Friday, March 7, 2008

Flashback Fridays--Mad World

On July 5, 2003, I wrote a little short story about a fateful meeting between a cop and prostitute, and I shared it with some friends. On November 10, 2003, that short story was turned into the first chapter of Mad World. The title and the inspiration came from the song Mad World, originally by Tears for Fears, but the version I was listening to was the Gary Jules version at the end of Donnie Darko. I started with the line I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad, the dreams in which I'm dying, are the best I ever had.

I don't write with outlines. I rarely write with themes in mind. Jason and Daisy are hard, scary characters. And the more I explored of their world, the more I fell in love with them. This book is the least romantic thing I have ever written (and yet, I think it's a great love story, I really do), and when I reached the end of the first draft, I understood the theme, or the conflict. What happens when your soul mate is the person most likely to destroy you.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that there is more of myself in that book than any other I've written. It went through approximately six drafts and revisions. I worried about every single word, every single moment, every single kiss, every single fight. Not that the book isn't flawed. It is. But I still love it.

For all my hard work (and I never worked so hard in my life) nobody wanted to buy this book. Every publisher I submitted to rejected it because it wasn't romantic enough, because there's too much sex, because Jason is not a likable hero. He isn't. He's an asshole. And Daisy is damaged to the point that she can't be fixed. They fuck, and they fight, and they bleed each other literally and metaphorically, and they're cruel, and they fall in love out of spite.

Though it is now published with Whiskey Creek, it barely has any sales. And I think that's always going to hurt me. I have other books that didn't sell well and will never sell well, but I barely give those a second thought. I don't have any other book that feels so much like it is my baby.

Anyway, here's the blurb:

Mutilated corpses litter Pomona, California, and Detective Jason Squires is pressured to find a killer who leaves no evidence. His private life is a nightmare as well. Estranged from his wife after the death of their infant son, he finds himself in the grip of growing obsession with young prostitute Daisy Winters.

As Jason and the killer dance around each other, Jason is increasingly distracted and frustrated by Daisy, who never loses control in their mercurial, passionate, and violent relationship. When the killer closes in on Jason—first murdering his wife, then targeting Daisy—the detective discovers that his lover doesn't need his protection.

Daisy is willing to do whatever it takes to protect herself and her interests, and she will take down anyone who gets in her way...including Jason himself.

Mad World is the story of Jason and Daisy. Their lives are tied together forever by an agonizing love and intense passion, and neither will escape the situation unchanged.

Here's an excerpt:

One eye was swollen, as well as her lip. A bruise had blossomed across her cheek. Her other bruises had just started to fade, and now her face was fucked up again. As fresh rage washed through her, she grabbed her purse. Inside was Warren’s wallet.Just the sight of the faded and used leather made her feel better. She needed some new clothes, and furniture, and he had several credit cards. She’d max them out before he even knew they were gone. He also had several hundred dollars in cash, and that made
her smile, though it hurt her lip.

Daisy tried not to think about what Jason would do to her when he saw the evidence of what had happened. Draco would have devised clever schemes to punish her without adding more marks and bruises to her body. She didn’t want him to see how angry
and helpless she felt either. She didn’t want him to know that she was so weak…didn’t want him to think that she had any weaknesses.

Because he would be wrong.

Finally, over an hour after she stepped into the shower, she felt like she could face Jason. He’d take what he wanted from her, and hopefully that would be enough to make him leave. She’d just close her eyes and think about the fact that she was at least six hundred dollars richer. In a few days, she would have enough to get the fuck out of Dodge. A small part of her hoped that he would just want to take care of her, but she squashed that thought as soon as she had it. It would be stupid and ridiculous to think for even a second that Jason would have any sort of gentle or benevolent feelings for her.

She wasn’t in the least surprised to see Jason stretched out in her bed, like he owned it. His brow was creased, and he was tapping his fingers nervously. It looked as though he was deep in thought. Without speaking, Daisy laid out on the bed, still unable to really look at him.

He quietly hooked his finger around her chin and forced her to look up. Jason examined her face and then stood up. It wasn’t long before he returned with ice, wrapped in a towel. He sat down on the bed again, and gently placed the ice on her eye. Daisy waited for several minutes, but Jason didn’t make another move
towards her.

Daisy didn’t know how to react. Should she thank him?

Should she tell him it wasn’t necessary and to get the fuck out of her house? Should she give in to the rage that still threatened to overtake her and take it out on him? She could scream and punch and kick and claw and lose herself in his familiar, known violence. He could take it. But he wouldn’t.

Blackness welled up inside of her, and all she could see and feel was coated in it. The resolution that she had made in the bathroom to make Warren pay was lost. The joy over the money and credit cards slipped away. She closed her eyes and imagined putting an end to the constant pain with one final bang of fury and passion.
She could push Jason and push him and push him. Every button, every sore spot, everything he didn’t want her to touch. Then all her problems would be solved.

Daisy could see it clearly. It flashed in her mind like a bright Technicolor movie, everything sharply in focus. He’d pound into her and she’d sneer and laugh and mock him until his strong fingers wrapped around her neck and squeezed, until the world turned fuzzy, then gray, then black. Just like that.

“Jason?” Her voice was soft so she wouldn’t betray her emotions.

“Hmm?” Jason moved the bundle of ice to the other side of her face.



“I mean…” Daisy paused and shook her head. “Look, if you want to fuck me, can we just get it out of the way? I want to go to sleep.”

Jason pulled the ice from her face, and set the towel on the floor. “It’s a chore, then?”

“It’s always a chore. Everything…” Daisy sighed and turned her head. “I just want to sleep.”

“Then go to sleep,” Jason replied indifferently.

“You don’t want to…”

“Go to sleep Daisy.”

“Are you staying here?”

“Do you want me to?”

The question seemed genuine and sincere. In her mind, she felt his hand on her throat. In reality, it fluttered above her face, the tips of his fingers barely touching her. Daisy didn’t speak immediately. Instead she turned on her side away from him and flipped off the light. When the darkness had safely fallen over them
and obscured her face, she answered softly, “If you want to.”

Jason did.

More information here.

1 comment:

Grammar Geek said...

It's too bad you're not seeing good sales with this book. It was an emotionally draining book to work on, but i think that's because it was so well done...

I'm seeing a bit of a trend with the harder books gaining popularity - see Bettie Sharpe's Like a Thief in the Night - maybe you could try to sell to another publisher who's more open now, or give it a new push now that readers are more amenable to the non-light and fluffy. :)