Cussedness Corner

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane

The Darkness in My Work


We all have a bit of darkness in our souls.  Creatures that were sleeping under our beds as children and then evolve into the body of our accumulated hurts. So very many things that haunt us.

My work is very dark and recently I got into a conversation with a reviewer who had a lot of questions they wanted answered just because they were curious. If one person has those questions then so do others and I thought I might answer a few of them.

The one that has come up so often is the reason I have so much sexual violence and rape in my books. Well I’m writing about war primarily. If you watch the news or keep up with things that happen in India, Somalia, Serbia, and even in most military history accounts from as far back as Herodotus and beyond, one of the largest commonalities was rape. The Rape of the Sabine Women was the way that Rome was founded.  Rape has been used as a vehicle of genocide. If you read any of the histories of the Trojan War, you find that women were regarded as prizes of war and either given away as gifts or kept as slave-concubines. When ancient armies overran a city, they killed all the adult males and many of male children and then carried off the females who were often raped on the spot.

War is a hideous ugly thing, but the sheer horror of it draws me in and fascinates me the way that a flame will attract moths to their doom. I come from a large extended family that saw a lot of male on female violence and came in for my share of it.  My “you hit me and now I’m going to kill you” attitude generally discouraged a rematch. I only lost three fights and got seriously beaten, but then how can a five foot woman really go up against a six foot five male who was strong enough to lift car engines?

The one thing I understand to its bloody core is violence of all types. They say to write what you know. Violence is what I know.

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2 comments on “The Darkness in My Work

  1. jameswilliaml
    November 21, 2013

    I’ll have to poke around, but darkness in my book is more than just having rape involved. It’s like how a lot of war movies aren’t really that dark and are pg-13. They don’t have the mindset for it. Violence, in my opinion, is all psychology. It’s the thrill of how skin moves a bit inward before getting cut. It’s the sexual imagery that can be conjured by where a knife is put or isn’t put or even the words chosen so it’s not obvious but on rereads it’s a too much.

    So while war has a lot of violence in it, I’ve always found it in my own writing to be a poor vehicle to explore violence. It’s too nameless, too faceless in the act of killing most of the time, and often too focused on survival so it doesn’t tread into the depths of violence by remaining palpable through self defense. I tried to write it and it was just too much action when I wanted quiet moments.

    That’s my experience. But I’ve spent too much time writing about suicide to really get a grip on more gory acts of violence.

  2. cussedness
    November 21, 2013

    I tend to write in series instead of trying to cram it all into a single post. I’ll delve more into the other aspects. This was just the one most asked, but like you say, violence is a lot more. It’s harder for the written word to convey it than in solid movies.

    I write my battles as a series of montages, moving from character to character. It’s something I picked up from reading books like O, Jerusalem when I was a teenager.

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Janrae Frank

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