Sunday, September 22, 2013

'What are your books about?'

This is a question that I am asked all the time. Natural enough, I suppose, but surprisingly difficult to answer. I can’t provide a nice, simple, straightforward reply: ‘My books are about gay vampires in the Royal Canadian Mounties,’ I cannot say. Not that I have anything against gay folk, vampires, Mounties, or any combination thereof. Even if, one day, I write a book about gay vampires in the Mounties, I hope that not all of my books would be about them. That’s the first problem: my books aren’t all about one thing. Hopefully my books are all about different things.

The best way I have of answering this question, concerning what my books are about, is this, and it may not satisfy the questioner: My books are less about the things that happen to people, than about the things people do. And:  My books are less about the things people do, than about the people who do them. So if I were to write a book in which an earthquake in Sicily were to feature prominently, I would still be reluctant to say that my book was ‘about’ an earthquake in Sicily. It would be about some of the people who experienced this event. The event is almost irrelevant. It could just as easily be the death of the family dog as an earthquake that kills thousands. This, I guess, is what I mean when I describe my books as ‘character driven’. I am interested in exploring human nature and human reactions. And as most of us are more likely to experience the death of a family pet than a catastrophic earthquake, I am more likely to write about the death of the family pet.

For all of our great anthropological, sociological and psychological advances, human beings remain, in my opinion, largely a mystery. Not only do you remain a mystery to me, but I remain a mystery to me. Contrary to Star Trek’s claim, space is not the final frontier.  We are. You and I.

When you read, you may not be looking to explore this frontier. You may be in search of escapism and adventure. By and large, you won’t find that in my books. There are plenty of authors writing books like that. By all means read them. I read some of them myself. But if you are interested in exploring with me this final frontier, which I think is every bit as interesting and exciting as an alien invasion or a terrorist threat (and much closer to home for most of us), then you might just like what I write.

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