One question that I've been asked many times in the interviews that I've done over the last 9 months is whether I found it difficult to write the 'nasty' parts of 'Prince of Thorns'.
The implication seems to be that I should have found it an ordeal because what right-thinking human being could come up with such horror? An early reviewer went one step further and implied that I must share some of the unfortunate character traits she attributed to Jorg . . . because I'd written about him. Actually some kudos is owed to that reviewer for managing to insult Jorg, a hard task because he's guilty of most crimes you care to lay at his doorstep. Misogyny however is not a sensible practice to accuse him of since that would require a particular dislike of women as opposed to a generally poor disposition toward mankind as a whole.
In any event when I looked at the various unpleasantness on show in 'Prince of Thorns' it actually stuck me as quite mild compared to what I've read in other fantasy books ('A Dance With Dragons' released a month earlier than Prince of Thorns seems considerably more gruesome) and very mild compared to what I've read in other genres - in the crime genre for example. Last year I read 'Wire in the Blood' (based on the eponymous TV series I believe) and winced my way through very graphic descriptions of rape, torture, and murder. Moreover I've seen reviews that make direct comparisons between scenes in 'Prince of Thorns' and similarly themed scenes in other fantasy books, in order to say mine make the others seem mild. And yet when I looked at the relevant passages in one case I had four lines of indirect description of the event and the other author had four paragraphs of gory detail.
What's my conclusion? It's the power of 'I'. You can change 3rd person writing into 1st by a set of simple steps that could easily be automated - it's just a semantic trick. However, when you write in the first person it seems that the impact on the reader of any wrong doing is magnified by a considerable amount. Somehow that little 'I' does all the work.
"His fingers tightened on the old woman's throat, the flesh purpling around them. He felt her struggles weaken."
"My fingers tightened on the old woman's throat, the flesh purpling around them. I felt her struggles weaken."
And all of a sudden it requires a monster to write it? :)
It seems silly, but that's my only explanation.
To be fair I don't know for sure that the authors of crime novels and fantasy writers whose villains are written in the 3rd person aren't constantly asked if it was hard to write the nasty scenes. But my feeling is 'not so much' and I'm laying the 'blame' at the door of the shortest pronoun of them all.