That’s why I kill so many of them in my novels.
You see, the job of the thriller writer is weird. To a certain extent, it is our lot in life to create victims. Heroes and heroines as well, of course, and villains too, but they’re the minority. If you are a character in a thriller novel, you very well may die (and violently). It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.
But we thriller writers can’t just introduce a character on page 22 and kill them on page 23. There would be no emotional investment, and emotional investment is what it’s all about. This is why so many Hollywood blockbusters lack suspense. These films have hearts of silicon. Emotion can’t be green-screened.
But I digress from my topic. Perhaps on purpose. After all, I’m a little ashamed by it. Because the fact of the matter is, to write good emotion-infused fiction, you need imagine someone you love in jeopardy, you need to make that person or object or idea the potential victim, and so…well…in my novels, animals don’t fare so well.
But only because I care.
Case in point: the first chapter of my September 2010 release, While Galileo Preys.
I’ll wait here while you give that a skim.
So you see what I mean. Poor doggie.
Well, my editor loved that chapter but she was concerned that MIRA would receive some angry feedback from readers about the sad fate of Moira. They wouldn’t complain about all the dead cops and bullet-ridden pedestrians, but they might be up in arms over my abusive treatment of Moira.
But I refused to change it. Moira’s death was not arbitrary. The fact that Galileo murders her as callously as he does everyone else just underlines what a cold-hearted bastard he really is.
Imagine if he’d spared the dog. We might think –well, he’s a dead-eye mofo for sure but at least he’s an animal-lover. He’s not all bad. And in the end we come to understand that Galileo isn’t all bad (although he’s pretty fucking bad). But that needs to be a discovery. Don’t get me wrong – shades of grey are fantastic. I love nebulous morality. But in the first chapter, where the footing is so uncertain and where the world itself must be painted in broad strokes, to introduce that level of ambiguity seemed to me to be an error. Galileo is decisive. Galileo is indiscriminate. Moira had to die.
This was my sole sticking point in the entire editing process. I agreed with every other suggestion my editor offered, and I know that While Galileo Preys is a better book because of her input. Did I make the correct choice or was I merely acting out of stubbornness? I’ll find out in September, won’t I. Perhaps I’ll be strung up by my own hubris. As if I’d be the first writer to suffer from that…