If you’ve followed me or my blog for a while, you’ll know Tortured Dreams is a bit of a sore spot for me. I had been told my idea for killer chapters would never sell. I had been encouraged to banish the thought that I could write and publish a gory serial killer novel, let alone an entire series of them. And I thought “this agent is a professional who doesn’t make money unless I do, they must know what they are talking about.”
Then I was told Aislinn Cain could not be asexual; readers need a heroine that can have a love interest or multiple love interests. Next came Lucas, he couldn’t be gay. This is a genre mostly read by men and men cannot connect with gay men unless they are gay themselves, so while Lucas was great, he needed to be a great heterosexual male.
It was at this point that I went “I am not going to traditionally publish this book.” It’s just not going to happen. But I had indie published Dark Cotillion by this point, so I decided fine, I would just stay completely indie published because to write the book this way was to gut it of substance.
With Tortured Dreams indie published, I set to work on the sequel and every time I wrote a killer chapter, I agonized over it. Was it too gory? Was it too graphic? Was I ruining the series? Would it be reviled and despised? Could I, as a female author, get away with that much violence in a book? Or was the agent correct, would it be unsellable and unreadable?
I published it with killer chapters expecting that I would have to go back and remove them. That wasn’t the case. In the first couple of years, I noticed a trend, people were buying Elysium Dreams at a rate of almost two to one. And seven years later, Elysium Dreams still outsells Tortured Dreams nearly two to one. And more than one reader has told me how much they enjoy the killer chapters, it allows them to understand the killer in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be revealed; they provide depth, motivation, and forces a reader to understand my killers in ways that most fictional serial killers never achieve.
More than one reader has sent me messages along the lines of “I pitied Dr. Erickson while reading Elysium Dreams. I understood why he was doing it and I felt his anger, sadness, loneliness, and rage. My connection with his character made him scarier than any other serial killer in a novel before.”
It reminds me of the feelings evoked in me when I read Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux. I know L’Opera Ghost is a sociopathic killer, but I internalize his rage, loneliness, sadness, and hatred and that causes me to pity, love, and fear him all at the same time. I wanted a similar and equal reaction to Dr. Erickson in Elysium Dreams. I wanted my readers to have those mixed emotions for Dr. Erickson and killer chapters were the only way to achieve it.
And when my readers are meant to hate the killer in a book with every ounce of their being, the only way to truly reach it is through the killer chapters. Most of the emotional investment in a D&R novel comes from the killer chapters. Yes, people love Ace and the rest of the SCTU, but a good killer chapter can do far more for the book than multiple chapters of prose from Ace’s point of view.
Tortured Dreams lacks the emotional relationship good or bad, between the killer and the reader. I am now rectifying that. For some time, I have been working on rewriting Tortured Dreams. My goal is twofold: add killer chapters and remove the repetitiveness. A few readers have vetoed the idea, they love Tortured just the way it is, but they never truly understand the killer because it lacks that connection between the killer and reader.
I have come to realize the book is more ironically named than I intended, going through it is torture to me. My writing has significantly improved since I wrote it, my skills have expanded and my prose has gotten stronger and more to the purpose. But to make the necessary changes, I have to read it cover to cover, because I have to reconnect with that killer. I have to connect so that readers can. I hate to read my own books; once I finish the writing/editing/publishing process, I almost never look beyond the cover again if I can manage.
And so, by 2021 there will be a new version of Tortured Dreams released. If you already own the ebook, it should update itself, but if not, it’s still free and you can redownload it to get the updated version. I haven’t done this previously because I didn’t want to lose my investment in the audiobook, but I can’t continue to write the series while despising the first book in the series. Also, I’m lucky to make a $1.50 on every audiobook sold, so I might as well cut it free and be done with it.