A good friend of mine who loves my work, Edie Scott, inspired me to write this post.
Her and I had been e-mailing about writing, and she told me a very cool thing that really had me feeling good: she said that she reads and REreads my work! She’s already started Do The Dead Dream?, but has read all of my books and published short stories multiple times!
That had me realize that the work I’ve created and moved on from continues to live and breathe and operate in the imaginations of readers like Edie. She went on to say that she loves to discover the different layers to the stories on those rereads…and how there were things she’d missed the first or second time around, and later discovered on additional reads.
I mean, that is so damned cool! I can’t tell you how thrilling that was to hear!
Edie and I go way back, have known each other some 25 or so years, and she is a huge reader of all books, all genres. So to hear something like that is mind-blowing. I keep telling her that she’s just saying that because we’re friends—and after I recover from the psychic haymaker she throws, she tells me emphatically no, that is not the reason. She tells me that my books are (in my word:) thinky. That I like to challenge and bring those challenges to readers. I thought Voice would turn her off, but she gets that it’s more than just a story about a guy falling in love with a voice in his head. Edie is of devout religious faith, and she got past the gnarly sex scenes I’d written as a matter of necessity to the story. She freaking got that (and she is not the only one, let me just say, other good friends—who are also writers—like Joyce Combs [my editor], Karen Lin and Aaron Michael Ritchey also get that, but my non-writer friend Edie inspired this post, and I’m focusing on readers, here). She got that it wasn’t about the sex…it was about so much more…and yes, there are various levels of layers to the story. When I first wrote Voice I didn’t want it to be my first publication, because I didn’t want people to think I wrote “porn.” It is emphatically not “porn.” Porn is written to sexually excite, and I did not write that book to do that. I wrote it because of the underlying story. The sex scenes were necessary to all of the characters’ downfall and redemption. Instead of violence…I incorporated sex…and people seem to be far more embarrassed and vocal about graphic sexual situations than they are about violence, and that is disturbing to me.
Of all the free copies of Voice I distributed last year, I have not found one, single review. Not one comment from anyone anywhere about the story. Why is that? Had they just not gotten to it? Was it because I wrote about characters masturbating versus having sex? Had that so offended everyone? Yet we have all these violent and dark stories and programs out there that people flock to. Are people really far more tolerant of graphic violence than graphic sex? And can they not see beyond the sex for the rest of the story?
When I’d decided to take on that story…and make it public…I wrestled with these ideas…but ultimately decided the story was powerful enough…that there would be readers out there who would get it, and get past the single-handed sex (pun intended). And I was right. But more so, apparently, there are more readers (at this point) who are too offended or embarrassed or whatever about the sex scenes to say anything about the book.
Yet Fifty Shades of Grey is a big hit.
Or is that in my small circle of readers—my readership—are shocked that I—me–wrote such a book? A book that is a huge departure from my normal output? Even Edie pointed that out. I’d also taken on the story to branch out…to immerse myself into a definite level of discomfort to expand my writing ability. I admit to continually reevaluating whether I should remove that book from public, and I continue to come up with the same answer: no. It is a powerful story, and soon others will also and hopefully come to appreciate that. And Voice will continue to live and breathe and operate in the minds of readers like my friend Edie, who reads and rereads….
I am thrilled to think that stories I have written so long ago (one story from Do The Dead Dream? is from 1978) will continue to live on in the minds of others. Sure, I’ve thought about that over the years, but this concept really hit me this week during the e-mail exchanges between Edie and me, and a bunch of discouragement and angst I’d just gone through. Thank you so much, Edie!
So…after the dismal sales-to-date of all my work, including my most recent Do The Dead Dream? anthology, which I thought would do far better than it has, I am brightened by this conversation. I had so much fun creating all of my stories…bringing them to light. And I hope they will continue to find a continued readership and live on in their imaginations much like they did with me.
Happy New Year everyone!