About Me

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J is an unpublished author, represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. J's first novel is a YA fantasy horror, regarding a siren who must choose between the haunting life and humanity. J draws on occasion, reads quite often, and is a founding member of the critique group 'Thoughtical Verbosity.'

Monday, June 11, 2012

Requestion: Your Journey into Your Genre

Hello, and welcome to this Monday's

Requestion of the Week!

For those of you not in the know (at this point, that's everyone) here's the Requestion of the Week deal:

I, J Larkin, will begin with a little pondering about something. A question will be posed, and I will answer it for myself. Then, I will pose a follow-up request/challenge for you, my lovely readers.

All those who are interest, take up the challenge. Answer the question. Post your answer (or preferably a link to your blog where I can read your full, flowing, frabjuous response) in the comment section of the Requestion page. I will read and attempt to comment on all of your responses, and on Friday (which should give those interested plenty of time to procrastinate and then madly dash out a post in the last twenty minutes) I will put up a link or a quote from my favorite Requestion answer. For the moment, that's the big prize*. Free publicity.

And now, onto the main event! 

As I've mentioned, my current WIP is a fantasy horror. There are dead bodies, ghosts, hauntings, and a giant magical forest that wants to kill things a little. It's not all doom and gloom, of course, and I've tried to approach things in a more poetical fashion than the typical gorn (that's gore porn, for those of you not familiar with tvtropes.org) that is common in the modern horror tale.

This project is so completely different from 4th Leaf, and in fact is so completely different from what a lot of people would probably expect me to be working on, that I couldn't help but wonder how I arrived at it.

So let's take a little journey, back through my relationship with the Horror genre!

I originally had something actually horrifying here. Then I realized I wanted you to actually keep reading.

I learned to read when I was five years old, and once the door was opened there was no stopping me. It began with simple, typical five-year-old things, such as Little Elephant Turns 5, and the various Mercer Mayer books. I glommed onto every book I could find, and eventually started taking larger and larger paperback hostages, because I could. So I did. And before long I found a story that instilled in me a lifelong love of nautical adventures: Treasure Island.

"Who cares about that masterpiece?" you're asking. "I thought this was about Unpublished Author #999's history with horror?"

Too right. We have to remember, though, that I was 5-ish when I read Treasure Island. And some of those scenes were downright chillifying, and gave me the sort of delicious nightmares that leave you staring into space when you wake up, wondering how anything in your head could leave you trembling in the dark like that. It was my first experience being scared by the printed word, and it was exquisite.

Fast forward a few years. Before middle school, I latched onto and devoured most of the classic monster novels. Frankenstein. Dracula. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The works. I loved them all, and it never occurred to me that there was something odd about a preteen girl giggling over blood-sucking, body-throwing, life-leeching creatures roaming around Jolly Old England. They were awesome stories that made me afraid to step into the dark on my own, and that was sweet.

The problem with having a love affair with Classic novels, though, is similar to the problem with having a love affair with an elderly person (bear with me here): eventually, they expire. You reach an end number, and find yourself without any more dusty old spines to clamor for and--

You know what? Let's just leave that analogy there. The point is, there weren't any more classic novels for me to devour. So when I reached middle school I started trolling around in the Horror section of the library.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

It was all crap! Not even grade-A crap! Kids stupidly fooled around in the back seat of their cars in the exact same park where their friends got chopped into bologna fodder three days before. Lunatics sent vaguely threatening messages through newspaper ads because...uh...because they were the villains?

The final straw came after I read a book where the big 'EEEEEK' moment came from the fact that the heroine's boyfriend was cursed to be...ugly. Yeah. He can look like a normal human, but the fact is he's actually super ugly. Aaaaah. Shrieeeek. Oh nooooo's.

"Ugh, I have to take HIM to the prom? Oh, barf!"

That was it for me and the horror genre. Boo to the modern day horror authors! And a hiss to them, too!

Fast forward a couple of years. I'm at my Dad's house, perusing his collection of books because that's just how I roll. Medical jargon, medical jargon, clinical crap...Steven King? Holy crap, my Dad has basically every Steven King novel ever published.

Meh, I've avoided King ever since accidentally walking in on a viewing of 'It' which scarred my view of shadow puppets forever, but I'm a teenager and I am bored. This 'Green Mile' book is pretty short. It should entertain me for the weekend.

