With each of my novels, I can simplify that thematic idea down to its most basic essence. Here are a few examples:
The Vale of Ghosts
Annella Fenn, the main character, addresses the singular theme in this way:
“Isn’t it strange how everything can fall apart in one day? In one moment?” Ann said, musing into the growing darkness. “One dumb act made in ignorance is all it takes to ruin your life forever. It shouldn’t be that way. There should be some way to go back and undo choices made, especially choices made unwittingly. Don’t you think?”
Army of the Inner Eye
The sequel to The Vale of Ghosts offers a natural thematic progression from the first book, which Annella also summarizes with this statement:
“Every time I try to fix a situation I make a big old mess.”
So it's easy to make a big old mess and incredibly hard to fix it. And that is what this book series explores, chiefly, and that is how it goes sometimes in life, folks.
Shadows of Tockland
A strange, violent novel about a clown troupe traveling across a post-apocalyptic America. Shadows of Tockland tells the story of a young man named David Morr who runs away from home to join up with the clowns. As he meets the performers, he finds that each one is strange in his or her own way. However, what they all have in common is an obsession with performing, despite the perils and tragedies they encounter on the road.
Bubbles the Clown, as she is called, sums it up nicely in this bit of conversation with David:
“I like to perform. Better to say I need to perform. It feels good when you get applause. It’s good when you get recognition. It feels right when you’re on the stage, and you can feel it all coming together. You know what I mean?”
“No, I guess you don’t get it yet,” she said. “But you will. There’s something in performing that we all need, and it makes the awful stuff seem worthwhile. Even Gooty sticks around, and he’s got the least reason to be here. All of us need something that we only get from doing this. That includes you. There’s some reason you wanted to join up. What was it? Your old man?”
David nodded. “Mostly. Had to get out of Mountainburg.”
“So we’ve all got our reasons,” she said. “And that’s why, if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll keep right on letting Telly be the boss, even when his decisions get you in trouble. Because you need to be here, you need to be on the road, you need to be onstage despite the risks and the pain.”
Children of the Mechanism
A truly dark tale about child slaves living and working in a massive factory, watched over by cruel robots. When a glitch in the computer system causes some of the doors to open, a few brave children leave their rooms and begin to wander the corridors. And really, that's kind of the point right there. When a door opens, you have to have the courage to go through it. As Ekir says:
"Open doors are the best thing in the whole world. An open door means you can leave something bad and maybe find something good."
Despite this, only a handful of slaves are willing to risk the uncertainty of the open door, choosing to remain in the misery they are familiar with rather than trust themselves to fate.
Anyway, that's just a few of my books, but you get the idea. Maybe we'll examine some others at a later date. Chasing a singular theme, an idea, a cathartic saturation in a particular mood or emotion, those are the kinds of things I'm doing when I write a novel.
At the moment, I'm working on a new science fiction novel called Teth of the City. It's what you might call dystopian, and it has a similar feel to Children of the Mechanism, though it's not nearly as dark. In the end, Teth of the City is about learning to care again, learning to give a crap after years spent nursing old wounds. I think it might just be powerful stuff, but we shall see. More on that one later, folks.
(By the way, click on any of the book covers in this blog entry to go to the appropriate Amazon page for the book)