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?”
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)?