I’ve been writing seriously since I was in the fourth grade, when I wrote a very "not safe for school" vampire book that included way too much gore and a single obligatory sex scene. I was out of high school before I realized my teacher wasn’t paying me a high compliment when she asked me, “Are you sure you wrote this? It’s very…adult.” I should have figured it out when she called my house to make sure “everything was okay at home.” Especially after it prompted my parents to go through my personal library, confiscating inappropriate materials such as Clive Barker’s The Inhuman Condition (I never fully forgave them for that). It didn’t click though, and that assumed praise from my teacher was some of the most cherished I’d ever received -- then and since. This praise was only amplified in my mind when that teacher was killed, murdered by the husband who had often sent her to school making excuses for black eyes and a wired shut jaw.
It also fueled my interest in the theme of violence and romance. Why had she stayed? Why would she let herself remain in a situation that was clearly painful and dangerous? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I couldn’t understand what would compel her to endure. I became almost obsessed with analyzing it. The issues of my own home life only doused that spark of interest with a heavy dose of gasoline. I studied bad relationships, painful and violent relationships, ravenously consuming every bit of information on the subject that I could get my hands on, from clinical studies on Stockholm Syndrome to The Burning Bed, to Sleeping With the Enemy.
When I was a teenager, the only thing I sought out more than information and a quiet place to write, was unhealthy relationships. I seemed to actively look for people who caused me heartache, drama, and incremental drops in my self-esteem. Then I became my own study, and even when I couldn’t manage to pull myself from the lure of bad people, I managed to judge my behavior as destructive, despite that it gave me a wealth of material for fiction.
Love and romance, violence and heartache, the fall and redemption, these have formed the pillars of my writing. I have never written a story without a healthy dose of angst, liberally sprinkled with betrayal and miscommunication, and infused with just a dash of violence. Sometimes more than a dash. I credit the writing with giving me perspective enough to stay out of those things myself, to carefully cull from my life those people who would do me harm.
I now live relatively drama free, but it’s a daily struggle. For some unexplainable, but likely all too human reason, misery does love company. When people see you making the choice to stand outside the circle of negativity, they have a very nasty habit of trying to pull you back in…kicking and screaming preferred, just to keep things exciting. It’s sometimes very difficult to just smile and nod and keep your distance, especially when your calm and collected way of life is seen as a personal affront to those who prefer to be mired in misery and conflict.
I have learned to do so though, and had that knowledge confirmed by a strange source. I’ve always written about the things that intrigued me, disgusted and disturbed me, but for most of my life I was careful to be more detached from the real monsters around me when it came to borrowing from them for the page. I didn’t want to risk someone reading about the abusive father or spouse in my books and connecting them to my own, or even the terrible college professor in my story to “that one guy” I would literally fight with in class. I didn’t want to hurt feelings, step on toes, incite more drama. But I knew I shouldn’t care.
I come from a lot of bad, so much bad people would only really ever accept it in fiction. But I held myself back from using it to the fullest extent in my work, or simply withheld finished works that were too honest, because people don’t like it when you hold a mirror up to them and let them see what they really are. I let that hold me back for a lot of years, reined in the passion and emotion of dealing with these people, kept it almost comically civil on the page to avoid radically uncivil in my life.
All that research, all that perfect pain gone to waste.
And then a few years ago I saw A Knight’s Tale.
As I said, strange place to find confirmation of a truth I already knew, but there it was:
“I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.” – Chaucer, A Knight’s Tale
So maybe I should keep myself above the petty fray, and I promise you, I will try, but if you give me inspiration for a greedy vulture, a meddling gossip, an abusive ass, a drama loving, pot-stirring waste of flesh…don’t be surprised if I take that inspiration and giddily run with it. :)