Wulf

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  13. I left a comment earlier. Guess it got killed off.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  14. Drew, that kinda makes me want to change my diet.;)

    Terry, another romance author said her husband is always asked if he was her research or did she get her ideas elsewhere....

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  15. Good one, Nissie! Maybe we should put Terry on the spot...?! Find out what her husband has to say about it all?! LOL.

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  16. Jodie, of course. Inquiring minds want to know. LOL

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  17. Nissie - I introduce the Hubster as my research consultant. Let others draw their own conclusions.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  18. There is nothing more complex than wondering how a writer comes up with the ideas we do. It often appears quite natural once we start typing, even we don't know where it comes sometimes. To think we are any more disturbing or mental makes me laugh. I don't possess any weapons of any sort and have never physically harmed anyone or anything. I have always liked crime stories real or not. Two of my favorite authors are Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner you can't get normal than that.

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  19. See, maybe I need to switch genres. Research for me is going to an autopsy. So unfair.

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  20. LOL Drew, I tried to talk you into writing a romance. Although they can be just as scary. Just in a different way...

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  21. I've been called twisted a few times too, but maybe that's because I want to see an autopsy. Or, at least, I think I do. Great post.

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  22. Hey, Drew... I've already been killed off once. 'Eh, no biggie! Of course I think it was natural causes, nothing gruesome. I think I'm a pretty nice person, but the ideas I come up with in my mind for writing really aren't nice or pretty at all. Go figure! Enjoyed you blog post!

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  23. Good post, Drew. I admit to being a bit twisted. What's normal, anyway?

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  24. Yes, Drew. I think research for romance would be a little more pleasant than an autopsy. :)

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  25. Great Post! Since I've known you, I know you not to be a deranged killer. Just a really creative writer. Keep it up!

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  26. Great post! Since I've known you, I've not seen you to be a deranged serial killer. But a very good writer. Keep it up kid. I think you've finally done it!

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  27. Once I got a package from Victoria's Secret with a note that said, "Thanks for Chapter 6". (And yes, it was from the Hubster, who helped me with my drafts.)

    And, to be fair, I spent a lot of money on beer for homicide detectives when I was doing the "other" kind of research.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  28. That's a very nice gift, Terry! I love packages from Victoria's Secret. Even if I do buy them myself.

    Can't say I've ever had a beer with a homicide detective, so I don't know whether to envy you that one or not. ;)

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  29. Terry, I actually have an interview this week with a homicide detective--research for my upcoming novel. Any tips on how to get the "good stuff?"

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  30. I bought them beer. :-) But I think they like it when people are interested in what they do, and especially if you make it clear you want to get it 'right.' (although you'll have to change it later, because 'right' can be boring.)

    Have your questions ready: I normally need help when I'm stuck with a plot point. "I need this to happen, what's the best way to get there?" And let them know you want to make them look good. Normally, a question you ask will lead to a "One time, I was ...."

    Some of my best 'cop' stuff came out of watching several of them interact. The banter was worth more than the facts (and it ended up in one of my books). I could go on, but that would make this a really long comment. Feel free to email me.


    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  31. Thanks, Terry. Good advice. I'll make contact with you by email if have more questions.

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  33. And the winner is:

    I was actually able to kill more than one of you (on paper, that is). So here you go--the lucky or unlucky (on paper, that is) randomly drawn winners are:

    Nissie Lambert
    Madison Johns
    Candy Waggener
    Deanna Rickrode

    Congratulations. Sorta ;)

    P.S. I may have to kill more people (on paper, that is) since the novel is still in the editing stages. If I do, I'll draw additional names from this blog. So stay tuned!

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  34. Wow! Thanks, Drew. I think ;)

    I would ask you to be gentle, but I've read your first book. :D

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