Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Women In Horror Month: Dani Brown on Time Vampires and the Illusion of Support (Part One)

Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “Becoming,” “56 Seconds”, “Sparky the Spunky Robot” and the hugely popular “Ketamine Addicted Pandas”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more. 

("I don’t think I’ve ever touched on finding the time to write when you’re a women and so much else is demanded of you," Dani told me when I invited her to write a guest blog for WIHM. "Would that work as a topic?"

Yes, it would. And does. So here it is.)

For the past few days I’ve been trying to clean up the beginning of a novel. This is during a lockdown so I can’t even go outside and therefore, I’m not being roped into any dramas or being told what to do by people convinced they are helping me fix my life that wasn’t broken until people started inflicting help on me. Every time I sat down to clean it up I found myself being called to do something else. It had me thinking of all the times people expected me to somehow stretch the hours in the day and make it longer.

If it was really that important, you’d find the time.”

An ex of mine had a favourite saying. “If it was really that important, you’d find the time.” And eventually I would find the time and then he’d come up with some crazy scheme, usually involving me going online and Facebook chatting to people I don’t know and don’t want in my life, or dragging me along somewhere, or shouldering his emotional weight. So it wasn’t my found time to begin with. He’d claim it. If I put up an objection, it would descend into a time consuming argument and I would end up even more stressed than I was already, with less time. Then he’d start to pick on me for not having any money. I’d explain that money needs to be earned, it doesn’t just magically appear. I’d then go through the effort of explaining to him with evidence of what I was doing to earn money and how I can’t keep getting roped into doing things that I don’t want to do in the first place. Then he’d sit there and respond with “we need to find out where all this stress is coming from” after I had literally explained it to him. I had taken my time to dig out evidence of what I was doing and go through point by point of what I was doing or trying to do if I wasn’t dealing with all this other stuff that was not necessary to my life.

To be honest, that ex is like a lot of people who all demand a piece of time and if they don’t get it, they will go to get lengths to cause maximum stress and then say, “see I told you that you couldn’t do it”. People do not like a single mother with boundaries and career that brings her happiness. I speak to other women in the creative industries and they all have these stories.

By this point I was waking up at 5AM every week day to have an hour and a half to write before I would have to get my son up for school and trek via one bus and one train to a day job on the other side of the city that left me feeling suicidal.

I would also use my time on public transport to write. I ended up sticking a letter to my laptop stating I was writing a novel, have a publisher and already know about self-publishing, please leave me alone because people would see it fit to ask what I was doing. It wasn’t any of their business to begin with. These minor distractions all add up. Each time I was taken away from my story it would take at least two minutes to get back into the flow of things, depending on how long the distraction lasted and how mentally taxing it was. During this time, I couldn’t write the experimental pieces where my heart was. A lot of the short stories were just written to say, “see I’m trying”. I did turn out some gems in this time, but some of the stuff I wrote then, I’m embarrassed that it was published.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Not only am I expected to stretch the day to make extra hours magically appear I also I have to somehow alter space and the laws of the land while getting people to conform to my will. It doesn’t happen. And if my relationships fail, it is entirely my fault because if there’s a will to not be single, then there’s a way and the man’s happiness is entirely dependent upon me (finding the time for stuff that’s important to me) and women can’t be single (please notice my sarcasm here).

It isn’t just family that drive me crazy and take my time with this one. When my son was in primary school and his father alive I was expected to get my son’s father to behave in a functional way. Attempts to control people are a) abusive and b) more stress than it is worth. That’s people who do not have an underlying issue. In my son’s father’s case, he had borderline personality disorder (amongst other problems that no one wishes to disclose to me). So somehow, that became my responsibility too, while trying to write books and maybe generate some freelance work so I can quit the day job that left me feeling suicidal, shouldering the weight of my ex’s emotions, catering to the needs of his friends while loosing contact with mine, managing an increasingly worse health problem that wasn’t taken seriously by the NHS until about two years ago (now medicated but still no diagnosis, I think it is a biopsy next, but COVID), trying to earn enough money to just get by and handling what had turned into post traumatic stress disorder and raising a child with no access to child care. I already went through this same cycle with my mother, minus having a child of my own and I didn’t have PTSD back, but did suffer from the impact of chronic stress. I didn’t want to go through it again.

That shouldn’t happen.

