This Makes Me Uncomfortable

The following is a preview of a guest post which will appear on a book bloggers blog  next week during my book tour.

As I began writing in earnest two years ago, the inspiration to tell a story about an older woman who discovered her beloved husband’s infidelity after he died came from out of nowhere.  Pam of Babylon simply appeared in my consciousness and I wrote it as I thought of it.  Later, a quote by E.L. Doctorow would confirm my writing style was not unusual.  He said, “Writing is like driving a car in the dark.  You only see as far as the headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  Those words validated me. An encounter with an editor who did not like my story line made me doubt the wisdom of spending another second writing.  She asked me to do an outline before I began to write, which I found nearly impossible to do because of the way the book was coming to me as I went along. She referred to the story as triple-x rated because it contained a depiction of child abuse.  Child abuse transcends the rating system.

Later, I learned from a fellow author that sometimes a writer/editor relationship may not be a good fit and it is acceptable to move elsewhere. Once I found the courage to move on, I found a new editor.  She was a barracuda who demanded revisions and rewrites, but she also loved the story and wanted it to be the best I could make it. I felt totally comfortable deferring to all of her suggestions and to this day wish I had used her from the onset.  However, once the story was published, I would encounter readers who felt the same way my former editor did.  My books are not for everyone. I can’t say I enjoy writing about topics that many people find repugnant and some that are downright disgusting like the child abuse and marital infidelity.  But it’s something that I find compelling for whatever reason and the stories wind through the tragedy and horror that normal people sometimes encounter.

After a book is finished, I suffer from insomnia for months.  I’m in that mode right now. The Greeks of Beaubien Street will be released this summer, and although I love the story, there is a portion of the book that worries me because it depicts the seamier side of life in a most grotesque way. Even the perpetrator is disgusted with the crime. I know there will be those readers who will buy the book and will be offended by it in spite of a warning. [At the suggestion of the people who oversee Goodreads and Amazon, I have plastered warning and caution signs at the beginning of every book description.]  I almost didn’t write the book until my son, a filmmaker and writer told me not to censor myself. I have tried censoring in the past and once I began, I found I was putting up so many parameters I could no longer write.  The question I had to ask myself over and over confirmed that the story line was important.  What is my purpose in writing about this topic? It isn’t to titillate, or to be sensational.  In The Greeks, the horror story is in contrast to the gentle Greek father who prepares his homicide detective daughter’s breakfast every morning.

Regarding Pam of Babylon’s adult content, I tried to write so that it would be the least offensive as possible.  If a writer is going to have child abuse as a topic, there is little that can be done to clean it up. It’s deplorable, and the consequences are usually tragic. The Kirkus Review said about the third book in the series, Dream Lover; “A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.”  In order for the resolutions to take place, I must first describe the conflict.

My friend Dan Georgakas, author of My Detroit, Growing up Greek and American in Motor City (Pella Publishing Company, NY, NY, 2006) wrote when I confided my concerns, “….people are embarrassed by this [content] and want to project a perfect family image: a stereotype no one is going to believe anyway. I have always believed in showing warts whenever possible.”  Some of the character’s warts are painful to look at, but they exist in real life.
The final book in the series may be finished this fall and has some of the characters achieving positive resolutions. Fans of Pam will be relieved that she is triumphant in the end.

3 thoughts on “This Makes Me Uncomfortable

  1. Hi, I don’t think writers write to feel comfortable. They push limits and challenge themselves and their readers. I love your books, Suzie, and am looking forward to the Greeks and Pam #4.

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