IN RAPTURE WITH A HORROR AUTHOR
by Deborah Elliott-Upton
I’ve just returned from an intensive week long workshop with Bram Stoker and Anthony Award Nominee, Alexandra Sokoloff. Alex won ITW’s Thriller Award for Best Short Fiction with her story, “The Edge of Seventeen.” It is my opinion that we never stop learning—or rather, we should never stop learning. So, every once in a while, I take off my published writer hat and don one of apprentice. (Alex’s class was “Screenwriting Tricks for Authors” which I highly recommend to any writer.)
I had asked a fellow student who’d completed another workshop offered last summer at WTA&M University if I needed to bring a completed screenplay to this class. I had two partial scripts in the beginning stages and their treatments were already written, but I certainly didn’t have a completed screenplay to bring. When my friend assured me I didn’t need to worry about it, I believed her.
I should have asked the instructor. Please, learn from my mistake. The Boy Scouts are correct: it’s better to be prepared.
Alex began a Yahoo group for the class members prior to the classes and asked for introductions and what we were working on, etc. This should have prepared me for the intensity of the classroom, but heady with the idea of kicking back with some writer friends I hadn’t seen in some time and meeting new ones, I didn’t catch on until the first class, when all our feet were held to the fire. Alex spent time on each student’s screenplay or novel from premise to THE END. Everyone seemed prepared but me.
I admit to being the dunce hat wearer for the first class, but feel I improved daily and left with not just a better plan for my book, but a potentially much better book. In fact, I think all of us ended up with publisher-loving stories. Alex was great at asking questions that made us devise stronger text, characters, plotlines, and pacing skills.
At the book signing following the customary banquet dinner, I purchased Alex’s thriller, The Price, a novel about a devil stalking the halls of a Boston hospital asking who wanted to deal with him—quite a fiendish Deal or No Deal dilemma. I thought this was an amazing premise and though I know it will scare me to read it, I can’t wait to dig in.
In the class, we discussed all sorts of genres from romance to thrillers. Surprisingly enough, Alex said my story seemed bound more for the literary market and that women would easily identify with my female characters. Let’s make it clear: that’s not usually what I write, but I look upon it as a challenge.
Alex is known more for her screenplays, thrillers, and horror stories, and yet she recognized solutions for the romance novelist, too. She is a great teacher and a well-rounded author. My time in her class was well spent.
If you decide to pick up one of her novels, (The Harrowing, The Unseen, The Price), the illustrated anthology of noir superhero and fantasy stories (The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows) or her workbook for novelists (Screenwriting Tricks for Authors), I know you won’t be disappointed.
In fact, you’ll take an exciting trip along with me as I learn something new about and from a truly spellbinding author.