The Green Mile, which was released as a serial, took me about five hours to read. Then I stormed my Dad's book collection and gathered up everything else that King wrote, and may have sort of a little stuck some of them in my bag on the way out, because the weekend is only so long and the library was closed on Mondays.

Nom nom nom! Went my reading mouth against King's novels. I can't say that I've read all of them, because eventually I realized that King had a thing for random moments of extreme violence that simply did not interest me. But I was enchanted by the way King wrote. He cast out into the mind of the reader using voices--not just one voice--that were as inescapable as they were distinct. In a single novel, he could place the reader in the shoes of a runaway abused housewife, a psychopathic cop, and a monster in a painting, and not a single beat was missed. Part of the power of King's work was that the horror--the real flinchy stuff--wasn't about monsters or spells or space-age wizardry. It was about human nature. The terrifying part of the climaxes in his novels was that I could only bob my head and think 'Yeah, that's what would happen. That's exactly what would happen.'

When King was awarded with the title of Most Epicest Awesome Bigshot Author Evar a little while ago, I was not surprised. Even still, I had lost my taste for King and his dark chocolate stories. I thought, this time for sure, I am done with Horror. Even though I loved books with vampires and werewolves (real ones, not ones made from crushed disco balls) and all those sorts of bump-in-the-night things. But whatevs. That's just how I roll.

Then, within the last couple of years, my Broinlaw introduced me to this sweet book. Steampunk Zombie Horror set during Civil War times.

Look it up. Buy it now.

Um, yes please.

The book was Boneshaker. The author was Cherie Priest. And I. Was. Wowed.

I went all Amazon-stalky on Priest (meaning I bought all her books, not that I lopped off one boob and watched her from the bushes). Her first series was set in the south and involved a medium who has been stalked by ghosts and a crazy shooter all her life. Urm, okay, thank you, yes please, more.

I read the first book in this series, and it was one of those awesome experiences where you don't even realize you've done nothing but sat there for six hours with your nose buried in delicately crafted words. As I reached the end of the novel, I realized something odd.

I had the chills.

An actual, physical reaction to the tremor in my heart that Priest's story had given me. I was actually scared! WOAH!!

Priest's work sent me back on the path towards spooky things and nail-biters. It showed me that there CAN be elegance in the grotesque, and the horror genre is not something that has been destroyed in the modern day. Even though it can be hard to believe that, when you look it up on Amazon...yeesh.

Several months ago, after I made the difficult decision to, rather than work on a sequel as I was unsuccessfully querying 4th Leaf, work on a completely different project, I had a conversation with a friend. I was blocked and frustrated and everything I started was a dud. He suggested I work on a short story based on a favorite childhood experience I'd shared with him: my brother and I, running footloose and fancy-free through the beautiful woods of West Virginia, where my family used to camp.

I liked the idea. But the more I thought about it, the more it changed. The woods got darker. The trees more sinister. The children less innocent...and they were running towards a pool. A pool where they led wanderers, shoving them in, and when the wanderers crawled back out, they were children, too...children who wanted nothing more than to lure in more strangers.


And from there, I developed my current WIP: A fantasy horror novel titled Lorelei, Once.

And that, gentle friends, is my journey to my genre! Long and adventurous, wasn't it?
So now...tell me yours!

If you aren't working in a 'genre' situation, describe your journey into whatever medium, speed, flavor, or any descriptive term that you are working in or with or on. Any particularly eye-popping responses will be linked to on Friday's blog!


*At this particular moment in time, all cash and prizes take the form of free publicity. I'm an unpublished author working in a bakery, after all.


  1. Ooh, cool to know the background info! So, is her name Lorelei then? Apt, considering her deadly occupation. (awesome history and mythology connected to that name) But YAY we finally know her name! (and how does Amber feel about that?)

    Um... mine is a pretty simple explanation with my current WIP. I drew/watercolored a couple of funny pictures with wild animals juxtaposed into suburban life and the story slowly evolved from the pictures. Nothing fancy or complicated!

  2. Ah-ha! I never said her name was Lorelei ;) But the title WAS perfect for the reasons you stated...I love the Lorelei story. I really grappled with actually using that title, though, because of the sweet, intelligent Miss Laurelei. But the name is spelled differently...that has to count for something.

    Anyway. I can confidently tell you that, throughout the book, nobody CALLS her Lorelei. But it IS the title. Puzzle that one out ;)

    And not every journey needs to be complicated! I kind of love the idea of a story following after the illustrations. And your illustrations are rockin'!