Friday, May 25, 2007

On What Writers Choose to Write

I first heard the word “epiphany” when I lived in Greece some 30 years ago. At the time, I may not have known what it meant, but I had experienced it once or twice—like when I joined the Air Force in 1973 and took my first airline flight to San Antonio. There I sat in luxurious comfort (hey, it was my first flight and it was 1973), feeling like a pampered princess…until I got off the Air Force bus at Lackland Air Force Base and was suddenly confronted with screaming drill sergeants informing me I was the equivalent of something you’d scrape off the bottom of your shoe after a walk through a garbage dump. Now, that was an epiphany.

I had one again recently after the Virginia Tech murders when I re-read the prologue of DOWN BY THE RIVER posted on my website. And it was this: the world doesn’t need another novel about a serial killer. Look, I’m not in favor of censorship, but for years, my conscience has warred with my creative juices as I wondered if what I was putting out into the world could somehow contribute to the ugliness, the hatred and evil acts that are committed every single day all over the world—and especially, here in America. I don’t want that on my conscience. As much as I hate censorship, I can’t help but wonder if the violent movies and video games—and yes, books—are influencing people like Seung Hui Cho to act out his sick fantasy of inflicting bloodshed against the people he felt had wronged him. And somewhere deep inside, I do believe there is a connection. I’ve believed it ever since I read a passage in the ultra-violent novel, AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis years ago.

When our children are bombarded by violent images through TV, movies, books and video games, how can they not be desensitized to the violence? Yes, you can argue that 99.9% of the population are sane, responsible individuals who’d never take up arms against his society because of a movie, a game or a book. But what about that tiny percentage of tormented, unstable and mentally ill people like Cho? Shouldn’t we, as artists, think twice before we add this kind of ugliness to the world?

I can’t speak for other artists; only their conscience can tell them what to do. As for me, I can’t do it anymore. No more novels about bombs and guns and psychos and children being shot in the back. I’m not saying I’ll be a Pollyanna, but I won’t be writing any more books with violent themes.

Therefore, I’ve taken down the prologue of DOWN BY THE RIVER. Not the whole book, mind you. I’ll still be posting a chapter on my website each month, but I’m editing as I go, cutting out all references to the serial killer, and adding a new sub-plot. DOWN BY THE RIVER (which, I’m absolutely positive will be getting a new title—suggestions welcome, by the way) will be a book about friendship between women. But I can guarantee you it’s not going to be an easy road, because all of you women know, I’m sure, that our friendships with other women are never without conflict. J Sometimes, a lot of conflict.

I drew a winner for my April website contest, but I haven’t heard from her. So, Paige Sebetic, if you’re reading this, please contact me at and give me your address so I can send your prize out. This month’s contest is a signed copy of UNDERSTUDY and a bracelet from Beautiful Evening Beads. Be sure and stop by my website to enter.

Oh, almost forgot! I finally sold my ice dancing novel—TANGO’S EDGE. Don’t have many details yet, but it will be published by Ellora’s Cave’s mainstream sister, Cerridwen Press. More on that next month.

Have a great May!