Coming from a Dark Place

I think of myself as a happy person.
When I first started writing as a young child, my stories were full of magic and possibility, and my first completed published book, a middle-grade, was made up largely of fantasy and wizardry with a sprinkling of angst and bullying mixed in. Mostly though it was concocted of absurdity and a collection of unfortunate events. Winsome.

I thought I would write those sorts of books for a long time- comic, fantastic, magic and give full rein to my love of the ridiculous and toads.

But that all changed with Ashes, Ashes and its turtle-murdering beginnings.
And I don’t think that this is only to do with the higher age of the readership. Yes, teens can deal with bigger themes but just look at the Narnia chronicles and the first 3 Harry Potter books and most of Roald Dahl’s books. The themes of life and death and grief and joy are all there too, and a lot of those fairytales are downright harrowing and nightmareish.

I think it’s more about the tales I want to tell, and finding a niche in YA literature, and loving that age to write for.
But why so dark, Jo?
(Sometimes I talk to myself in the third person. Don’t you?)
I just finished a book which is pretty dark. Actually I don’t even know if it IS DARK. I didn’t realize that quite a lot of people were disturbed by scenes in Ashes, Ashes. I always think my books are so much about HOPE and SPIRIT, but maybe I am WRONG.
Anyway, ask me where the idea came from.
I don’t know.
I feel like I have black spiders living in my gut and they are busy spinning, spinning, spinning. Either that or I have a warped grip on reality. And it’s warping ever faster.
So this latest one is a neo-gothic horror tale combining surrealism and contemporary coming of age.

And the new book I have just begun mulling over is taking shape as a horrific thriller or a thrilling horror mystery thing.

Is it just because I like to see my teen girl protagonists fight?

Of course it is.

Is it because I like to write stuff that perches me on the edge of my tall wing-backed chair? And quickens my pulse?

Most probably.

Sometimes I think fondly on the silly, magical, yet still exciting middle-grade book and wonder if it would feel like a respite (and FUN) to write another one of those.

I think I can do both. Not to mention all the other genres that have not occurred to me yet.
As long as those pesky black spiders find another host soon.

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2 Responses to Coming from a Dark Place

  1. You know, I was assembling my short-stories recently into some kind of coherent order for a possible collection (the publication of which is now uncertain at best, alas) and was stunned by the sheer amount of bodies strewing my short fiction. My work for kids is dark, sure, but my work for adults is FRIGGIN DARK, which is weird because I am generally considered a happy and – dare I say it – rather *bubbly* person. Maybe we write dark so we may live in the light? Or maybe, within the hearts of every happy-go-lucky person – lurks a heart of blackness and unknowing and tentacled fear, so hideous as to give poor Lovecraft nightmares.

    Or maybe we’re just nuts.

    (By the way, the World Fantasy Conference is in Toronto this year. Are you going? I think I am.)

    • Jo says:

      A little crazy fer shur! Maybe it’s like comedians and sadness but the opposite.
      OMG, how I would love to go to the WFC! (Starts plotting on how to make it happen).