TW: Slight mention of gore. Let me know if there's anything else I should add.
I wanted to write a murder novel.
I was young, an aspiring writer just out of college with a fresh face and a newly-minted liberal arts degree.
I was young, I was swimming in debt, and I was unemployed.
I wanted to write a bestseller more than I wanted to breathe. That was my goal: have my name on that shiny hardback with the letters embossed. I wanted to be the next Divergent. The next Hunger Games. I wanted to be the next book trend and maybe even get a shitty movie for my trouble.
But the trouble was, I wanted to write a murder novel. Murder novels don't typically skyrocket to the top of the charts. Sure, The Girl on The Train was up there for a hot second, but as soon as the movie came out everyone forgot about it.
From the time I was a little girl, I'd always loved horror. As soon as I learned to read, I started grabbing R. L. Stine books from my elementary-school library like it was my religion (and I was a huge reader, devouring chapter books without pictures in as early as second grade). It didn't help that my dad, in choosing my name, decided that my initials needed to spell EEK. As far as I was concerned, my fate was sealed.
So I grew up living life like every other day was Halloween. I read my R. L. Stine and my Alvin Schwartz and whatever other battered paperbacks I could grab off the library shelves. I even had a CD with recordings of classics like The Monkey's Paw. I was obsessed.
Then, in my high school French class, I discovered the world of Internet horror stories. I devoured those faster than people could post them. Russian Sleep Experiment. String Theory. Mr. Widemouth. Abandoned by Disney. Psychosis was my favorite. As far as I was concerned, the Internet became this verbivore's favorite all-you-can-eat nightmare buffet, and I gorged myself as much as I could.
I admired those writers.
But I wanted to write a murder novel.
I wanted to write a murder novel, and it just had to be an instant hit. I was broke and living at home. I was miserable. I was desperate.
I wanted to get filthy rich on royalties, get dizzy and go mad with fame. I needed money, and besides, getting a book published would finally make my parents proud of their failure daughter. Their practice child. Their first attempt.
They'd love me.
Everyone would love me.
I'd read enough gruesome descriptions of violent deaths to last me a couple of lifetimes thanks to my reading background. I'd read up on people going insane in dozens and dozens of ways. It wasn't like I didn't know my shit.
I'd done my research, spent the first two decades of my life doing research. Paging through stories. Learning what haunted me and what didn't. Learning how to make my words sit with a reader just so. How to make my story unforgettable. How to blur the lines between good and evil, hero and villain, sanity and madness.
But when I sat down at my desk in my parents’ basement to write my murder novel, I realized I had missed something.
I needed to do some field work.
It took me a couple of years to get it just right. The glint of the knife (I had decided it must be a knife, they were the easiest to handle and the most satisfying. Guns ended things too quickly, and they were so loud. Ropes required too much physical strength. I’m a small girl. And anyway, knives are the classic all-purpose tool, you can even use one as a paintbrush), the first oozing of crimson blood from opened veins, then the gushing as the cuts deepened. The terror, then the lifelessness in the eyes. You have to experience everything up close, it’s so much better than in the stories. You can’t write a novel based only on someone else’s research - you have to do it yourself. You can’t experience the rush that the killer feels as the breath slides out of the victim’s fragile lungs though black words on a white page.
I wanted to write a murder novel, and it's almost done now. I've had a lot of time on my hands lately, and this room that's mine now (my own, not my parents'!) is so inspiring!
I'm almost done but I'm taking a break to jot down my story leading up to my novel, in case my fans ever ask me how I wrote such an amazing story.
I'm almost done but there's a man at my door now. He's telling me it's time, that I have to go with him.
I don't think he wants me to finish my novel.
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