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  • Writer's pictureS. Jennifer Paulson

Why domestic thrillers? Just look at this debut author's 'first' book.

I was a writer before I even knew it. And this fine piece of literature proves it.

So why would a former journalist who thrived on writing feature stories and had a snarky parenting column want to write a domestic thriller?

Two reasons.

One, I devour that genre like crazy. One after another. It's what I love to read. (Side note: I just tore through Karin Slaughter's The Good Daughter in about a week. If you haven't read it, add it to your TBR list. It's a gripping, twisty thriller that hooked me immediately.)

Two, it's something I've been toying with since I was five. I just didn't realize it until decades later.

With every step of this journey, I'm learning. And growing. And I've come a long way.

Especially considering this debut author's first book.

If you can even call this a "book."

child drawing twisted
S. Jennifer Paulson's childhood "novel"

Yep, that's the first "book" I ever wrote. Well, more like I drew the story and dictated the narrative to my mom. (I swear, if it was present day, she would've have put me in therapy immediately after "publication.") But she was a good sport, and an English teacher taking some years off teaching to raise me and my sister while Dad worked as an elementary school principal. She encouraged my creativity, no matter how twisted it was.

But, I clearly had an interest in warped people. Or deranged talking animals. And what makes their minds tick.

Like many other authors I've chatted with, the signs were there early. I was a writer before I even realized it. The skills just weren't there yet.

So, what was my first book about? Oh, it's a gem. And I present it as my holiday gift to you, my readers. So, let's dissect this fine piece of literature:

child drawing

What a lovely setting. The shining sun. The massive rabbit who is larger than a dog. (That's realistic, right?)

And suddenly, danger appears. Out of nowhere.

child drawing dog cat

What a great way to build suspense, eh? Let's just put all our cards on the table and blow the shocking twist before we even get to it.

And let's make sure the characters look different in every rendering. Who needs continuity?

Gee, Mr. Rabbit, is that not enough warning to get the hell outta Dodge? Nah, let's stand there and wait for the attack.

That's smart.

child demented drawings

Yes, the sun is still shining brightly as Mr. Rabbit attempts self-defense and grins at his efforts. This lack of morality really builds up our main character as a likeable one.

Who cares if the dog has grown in size from Page 3? And yeah, that's clearly a bite mark.

Plus, let's note how the nameless dog now look like an inflatable party slide that got shanked.

And who the heck is that girl who suddenly appeared? Nah, it's not important. Minor detail.

child drawing rabbit

Pride? Yeah, that's completely appropriate for the tone of the story. Jumping for joy after doing something despicable really makes this character likeable.

Also, how is he standing with his foot pads exposed?

Again, minor detail.

child demented drawings

Finally, someone has some sense of conscience to reprimand Mr. Rabbit. This nameless girl just happened to be walking down the street with a butcher knife.

Better yet, Nameless Girl is already familiar with texting lingo, even though it's 1980. Plus, she had the time to grow a spare tire around her middle from the page prior, change her hair slightly, and maybe even have a nose job from which she's instantly healed. And Mr. Rabbit is again the size of a large dog.

And let's not ignore that after reprimanding Mr. Rabbit for being violent, she settled the score by stabbing him. That makes sense. Again, realism at its finest.

child rabbit drawing

Again, Mr. Rabbit has changed his look from the prior page.

And instead of incorporating new material, let's just recap the whole thing that the reader already knows. Because the person he's telling needed to be informed, "I came to see you and tell you."

Plus, what a magical way to spin a story.

child drawing cat dog

Let's just forget what happened, since the author clearly has, and jump into a completely irrelevant second story.

And let's not make it happen in real-time. Recaps of talking-dog quotes work much better than an actual active scene.

And, yes, dogs and rabbits know how to use landlines. Oh, how a scene of one of them actually dialing a rotary phone with their paws was a missed opportunity.

Maybe the author will fix it and re-release it.

We can only hope.

child book drawing

Great news! The cat is okay, and Mr. Rabbit has redeemed himself by calling 9-1-1.

His past criminal history and his conscience is wiped cleaned, all from this simple act of seeking out emergency medical treatment for an injured cat. Again, a missed opportunity to depict Mr. Cat being placed on a stretcher and loaded into a human ambulance.

And let's not address what happened to the knife-wielding vigilante, who apparently has played her part and is no longer needed.

It is happily ever after, indeed.

school paperwork reused

Oh, and in case you were wondering what was on the flip side of these pages, it is an important school board reminder, circa 1980ish.

The author hopes she has given you plenty of notice. All you need is the DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future."

So, there you go. A demented children's book that has no place anywhere. Except maybe this blog.

I share this because it's just ridiculous. It's so, so wrong. Everything about it. Violence? I shudder at the whole thing. Good Lord, I have no idea where this came from, given I grew up in a loving, peaceful home. One where TV and movie viewing habits were somewhat restricted until I was in high school. What was going on in my brain?

I guess it comes down to this. I knew from before I could write that I wanted to be a twisted storyteller. It just took me a few decades to figure it out.

But don't worry. My writing and storytelling abilities have improved significantly since 1980. I promise you that. I didn't win my past journalism awards out of pity or luck.

And you'll see that on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, when Boomerang hits shelves. It's no "Mr. Rabbit."

That's something we can all rejoice in this holiday season.

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Hi, readers! I’m S. Jennifer Paulson, a former journalist who has been pecking away at my debut novel for years. You know, in between work, helping my husband with his business, grad school and being a wife and mom. So, I’ll be sharing about the writing journey, as well as musings on everyday life — and the things going on around us — from the world of books to beyond. So grab a cup of coffee and join me on my journey to publishing my first book. It’s gonna be an interesting ride.

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