rejection-300x200“Good horror fiction deals with taboos. It must always go to the limits of what is acceptable. To that extent, paradoxically, you should be prepared to be rejected as an artist, because you’re dealing with areas that people don’t often admit to, and at the same time you have to be aware that you have to use your skills as an artist in order to wrench from material which is graphic, or brutal, or stomach-churning, subtext and resonance which is subtle and – I hope – optimistic.” 

So says Clive Barker, whose words showed up on my Facebook feed yesterday. The timing could not have been better, and as I let the words sink in, I began to see the absolute truth in what he had to say. Barker has created entire worlds of weirdness, and a style of horror that, to me, harkens back to Lovecraft. Yes, they’re different; Lovecraft would expend energy into vague descriptions of the indescribable, while Barker never shies away from the glistening awfulness of his creations. Anyway, all that to say that Mr Barker must have had his fair share of rejection letters.

Thus far, I’ve had four. Two were likely professional copy/paste, one was arrogant, and one was just awesome. The good one was from an agent in London, who remarked, “I thought this was really promising, but I do think you’d be better off with a US agent in the first instance – I’m sure someone will snap you up.”

How bloody wonderful was that? How much more time did it take to draft a rejection steeped in human decency?

I’m not whining. I knew that when I decided to take this approach that there would be rejections, and that what matters isn’t how many have said no, but rather it’s the one who says yes. My story is nowhere near what Barker puts out; mine is a fairly simple, straightforward story, rooted right here in the US, and its varied elements make it a uniquely American story. I do believe that I have wrenched a series of brutal truths from our collective human experience, with a lingering subtext and yes, there is an underlying optimism that will hopefully resonate with the reader. A trusted colleague has read the manuscript, and had this to say:

“The amalgamation of Southern Gothic and stark contemporary horror was fascinating and beautiful. Pathos and sympathy are tools with which you masterfully change alliances and favours; with the aggressors becoming victims, and victims becoming aggressors. 

It’s a fabulous three act novel, with a flow and structure so flawless, that it serves to highlight the vast quantities of time, thought and effort which have gone into it. It’s brutal, it’s moving and it’s superbly imaginative. Each character is as vital to the plot as the next, all of them incredibly well thought out, believable and varied.”
So, there’s that. I reflect on the above comments daily; they give me hope, and remind me that the harder road can also be the most rewarding. Were it not for the unwavering support and enthusiasm of friends and family, this endeavor would be unbelievably difficult, if not well nigh impossible.
Here’s to another day spent in pursuit of representation, and that most elusive of the holiest of grails, a paycheck.

 

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