I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m a mercenary. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make money at writing since I was about twenty-two. (Coincidentally, this was about when I was graduating from college and realizing I had to support myself and that working for someone else really sucked, in my opinion.)
For the first bit of my writing career, I aimed to follow Stephen King. It was the early 2000s, I loved horror, and Stephen King was really successful. So…I wrote horror. For Nanowrimo two years running, I wrote young adult novels, because young adult novels were allowed to be short, and I could write one in a month, and I figured, it would still be marketable. At some point. I didn’t ever try to publish those young adult books, because I had noticed that authors who wrote young adult seemed to get pigeon-holed into young adult, and it didn’t seem, at the time, like young adult books were very successful.
At some point, as I began to try to market my horror novels, I realized that horror was dead. Stephen King might be publishing it, but no one else was. In was the mid 2000s. I really still liked horror. You could say I was saturated by it. In fact, I would not, at that point in time in my life, date someone who didn’t like horror. I figured that a good relationship needed to look past the oh-my-god-i-want-to-see-you-constantly faze toward the period of time where you’d argue in Blockbuster over what to rent. (I really had no vision of the future, honestly. Why I didn’t see the demise of Blockbuster is beyond me.) So, I was confused. I finished up my latest horror novel and continued to collect rejection slips for the others I was sending out. I was beginning to accept the fact that I was never going to be able to quit my day job the way Stephen King had. (And seriously, why should I have? He got popular in the seventies, before I was born.)
Throughout this whole time period, I’d been gradually discovering young adult books that I really, really liked. Holly Black was one of the first, with the main character smoking a cigarette (unheard of when I was a teenager in the 90s in a YA book) on the first page. I also devoured Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, and he remains one of my favorite authors. Still, I wasn’t about to jump onto the YA bandwagon, even though I had a niggling suspicion that Death Girl (then entitled “Outline–Maureen” on my computer), was the best book I’d ever written, and even though I remembered that it was quite simply the easiest and most fun book I’d ever written.
And then I read Twilight. It’s funny, because when I look back on writing Breathless, I really thought I was writing a book like Twilight. I didn’t realize at all how different of a story I was writing. All I knew was that it was suddenly possible to make money at YA–lots of money–and that I really wanted to write YA. I felt, very much, that I was writing to formula with Breathless.
But more on that in a moment. At any rate, to continue in linear fashion, I jumped into self-publishing, and was really disappointed when it didn’t seem like much of a path to quitting my day job, either. So, I began trying as hard as I could to write for the commercial publishers and agents. I still haven’t figured out how to do that, but I think Horns might be something that could sell. Or at least, it might be something that could have sold in 2009, before Borders closed. But who knows? I’ll probably try it with agents anyway. Maybe. I was so stuck in this “what sells” head space, that even when I put things out this year, I was looking at what other indies were doing. Vampires. Fluff. Happy romance.
I started noticing some things on the reviews I was getting for books that weren’t in the Jason and Azazel trilogy. People seemed bemused, I think, wondering why Invoke or Little Sister were so…well, cheery. That’s when I suddenly realized it. Breathless and its sequels were different. Very different. Not just because there were Satanists or graphic shootings or orgasm scenes, but because they were dark and amoral and, well, as a reviewer said, gritty. At first, I thought that the reason they weren’t selling very well was because they were different. And, in some ways, it probably is. I don’t see the Jason and Azazel trilogy ever getting the kind of fan base that the Amanda Hocking books have. Not everyone is going to like them. They’re pretty visceral, and they demand that you be willing to play hard and fast with your ideas of morality if you read them.
But then, as the books started selling better and people still weren’t flooding to my other titles, I realized I’d been doing something wrong. I’d been trying to write something that would sell, so that it would be my breakaway hit, sell like hotcakes, and let me write whatever I actually wanted to write. Instead, the books that were different were becoming my breakaway hits. And, I’m thinking that my other books aren’t like the Jason and Azazel trilogy, so that’s why the people who like J&A aren’t picking them up.
What this means is that I have to stop trying to write like someone else, and start giving myself permission to write like me. (Because I actually do write like me. And Invoke may not sound visceral, but it’s mine. And maybe I need to rework that blurb, actually. Incidentally, Invoke and Death Girl are on sale for $.99 for a couple of months.) Anyway, all of this is basically leading up to the fact that I’m probably going to start working on another series soon. And I’m going to do my best to make sure it’s not like anything else that anyone else is doing. It’s going to be about two people who belong to opposite families in a warring witch mafia. Also, there will be magical, sexually transmitted viruses that turn people into zombies every night at midnight for an hour. I’m pretty excited about it. I should not say anything more, however.
If all goes well, Between should be have a completed rough draft by the end of this month, meaning it may be available for a later summer release. I’m so excited for you guys to see what’s become of Azazel, Jason, and Kieran. (Yep, he’s still alive. I’ve got a kind of funny feeling he might actually be a character who survives all three books even.) For a few hints of what’s to come, we go back to Bramford in this book and see what’s become of the Satanists. There’s also a former member of the Sons who shows back up. And, if you can believe it, it’s probably the darkest book of the entire series. I know! I didn’t think it could get any darker either!
Okay, well, that’s it for my rambling post. One last thing: thanks so much to all of the people who have been buying Breathless. My Kindle rankings are currently consistently in the 5,000-6,000s and this week alone, I’ve sold over 70 copies of just Breathless! Thank you, thank you. So, so much.