Bad Moon Rising by Lorriane Mace writing as Frances de Plino is out this week. In my first guest post she reveals just how she gets inside the head of a killer.
When I’d completed the first draft of Bad Moon Rising I knew it needed quite a bit more work before submitting it anywhere, so I went through my usual routine of rewrite, leave for a few weeks, rewrite again, leave for another few weeks, and so on. Normally after five or six rewrites I’m fully inside the heads of my characters and know them as well as I know myself.
In Bad Moon Rising all the characters were there on page, well fleshed out, and the story flowed, but I still wasn’t happy with the novel as a whole. Even though he had a unique back-story my killer was too generic – he could have been any serial killer from any novel by anyone writing in the genre. In short, he wasn’t my serial killer; he was a painting by numbers character. I knew if the book was going to have any chance whatsoever in what is a very competitive market, I had to turn him from a cardboard cut-out into a living breathing person, who just happened to be a monster when he gave in to his desires.
I stopped trying to write what I thought he would think and feel. I decided I had to become him. I had to put myself so firmly inside his head that what he said and did came from him and not from me.
We all have a dark side to our nature, but we suppress this so that we can function in society. Generally, I’m described as a kind-hearted person, always ready to lend a helping hand, so to become one with someone who is not only on the borders of insanity, but is the complete opposite of my own character wasn’t easy. I had to allow my mind to let that dark side out – and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
In fact, it was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever done as a writer – or as a human being. I found myself not only understanding the killer’s actions, but almost applauding them. My husband soon learned not to interrupt me when I was in killer mode because I would snarl even when asked something as innocuous as would I like a cup of coffee. I began to have nightmares where I acted out my killer’s fantasies and even found them disturbingly erotic.
The day I cried while writing a flashback showing how he had been abused as a child, I knew the killer and I had become one. I completed the final rewrite convinced my killer was alive in a way I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. He wasn’t just a killer, he was a man who could easily have turned out very differently had circumstances decreed otherwise.
Did I succeed in making him unique and bringing him to life? I hope so and it seems, so far, reviewers feel I did. I’d like to quote from two reviews.
Jo Reed said: I finished ‘Bad Moon Rising’ feeling as though I had just eaten a good meal – satisfied, and just a little guilty. The guilt came, in part, from the degree of empathy the author had managed to invoke for the killer. (Full review: http://joreed.co.uk/blog/?p=60)
And from Judging Covers Book Reviews: “… as soon as you get into it you realise just how dark and twisted things really are.” (Full review:http://judgingcovers.co.uk/reviews/bad-moon-rising)
My publisher wants to see the second novel in the Paolo Storey series and my husband was thrilled when I told him there wasn’t a serial killer in the next book – at least, he was thrilled until I told him about the crime that drives the storyline. He looked horrified, shook his head and suggested I go into therapy!
Frances di Plino is the pseudonym of columnist, editor, non-fiction author and writing tutor, Lorraine Mace. Writing as Frances di Plino gives her the opportunity to allow the dark side of her personality to surface and take control.
As Lorraine Mace, she is a gentler creature, being humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a deputy editor of Words with JAM. She writes fiction for the women’s magazine market, features and photo-features for monthly glossy magazines and is a writing competition judge for Writers’ Forum.
She is a fiction and non-fiction tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press).