Posted By: Susan Rooke
Posted on: September 27, 2018 10:46 AM
The reference section of my home library holds some of my most treasured and depended-upon books. This hefty volume is my trusty Webster’s dictionary—the Third New International, Unabridged version.
It lives in my office right beside my desk. I have a number of dictionaries of the English language, as well as dictionaries of other sorts . . .
. . . which are all very useful in their own ways. But the Webster’s, so full of fascinating tidbits, is the one I turn to most often. [I had no idea that “isinglass” is first defined as a very pure type of gelatin originally made from the air bladders of Russian sturgeons. Probably another reason those sturgeons are in decline.] Just today, in fact, I consulted Webster’s for its definition of “novel.” And here, at the top of page 1546, is what it says:
“An invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting.”
What particularly catches my eye there is the word “invented.” Yep, it’s just as I suspected. Novels are made-up! Who knew?
Well, everybody who reads novels, you’d think. But apparently not. The Daughter’s prediction, made years ago after she read an early draft of The Space Between, is coming true. One year after its publication, my book is managing to offend a tiny but slowly growing segment of the population that doesn’t understand the “invented” part of the definition. Some of them clearly think I’m going to Hell. As a person who tries to be kind and get along with everybody, I find that rather surprising. Hell? Me?
One person on social media even went so far as to share a picture of the book’s cover to their own feed. They commented on it, beginning with the disclaimer that they know nothing of me or my book. And then, after openly admitting they know nothing, guess what they did? That’s right. They got all judge-y on me. Complete with a quotation from their choice of holy text. (A text I wouldn’t dream of transcribing here, because I’m not sure it’s permitted.) It was basically about the swell fate that’s in store for my soul when I’m dead. (I’d like to thank that person for the warning and for taking the time out of their busy day to think about my immortal soul.)
The thing these people all have in common is that they think I’m playing fast and loose with the facts of their religious beliefs. But here’s the catch: I’m not playing with facts. I’m a novelist. By definition, this means I’m playing with fiction.
So what’s a misunderstood writer to do in the face of such objections? Keep writing, of course. In The Realm Below, the soon-to-be-launched second book in the series, my characters carry on speaking with their own voices and making their own decisions. I gave my good guys the space to be good, but also far from perfect. (One of them demonstrates his imperfection in a rather memorable fashion.) My bad guys had all the freedom they required to be nuanced and . . . interestingly flawed. Fictional characters are notorious for developing minds of their own, anyway, and mine are no different. And so they will continue to steer their own fates when I write the third book. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to.
This means, I suppose, that The Realm Below will offend people too. (Including the ones who can’t be bothered to read it. Perhaps especially those people.) P.T. Barnum, circus owner and consummate showman, is said to have claimed that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Maybe that was the case in the 19th century. I don’t know how true it would be today, with our modern capacity not only to gratify ourselves instantaneously, but also to troll from the shadows and feud with virtual virulence. But bad publicity or good, it doesn’t matter. It’ll be how it’s going to be.
Come *ahem* Hell or high water.
The latest news: The Realm Below: The Rise of Tanipestis will be available for pre-order in early December, with the cover reveal coming in November!