Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why do you write?

I never really asked myself that question. Why do I write? I don't know. Why do you breathe, jerk? But then there's this from Field Notes:



"I'm not writing it down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now." That's just inspiring as hell. So I decided maybe I'd think about why exactly I've spent the last 40 years writing. (And it has been about that long.)

People tell me I have a recognizable voice. I disagree. The dizzying Manhattan chapters of Regret Things aren't anything like the cop dialogue of The Single Staircase, which is nothing like the haunted noir of Sin Walks Into The Desert.

And the themes of my books seem disparate to me, too. Sin is about family and violence, while the characters in Regret Things are obsessed with materialism and driven by a need to be desired.

I asked, ok, what do my books have in common, then? And I came up with this. They're all about how our lives are ruled by ghosts. About the things we do to get right with the dead. About our search for the vanished.

Owl & Raccoon are barely human. They're detectives defined by their hunt for missing children.  And they know their mission is hollowing them out, stealing their evenings and ruining their relationships, but they can't stop themselves:
Back in the Explorer a few questions later, night fallen all around. "This is what I do," Owl thought. "I get in and out of this car chasing shadows."
It's the same in Sin Walks Into the Desert. As a child, Sin spends his days in his big sister's empty room, writing her letters he will never send. And years later, he leaves his job and girlfriend to hike into the desert, guns on his belt and go-bag over his shoulder, to learn if and how and why his uncle has disappeared.

It'd be a spoiler to tell you whose death begins the cycle of violence in Regret Things. But Nicki's no dummy. She knows she's committing a terrible crime to get right with someone who'll never know what she's done. When her accomplice asks her if the dead would even want revenge, she replies it doesn't matter:
"The dead don't live through us. We live through them."
So why do I write? Maybe I'm like Owl. I got shadows to chase. Shadows I never expect to catch.

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