Story by Neil Gaiman. Adaptation and Art by Shane Oakley. Colors by Nick Filardi. Lettering by Tood Klein. Published by Dark Horse Books.
Full title: Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire.
I read the book. I thought I knew what the book was about and what it was saying. I read other thoughts on the internet. I came to a new conclusion. None of the reviews are right or wrong, not even my own. This short 48 page graphic novel is whatever you want it to be. Every reader will carry way their own interpretation and influence.
My own interpretation is write what you love, not what you know. The story opens like many a gothic tale. A woman in distress running to an old house with many a secret. Until the Author pulls the reader out of that story and we see his frustration. This is what he “should” be watching but he’s finding no enjoyment within. He tries again and again but is interrupted by the usual normal interruptions one has at home – creepy butler, talking raven, nameless ghouls. The same annoyances all of us writers face. Eventually he is steered towards writing the kind of fantasy he truly wishes to deep inside. Fantasy which seems all too real to us.
By flipping what is reality vs what is fantasy Gaiman brings a new candle light to the writer’s struggle. “Write what you know” isn’t always the right answer. Write what you like makes much more sense. And still fits into the original answer – what you like is probably also the type of writing you know best, because you like it.
For the Author who lives in the reality of lightning lit manors enveloped in mist – the humdrum existence of a married suburban couple is fantasy. As much fantasy for him as talking animals are for us. While writing tales that may be more familiar to the audience, or sell better, or the publisher demands might lead to a paycheck – at what cost? The creative energy flows stronger through excitement and enjoyment of the craft. The spout opens wider with passion.
It’s funny to read this book alongside the Patron exclusive series in which I’m breaking down chapter by chapter of Paperbacks from Hell. There was a time when the gothic romance sold better than anything else. Then it was demons, or serial killers, or monsters, or whatever copied the latest best sellers. Some of the writers carried through and were able to write about the latest popular terror. The ones who seem to have been most successful and most prolific are also the ones who let their words go nuts. Who had fun on the page.
I have a copy of the Writer’s Market next to me. I’ve written articles to sell. I put all my energy into every last one of them. But I’m also well aware that the articles I’ve received the most positive feedback for are the ones I had the most passion writing.
This graphic novel is a great motivating read for any creator. Keep going. Keep writing junk. Keep writing stuff you’re not happy with. Only by finding what you don’t want to do, can you find what makes you most excited.