So I had an interesting conversation with my agent last week. We talked about Maggie, the 70,000 word dick joke, and the project I was working on called Borealis. The difference between the two is night and day. Maggie’s fast-paced, exciting, crude, and blatantly sexual. Not to brag or anything (okay, bragging a little) she loved it. Borealis, on the other hand, has an old soul. It’s slow-moving, character based more than plot based, and plays with bigger themes (like grief and the five stages of coping). She /liked it/ but she had some serious concerns about it. For one, it has a sweetness to it that lends itself to middle grade fiction instead of adult fiction. Middle grade is targeted at preteens and generally has a length of about 50,000 words. I estimate it’ll clock in around 100k. That’s not to say that adults can’t enjoy it (DUDES, MY MOM LIKED IT) but when positioning it to editors, yeah. Problem. WAY too long for an MG book.
Plus there’s that whole BRANDING problem. Branding. Yes, like Levi jeans or Pepsi Cola. I may one day be a brand, people. HILLARY MONAHAN BRAND, TASTES GREAT LESS FILLING. See, when trying to position a writer to publishing, you have to present them as niche specialists. In my case, it’s all things creepy and dick-joke oriented, I guess. Borealis is not “in my brand” and, as such, until I’ve established myself as a fat, nerdy Creepy Crawler Writer, Borealis can and should wait awhile. That’s not to say I shouldn’t go back to it some day, but the better bet is to stick with my genre until I have the freedom to do whatever the fuck I please.
It sorta makes sense when you think about it. Stephen King wrote horror forever. Right now, he could write a “how to pick boogers” book and people would buy it without thinking twice. His fans will follow him wherever he travels, even if it’s into quicksand (and after reading Lawnmower Man, I’m fairly sure we DID follow him into quicksand.) Establish yourself within your niche, branch out after the fact. There’s always pen names, of course, and I suppose that’s something I can look at for Borealis on the eventual, but for now, it’s best for me to keep going with my creeptastic scribblings. Witches and gypsies and creepy scarecrows? Oh, yes. In fact, that’s the book I’ve started and I’m pretty sure I have a fantastic idea. A horror fairytale? Sure! Why not! Worked for Pan’s Labyrinth!
I realize this makes me a sellout in some ways. Some people would probably tell me to stick to my artistic guns, to write the story I want to write RIGHT NOW and DAMN THE MAN. That’s swell and dandy, but facts is facts, and writing is a business. Mama wants to get paid sooner than later. There’s also the matter of I’m /good/ at the horror slanted stuff. At least, I’m definitely more sure-footed with it. Borealis is so sweet in comparison to my other scripts, I questioned it and myself, wondering if I was taking too long to make my points or wasting a reader’s time with the plodding pace. This constant insecurity probably made my beta readers insane (SORRY GUYS, LOVE YOU. HAAAARTS.) but I needed reassurance that I wasn’t writing a self-indulgent turdburger of a book. I don’t think I’ve been THAT uneasy with any other manuscript – sure, Devil’s Due has given me a little worry, but not like Borealis. Not even close.
So yeah. Niche writing. Branding. An interesting thing to think about, and one I hadn’t really considered until Miriam and I talked. The good news is I already had an ugly little revenge story squirming in the back of my brain when I put Borealis aside. The bad news is, Rayn TideHunter’s going to have to wait for me to get back to him. I’m sure he’ll live. Well, I know he’ll live. He’s my creation for fuck’s sake. If I tell him to sit down and shut up, bitch better do it. If he doesn’t, it means I’ve officially gone around the bend and my mother gets to take me out behind the barn and shoot me.
That’d be a pity. I’m pretty sure I just made /a hell of a good/ first chapter for this new book.