John Cleaver Series books 1-3

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I’m knee deep in the pits of trying to find comparative titles for my third novel. There are many steps to writing and when you think you’re done, you’re not. And then when you think you’re done again, oh… you’re not. For many of us looking at the big picture which in my case includes traditional publishing, there are these things called comp titles which some agents require as part of your query letter.

Comp titles shouldn’t be a book with the same plot. But they should be something where you can draw connections. It gives the author the ability to prove their book is marketable. They should be in the same genre and for the same audience. This is of course where I run into issues. I have recently discovered upon critical evaluation of my reading habits, I consume a lot of adult sci-fi and fantasy and a lot of contemporary or spec-fic YA. This does not help my plight.

So, I’ve been reading everything recommended to me by my beta readers. Yes, Beta readers have my book and the feedback has been extremely helpful. In fact, I’ve added an additional 10 chapters to help give us a glimpse into the antagonist’s mind. It’s incredibly dark and fantastic. One of the books series recommended to me was the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells.

I met Dan Wells the first time probably four or five years ago. He’s friends with a friend of mine. And I say that in a “the writing world is a very small place” kind of way. Not a name-dropping kind of way. I picked up the first book because the title was extremely inciting, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER. Like the MC, John Cleaver, I could relate to a fascination with Serial Killers. However, unlike the MC, I’m not a sociopath, but I did study them in school. So this book had all kinds of Miranda markers on them and I bought it. I was not disappointed. There was a 15-year-old sociopath, a serial killer, and monsters. What more could a gal ask for? But this was a number of years ago. And I couldn’t instantly draw a connection to my own work. So I re-read the first and continued on and read the next two as well.

What I found was fascinating. First off, I should have continued these books ages ago. They explore themes of inner darkness and light, friendships, and overcoming fear. The same things my own explores. Very different of course, but that inner struggle is universal. John Cleaver knows he’s a sociopath. He knows he has no connections to the outside world. He has a monster inside of him who is always clinking to get out. He dreams of cutting open his family and friends, dissecting them. John is always jumping back and forth in the darkened grey area, trying to find both his place in the world and the place where he isn’t a bad person. In a lot of ways, this is a very Dexter meets YA horror. It’s dark, gritty and fantastic. But does it work as a comp title for my own endeavors?

Scarlet struggles with who she is. Throughout the book, she comes to a dark conclusion about her maker and what that means for her. Is she good or is she bad. Does the weight of her dirty deeds outweigh the good things she does? Is she good or is she a pawn for the big bad who wants to possess her. I didn’t see it at first. Having only read book one. But the further into this series I delve, the more I see the connections. Maybe Scarlet is inherently a better person than John but they both have a dark side they struggle with. They both do everything they can to avoid feeding the monster inside. And they both need other people in their lives to help them stay on that straight and narrow, regardless of how much they push them away. There are more obvious connections, there are monsters in both books and neither MC realizes the darkness is something otherworldly for a while. When they do, it changes their perspective on life and the things around them. Both MCs have to overcome fear. The fear of being who they are. The fear of what others will think of them when they learn the extent of who they are. For John, it’s the fear of not being “normal” and being perceived as a threat by those closest to him for his psychopathy. For Scarlet, the fear is similar, except instead of being a sociopath, she’s a reincarnated angel with a humans body who’s maker is the Devil’s son. She knows she’s capable of bringing great darkness. She will do anything to protect those she loves. Even if it means protecting them from her.

I’m glad I’ve continued this book series and my own reasons for reading aside, I’d recommend them to anyone with a stomach for the dark. I’m currently reading book 4 and already have the last two checked out from the library. I’ll be plowing through them this week as spring break is for catching up on reading, writing, and going to the movies. As always, I love to hear your book recommendations.

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