This is one I hear quite frequently. No, that shouldn’t happen, but it does. Dismissing something because it shouldn’t happen only sweeps it under the rug, leaving the person dealing with whatever it is with more stress and less time.

I have talked extensively about sexual harassment on my social media, website and in person. That shouldn’t happen, but it does. Ignoring for a minute the mental impact of dealing with some creep who feels a one-sided connection, breaking away from the aforementioned creep is time consuming. It can also be physically dangerous so it has to be done in a careful manner. Each creep takes time to deal with.

These are men that feel they are entitled to a woman’s time. I could be simply going about my day, thinking of what task I have to do next before I can write and then boom, some creep appears as if he is God’s gift to women and empty sex.

I can’t complain about what physical impact these creeps have on my life before the mental effects because “you shouldn’t equate sex and money” (yes that was actually said to me), even if the creep is certainly not getting any from me and if I don’t do the writing or sell the books or generate the freelance work, I’m not paying the rent. If I’m not paying the rent, then me and my son are homeless. It is as simple as that.

Speaking of paying the rent, there have been an awful lot of people in my life that think money magically appears out of thin air and I’m setting a bad example for my son by working and having a career. Instead of leaving me alone to live my life and make things better for me and my son, they let their feelings known. These people all need to be dealt with, often with kid gloves like the creeps. It wasn’t until three years ago that I could phone the police on them as that only led to more very time consuming and stressful problems, especially from people that are well versed in both emotional manipulation and knowing how to manipulate the system. Dealing with this is more time lost.

Do you still write those little stories?

Yes, yes I do. Those little stories have paid the rent or a bill or put food in my fridge on more than one occasion. Freelance writing and lately visual art picks up the slack. I was hardly breaking even with a more traditional job, one that left me suicidal, stressed and the health problem worse.

I don’t have the time, even now, or the energy to argue with this. Speaking to other women, women authors write “little stories” while men write “epic novels” and should be congratulated for the effort they put in and all the sacrifices they make.

I still have two day job clients left for those times I can’t generate the freelance or my post traumatic stress disorder is so bad I can’t fill an order and end up loosing a freelance client. One of them takes it upon herself to continuously blow up my phone. Turns out it is illegal to hack the phone of someone who insisted a day job would fix my life and make me feel good about myself despite my protests so they can receive the messages instead. Those messages, even when I ignore them, take time away from when I could be writing. They also push my stress levels right up, even though she knows I reported her to the council for them. The time devoted to calming down with my phone insistently beeping is more lost writing.

Even now, three years after I proved that writing and art is the only way to improve my life, I get people telling me to go back into health care. Not what I specifically trained in either, but nursing. These are more people that need to be dealt with, taking time away from when I could be improving my life or improving my writing. And if it is not nursing, it is fifty million other things that would take time to train in and time to then work my way up in that world leaving me back at square one and further into my overdraft. Absolutely nothing pays off instantly. Every single job there is out there takes time to train in and work up in.

And I do not want to. I like writing. I like visual art. I have a half finished circuit bending project on my dinning room table that needs my time and attention so I can slowly expand into sound effects. Why should I change my career again to satisfy other people? Nothing I do will ever be good enough, so why not just leave me alone to be not good enough? At least I’m happy being not good enough. Being not good enough alone doesn’t suck away my time.

But, I guess, women and creative industries is an unbelievable combination or attention seeking. I get those two pretty often. Random people laugh when I excuse myself because I’m writing a book and then say, “you will let me know when this book of yours is out”. I respond with “check out my other books, they’re all on amazon” and bring up my amazon author page on my phone. They’re speechless after. This takes less time than explaining the writing and publishing process. The people who think women creatives are attention seeking or doing it to get laid are harder to deal with. I still haven’t found an effective way beyond telling them that I’ll report them to the police for harassment if they don’t let me get on with my day (pretty difficult when it was my son’s primary school doing it, but it sometimes works on others and if not, then I have to go through the time consuming process of filing a report with the police).

I don’t have “bank of mom and dad” sponsoring me. Even if my father was in a position to pay my way, why should he? I’m in my mid-30s now. I’m not a teenager anymore. I have a degree, which he partially paid for. Now is the time to work in the field I’m qualified in and pay my own way. It has been the time since I handed in my final assignment for my degree way back in 2008.

The concluding part of Dani's article appears on this blog tomorrow. 

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