So this weekend, after years of work, my new novel LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING was finally released to the public. It’s still in its infancy, of course, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s always exciting and little scary to see our baby crawl into the wild. The novel is fast-paced and filled with action sequences, and because of the tension they bring and that feeling of danger we get when characters we like go through those sequences it’s easy to get the impression that these are the things that grab the readers and lock them into the story. But what I have found time and again (tell me if you feel differently), is that what really moves the story, what actually grabs the readers, are the feelings of love. Let me speak about that, as I believe this is a complex matter that deserves attention and study.
When I talk about love I’m not speaking necessarily of romance. We all know that romance sells. More even than sex, or violence. But other types of love also make you bleed. In LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING, I have romance, but what I have found is that the relationship between mother and daughter in the book is actually much stronger and sexier. It’s an indestructible bond – and all the sacrifice they endure for each other moves the story like little else.
This is not the first time I focus on the relationship between mother and child. In both THE ALEX 9 SAGA and THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES, mothers play a crucial role in the plot (more in the first work than the latter). And fathers as well, of course. The seminal works of Sigmund Freud I like so much tell us, if nothing else, how important fathers and mothers really are to their children through their whole lives and a large percentage of flashbacks and B-stories in fiction look for the causal effect between a child’s struggle and the mistaken/enlightened choices in the characters’ paths.
Often, they are the whole core of the plot, as I’ve confirmed after watching the marvelous GODFATHER yet again this afternoon – it’s a Father-Son movie all the way, of course. Just as LORD OF THE RINGS is essentially a bromance.
Maybe (here comes my romantic streak) love is the whole point of everything. Maybe the love we share with our family, and friends and partners, is the point of all existence. And maybe all we look for in fiction is actually a reflection of that. Take my exaggerations as you will… The thing is, also, that love is not an easy or simple thing. It is an ocean of complexity.
For many years there was this behavioral theory of attachment that said (grosso modo) the main bond between a baby and his mother, or caretaker, was there because of a survival need: babies need food and water and security, and so they developed an attachment for people who provided them with those things. Psychologist John Bowlby brought the idea of attachment to another level: it seems we have a natural tendency to attach ourselves to people around us, much beyond our physiological and survival needs. It’s something much stronger and deeply rooted in all kinds of feelings. But love, it seems, is still more than that. We notice it, as we write, at least in romantic entanglements: people (or characters) have the possibility to choose who they attach themselves to – but who they come to love is a step further away.
Imagine, if you will, that we live with a big dark hole in our souls. It’s this feeling that we lack something, that we are only whole when we fill that gap. That something is wrong with how we relate to reality and with how reality relates to us. That we don’t belong to anywhere or anyone. So we go searching for something to fill in that hole. It could be all kinds of stuff, like work or dreams or things or feelings. But often we look for other people to fill that hole. And maybe, as we fall in love, we nourish the illusion that another human being is the one piece that is needed to make us whole. This, however, is not love. Because love is not about us. It’s about the relationship with another. It’s about what’s shared. When this illusion of completeness dies out we are ready to love – we are ready to see the other person as a different entity. And then we can choose to be with that person, to continue the journey to fill in the gap in our soul, but this time not alone – this time, together.
That’s why I am generally, as a writer, much more interested in the difficulties and complexities of love within a relationship and not the gameplay that happens before the establishment of the relationship – because love is something that develops and blossoms slowly.
This said I am very interested in one manifestation of love that always blows my mind and which is extremely powerful in fiction: sacrifice. All studies tell us that loneliness is toxic. Loneliness brings despair (and many other foul things), as love brings hope. But in the rift between despair and hope lives sacrifice. The ability to forfeit what’s ours, even our own selves, so that others may profit. I think this is obvious in my stories: when the odds are overwhelming, it’s the sacrifice for the sake of love that will save the day. Maybe that’s my whole Message all along.
Either way, I truly believe that love is sexy. That if our stories are about love, and its complexities, they are much closer to the readers than when we just use violence or sex or gore, or any other device. And so my new book is out there and it’s about a mother and a child. Go take a look. It will be free to download for a couple of days. See you around, fellow knights.