Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - Monster Stories

Wow, Blogosphere - it's been a long time!

Sort of. I'm still around, lurking in the shadows. But between new home, new job, and as much writing as I can squeeze around the two, I don't have a whole lot of coherency left to spare!

I can't tell you about all the writing stuff. But here's a tidbit...

My current WIP has led a bit of a tortured life. It's denser and darker and twistier than anything I've ever written - the kind of thing that requires a lot of concentration - and yet every time I got seriously rolling with it, something would interrupt. Usually notes on a different project, but sometimes real life things, too, such as the move to a job I was working at last year.

It's a YA gothic horror novel, a genre I love but had never written before. More often than not I mix my creepy into fantasy, paranormal, or mystery stories, so entering the realm of straight-up horror was quite the exciting new world. And it's a monster story.

There's so much that I love about monster stories, but I think my favorite thing is that they're so personal to the author. I've read monster stories about grief and loss, and the pain of marginalization, even the scope of humanity's kindness and cruelty. Monster stories can be devastating and empowering, horrifying and comforting all at once. I had a vague idea from the start what my monsters were about. This was a story about guilt and memory, the way the things in your head can take shape and come to life - for better or for worse.

At least, I'm pretty sure I came up with that first. I think it was life that started imitating art in this case, and not the other way around. But this time last year, the things in my head were taking shape.

I already knew my anxiety had gotten worse since I graduated college and started work - I became an obsessive quadruple-checker, I had dreams I was at my job, and when I woke up I'd feel like I hadn't slept at all - but it was manageable then, at my first job, and probably not too different than the stress that most of my friends felt. Starting my new job last year was different. I knew from the start it was more than I could handle, and that in normal jobs people didn't go to work every morning terrified of what might be waiting for them there. But I felt stuck, and I felt like I hadn't earned the right to bail out yet, so I stayed for a year.

I wasn't doing well. I think I hid that better from some people than others. I think I hid that extremely well from myself, because as far as I knew, I had an illness that just wouldn't go away. I went through the days exhausted, but when I finally crawled into bed, my own pounding heartbeat would keep me awake. When I think back to last year and all the things I usually look forward to - holidays, family gatherings and so on - I remember feeling too tired and nauseous and dizzy to enjoy anything much. It thankfully didn't manage to ruin the moment I'd dreamed about for three years, but I was even home sick the day that Sara offered me representation, and I remember opening several of her subsequent e-mails in various doctors' offices.

(And there were quite a few of those. And a handful of misdiagnoses that came with them. It wasn't until I was meeting with one of those doctors and let out a particularly dark laugh at the "Do you have a stressful job?" question that the words 'anxiety' and 'depression' were spoken aloud - and even then I didn't think it was right, at first. It was.)

The change was slow, but it happened. I let go of the idea that I was supposed to have some high-powered, Type A day job alongside my writing. I built up the resources and made a change. The 'monster' isn't gone, but it's curled up at the back of my head. It stirred every now and then over the past couple weeks, but it's keeping quiet today. With any luck, it'll be quiet tomorrow, too.

And now, without a few of those interruptions, I can work on that gothic horror WIP. The subject matter is as dark and dense as it ever was, but the process is anything but. It comes from that knowledge, that feeling of being swallowed whole - but it also comes from the feeling of finally finding your way out.