I am not everyone’s favorite writer, and I want to assure you that I am totally fine with that. Really. What matters to me is that, of the people who do read and love my work, readers describe my characters and books as real over and over and over again. They might be gritty and sometimes hard to swallow and the emotions—they’re definitely ugly on occasion. That, I believe, is what makes them real…and why some folks like my stuff and others don’t.
I was reading a review of one of my books the other day (yes, I still read them sometimes). It was about one of the books in my Bullet series (sorry, I can’t remember which one). The reader said that the book was not a typical rocker book, that there is cheating and drug use…and it was realistic. The reader also said that it’s not like the typical rocker book where the cheating bad boy rocker all of a sudden reforms because he’s found the girl of his dreams.
That’s what I strive for, have always tried to achieve, and I know that not all readers will like that. I get it. Some of us want to read to completely escape reality, to not have to deal with the ugliness of life for a while. I understand that and know that’s why my writing won’t always be for everyone. That said, I cannot bring myself to write something that doesn’t feel real, and if that means I will never reach the echelon of folks like Stephen King or John Grisham, not a problem. I will die proud of what I’ve written, no matter the cost.
But that brings me to what I’m writing right now. I’m currently finishing up the next Nicki Sosebee book, Fake. Readers have been begging me to finish it, and I have suspected that maybe part of why I’ve had a problem writing it is I’m dealing with a lot of ugliness right now. Part of being human is that we are emotional creatures. Sometimes the emotions are wonderful—happiness, feeling proud of something we did well or someone we love, bliss, elation, contentedness. But an entire book of those emotions would be, well, boring. Let’s face it—drama and all things horrible are what make a good book great (or movie or play or…you get my drift). While ugly emotions might make for a sh*tty life, they make for great entertainment.
That’s why my books wreck me sometimes, because I go through these emotions with my characters, and I don’t want to avoid any of them—nasty things like jealousy, rage, anger, frustration, unrequited love, fear, feelings of betrayal, dishonesty, lust, greed—yeah, all those seven deadly sins things and then some. If I don’t feel them when I’m putting them on the page (even if those feelings are muted), then I’m afraid that you won’t either. So I walk down those dark paths. I must. My characters must. These are the crucibles which make them stronger, and that’s why we love them.
It’s not always pretty, but then again real life isn’t either. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would appreciate a lot of things in my life if I hadn’t had to undergo some sort of trial to get there. For instance, my first desk job I appreciated because I’d worked a lot of sh*t jobs before that. I appreciated my college degrees because they were tough to earn. I appreciate my car because I had to pay a lot for it, and it’s better than all the crappy ones I had before! I appreciate a lot of good things more because of the adversity I had to undergo to get them. (With the exception of labor…I think I would appreciate kids without twenty-one hours of praying for death.) That’s my philosophy with my books. You can really love and appreciate a happy ending if you’ve walked through fire with the characters to get there. That’s not to say you wouldn’t like it, but I want you to love it. I want it to stay with you.
Do I always write like that? Hell, no. The first two Nicki Sosebee books were light and fun. Most of Quickies is that way too. And I have no doubt that you enjoy those as well…but will they stay with you? Time will tell. I still strive for realism, even when it’s not dark.
But that’s it, folks. Life can be ugly and nasty and dirty…and my books are but a reflection of what I see. If you want ivory towers and knights in shining armor rescuing the fair damsel in distress, I’m not your author, and I never will be. I won’t apologize for it, though, because I don’t want to be that author. I want to be the down and dirty, gritty, in your face writer who is going to call it like she sees it.
And I am.