Heartetic? A real word? A quick Internet search says “Nope.” But I like it. Because, although my made-up word is too cute by half…well, okay, by seven-eighths or more…it still gets to the heart of the matter. The heart of all that really matters. At least, for many of us aspiring artists.
FACE OF OUR FATHER is a heretical work of fiction. Not nearly to the degree of Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN or Poe’s THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. Those great works founded whole new genres of literature. But I must confess that I’ve written “That which shall not be written!” I have sinned. Probably venial rather than mortal, I’m thinking. Shelly and Poe are mortal sinners. Big capital “S.” Yet still, I am a sinner. Small “s.”
Deep characterization in a thriller is heresy. “Thou shalt not allow the reader to pause to pee” is the first mitzvah carved into the stone tablet of the thriller commandments. The thriller reader wants action, action, action. And when in doubt, give them more action. The trouble is that I’m a thriller reader. Always have been. I enjoyed Vince Flynn’s first novel immensely, his second a bit less, his third I never finished. Dan Brown’s ANGELS & DEMONS thoroughly entertained me, THE DA VINCI CODE less so, THE LOST SYMBOL I didn’t bother with. This is not to criticize either author. Both are tremendously talented. And both are smart enough to follow the script of action, action, action.
Me? I’m not so smart. I wanted to write something I’d love to read, something with deep characterization, something that not only entertained me with high action, but also stimulated thoughts that lingered in my mind long after I was done. I wanted to write a novel that caused me to lay the book on my chest and wonder if Stu really knows why he does what he does, and then wonder if I really know why I do what I do. Am I active, or just reactive?
But the thriller gods shout from on high “Never let the reader pee!” What can I say? I’m a heretic. An author who has the audacity to say, “Excuse me, but readers need to pee. In fact, I want them to pee. Waste products in the blood, bladder damage and all that. Besides, they can still think about my novel while they’re peeing, can’t they?” I know that mine is a tiny rebellion. Like I mentioned, sinner with a small “s.” Heretic with a small “h.” But I’m very passionate about my small sins. And to my delight, I’ve found that some readers love to sin with me. Shhh…don’t tell the thriller gods, but some book club members have actually confessed to enjoying Angie’s memories of her grandfather as much as they did Stu’s heroics. Naughty, naughty readers!
As you might imagine, the most frequent line of inquiry from book club members starts with the simple word “how.” How long have you wanted to write a novel? How much research did you do? How long did it take to complete the novel? And my frequently longwinded answers to all those simple questions ultimately lead to what is arguably the most complex question. How did you ever find the willpower to finish? Yet, it has the simplest answer. A one-word answer. Heart. When I found a subject that I was passionate enough about, I followed my heart, and everything else just happened.
The thriller gods can shout all they want about genre rules. They can label me sinner. I don’t hear them. I’m writing amidst the throes of passion, going wherever the pursuit of art takes me. I’m an aspiring artist. A heartetic.
Stream of Consciousness Quote:
“Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’” –Edgar Allen Poe