Thursday, April 6, 2017

Say What, Now? By Gail Roughton

Visit Gail Roughton at Books We Love, Ltd.
Has it ever crossed your mind that a lot of problems are caused by folks unnecessarily complicating things? We've all got folks in our lives who're masters of that.  You know, like the people who, when hanging a picture, first pull out their handy-dandy stud-finder and locate a stud (regardless of whether the picture weighs a few ounces or whether it's in an ornate frame and weighs a ton), and then pull out the tape measure and measure top to bottom and side to side before picking a spot.  This was my husband's preferred method when he was younger; nowadays, he's more apt to follow my method of eyeballing the wall, hammering in the nail and hanging the picture. I've always been a "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" type of gal.

But the prize-winners among the folks who unnecessarily complicate things are English teachers, especially senior high English teachers and college professors.  Please let me state here that I have the utmost respect for teachers, truly I do. However, I'm afraid teachers, especially those who teach in the aforementioned upper levels of the educational system, might have a bit too much respect for just how complex and complicated a writer's mind is.  We're really not that complicated.  What am I talking about?  

This.  This little diagram is what I'm talking about.  We're writers. We're not rocket scientists.We're telling a story. We're not making comments on the inequities of society.  Well, we are, but that's because any story we write is, of necessity, reflective of the society in which it's set. In other words, we write what we know because guess what? It's what we know.  Unless of course it's science fiction or fantasy. But it's not like we're sending out hidden messages visible only to those who sit and analyze our wondrous words. 

For instance, when my youngest son was in college, one particular assignment required him to discuss the significance of Bram Stoker's use of the Three Sisters in Dracula as an allegory for the social inequities in the treatment of women in Victorian society. Or something similarly esoteric to that phraseology, it's been a while.  And really. Say what, now? 

We're talking about Dracula here.  Truly one of the masterpieces of literature. I read it when I was in the eighth grade and I didn't sleep for three nights thereafter. I didn't sleep without a cross and a St. Christopher's medal around my neck for the next ten to fifteen years, either. Was that the effect Bram Stoker was going for? Oh, you betcha it was. Was he disappointed it never crossed my mind that the Three Sisters weren't being treated fairly as equals to the Count, just as women in 19th Century England weren't treated as equals to men? Well, I can't exactly ask him but I really doubt he'd have lost any sleep over it. I think if anybody asked him what was going through his mind when he created the the Three Sisters, he'd say "I was trying to scare the bloody hell out of anybody reading the story." And if anybody asked him for his thought processes in creating such an allegory for the social inequities of his society, his response would be "Say what, now?"  In an English accent of course.

Because evil never dies. It just--waits.
I write to entertain. To be honest, I write to entertain myself. That's honestly my primary motive for writing. I've written books widely disparate in style and genre and usually the bottom-line motive is I'm bored and I need some entertainment. That being said, of all my books, The Color of Seven is the one an English teacher would be most apt to find full of hidden allegories and parables and comments on society (not that I think any English teacher would ever be using it in an English class). That's because it spans over a century in time, beginning in the 1880's and extending to the present as it tells the story of a family living in Macon, Georgia in the post-Civil War South. Racism, mixed marriages, and prejudice are all elements of the plot. And then there's the eternal battle of good versus evil, light versus dark thing, I've always been a sucker for that, it gives me the excuse to throw black magic and voodoo and vampires in. I call it my Southern Gothic family saga horror, and my unabashed and unashamed motive in writing same was to scare the hell out of my readers while making them fall in love with some of the characters and totally loathe a few others, which is the pinnacle of success for any writer. (And at the risk of sounding as though I'm tooting my own horn, feedback from readers indicate I was successful in that endeavor, at least with a few folks.) 

As to the more serious social issues I admit are an integral part of the background and plot of this book--trust me, I didn't set out to write a novel highlighting those issues. They're in the book because I'm southern, born in 1954. I cut my teeth on Civil War history, I grew up in the 1960's. I never did a lick of research on anything in that book (unless you count copying the street names and business names off an old 1888 map of my hometown of Macon, Georgia which is why the story starts in the 1880's in Macon, Georgia--I wasn't about to waste that treasure) except for the voodoo black magic elements involved. I didn't do any research  because I didn't need to. And why not?  Because we write what we know, what's already there, burned into our brains and woven into the very fibers of our being. There's not always a hidden agenda.

Therefore, if any English teacher ever did ask a student to discuss the use of vampirism in The Color of Seven as a statement on the post-Civil War dichotomy between the races, trust me--the only appropriate response would be "Say what, now?" Everything doesn't have to be complicated, folks. You know what they say.  "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck--it's probably a duck." Enjoy the simple pleasures! (Including a good scare.)

Visit Gail At Books We Love, Ltd.
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