Monday, April 16, 2007

Into the Dark

I noted, a few posts back, that I had returned to writing, and that this latest book in a series was dark. It just got darker, in ways I had not anticipated.

I began the series by wanting to write just one book, a simple romance about an American cop and a Russian cop. (I should note that I have a lot of cops in my family -- as the joke goes around here, there are more cops in our family than some of the local forces have cops.) And then I got curious about their life in Happy-Ever-After-Land, and wrote a second book that had some dark elements, but conquered them all. And there it ended, for fifteen years, while I focused on becoming Orthodox, not just by chrismation, but in mind and heart, as well.

Smack in the middle of Great Lent, the third book in the series presented itself almost fully written -- at least fully outlined, in terms of what happened to this young family after Trouble descended on it -- and I have been churning that out, consistently writing at least one-third of a chapter every day. When it started, I just wanted to bring "people" (namely, me!) up to date on how things resolved in their lives, and bring them to the next level of Life After Police Work. There would be a lot of stuff about interrogation -- not making it too ugly, since it seems that even the KGB has caught on to the idea that police work is a profession -- and setting the stage for the head of my little household to decide that Police Work Is for the Young, i.e., retirement therefrom and entry into the next level of his life. That's all.

And then, looking for quotes about treason -- I like to start my chapters with quotes -- I found a good one by Aldrich Ames, the American who fed the KGB an enormous amount of intelligence about its people who were spying for the US. And, to my shock, I realized that I was writing about real people without having been aware that that's what I was doing. There really was a KGB general who spied for the US. There really was a list of names to be conveyed from one "side" to the other -- admittedly, in my story the names were to be conveyed from the KGB to the FBI, and not, as in actual fact, the other way around, but still.

And I found that my youthful and idealistic KGB officer was physically revolted by his father's treason. In other words, this tale is going far beyond any place I had ever intended to take it, and has begun to explore the human toll of treason, the people it affects far beyond the actual players in the international chess game known as espionage.

Where is this coming from?! When I started, I knew who Aldrich Ames was, and that was all. I never read any aspect of his story; beyond a mild "Oh, for crying out loud," I wasn't even especially affected by his arrest. Now....

Well, as I wrote in the initial post about my latest literary effort, your characters take you over and make you tell their story. All you are, is a chronicler. The KGB officer Sergei Makarov doesn't exist, I don't think, though there is a hockey player by that name (and evidently a darned good hockey player, too). His vivacious American wife doesn't exist, either -- well, she does, because she's patterned after my sister Anne, but my sister Anne is married to a very solid son of New Hampshire, and besides, she's Polish. But somehow, people who don't exist have a story to tell, and they intend to see it told, and they are co-opting other lives in order to tell it. And that story is about...betrayal. Treason. And a love that overcomes the darkest corners of the human heart.

I just wish I understood why I'm the one telling it.


Elizabeth said...

Because only you have those particular life experiences which enable you to do it.

Because you have a depth of experience of Orthodoxy.

Because you have the talent.

And because it will bring knowledge of Orthodoxy to people whose knowledge of it may be non-existent, to people who would never pick up a "church" type book in a million years.

God bless the work and the writer!

Catherine K. said...

What Elizabeth said :)

Now that you have seen your writing going someplace you didn't initially realize, it will be even more interesting for you to see where it goes.

Betrayal, treason, and love are three of the most profound things that can enter the human heart.

Ya know, the Brother's Karamazov got my attention when nothing else could have (that would be considered a "usual" Christian outreach. It may be that this book may help someone in the same place.

Meg said...

That, I find, is the most interesting thing about writing. You start with one idea, and then, if you treat it seriously, you end up someplace far deeper than you expected to. That happened the other times, too. Initially, they were supposed to break up, not get married, let alone have seven kids!! =:0

Mimi said...

Yeah, what Elizabeth said!