The Making of In Sheep’s Skin
Part One (Origins)
In Sheep’s Skin has been out for exactly one week! Sales have been dismal, but that’s how we do, baby.
Now that I have an established newsletter, I can do something I’ve always wanted to do: Take you on a journey, from beginning to end, on how the book came to be.
To that, we must go back in time. The year? 2013. A pretty pivotal year for me, actually. I graduated from my Masters program for Social Work, and with it, had begun working in the community, providing individual therapy to adults with developmental disabilities. My wonderful relationship with my now wife, Hannah, was well under way. And on my laptop, a screenplay was being written.
Wait what? Yeah. In Sheep’s Skin began as a screenplay 7 years ago. And then, like so many ideas, it went into hibernation; until it finally awoke a year ago, fully-formed and hungry for flesh (and readers; but mostly flesh).
Hold up, though. We have to go further back. Because this wasn’t my first screenplay. No, In Sheep’s Skin was a calculated measure. See, when I was an undergrad, I took a fiction writing class as part of my writing minor.
My. Ass. Got. Tore. Up.
My writing was ripped apart, and rightfully so. Granted, I didn’t think that at first, but after a week of bitching and moaning, but I saw that my writing was ridiculous, overly-descriptive, and filled with words I had no business using. So, I went back to the drawing board.
I’d never finished a story until that point. And the stories I’d tried to write were comprised of two-sentence paragraphs so pompous even Ayn Rand would shit. With that in mind, and possessing some raw insight, I turned to screenplays. To strip my work down and actually complete an entire story.
I wrote three complete screenplays. You can still find the remnants of them on Goodreads. You used to be able to purchase them, but I’ve since taken them down. They are: The Fool, The Night of the Witch, and Apostate. Each of them were, for a time, connected to The Bones of the Earth series. And Apostate essentially was retold in my short story A Child In Every Home, which is part of The Agony of After.
Anyway, three complete screenplays. There was a fourth (cue Star Wars). In Sheep’s Skin. (Yes, I stopped using italics for titles. Fuck it.) I never finished that one. Got 15 pages in. But the set-up? Same as the novel: two college kids in a greasy diner, trying to break a social norm for an Intro to Psych class.
The screenplay made it to the basement of the first act. The characters were named James and Eliza. But who they were and where the story was going? unknown at the time. All I knew was I wanted to combine two unlikely sub-genres: Giallo (Italian horror films from the 60’s-80’s – see Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava) and Werewolf (see… werewolf movies).
I succeeded on the werewolf front. The Giallo aspect? Didn’t quite get there. That required a story structure I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain for a full-length novel. A story that would be far shallower than I could stomach.
But, that’s next week.
Before I boogy, I wanted to share with you a comparison of the screenplay and the finished novel. For funsies.
(You may need to open the pics in windows to read them)