“It is the greatest gift of my people, that we can bring our dreams to life for other eyes. Fantasy is a tool; like any other tool, it may be used poorly or well. At its best, fantasy reveals truths that cannot be shown any other way.”
– Sören Kristiaan Hansen, aka Deliann Mithondionne, the Changeling Prince (BLADE OF TYSHALLE, book two of the Acts of Caine)
A few years before I was born, an American journalist named Edward R. Murrow hosted a program on the CBS Radio Network called This I Believe. Each episode only lasted five minutes, of which three and a half were given over to an essay by a different contributor, each speaking about the specific personal convictions that they felt gave their lives meaning. In the generally terrifying atmosphere of the early Cold War, this program was the closest the 1950s ever got to a viral video. It was the most listened-to English-language program in history at that time, and it spawned books, and records, and other radio programs – some of which continue to this day.
When the good folk at Orbit decided to pick up my Acts of Caine novels, they asked me to contribute a blog-post-slash-promotional-essay or two for their website. I dislike writing about myself in any kind of biographical sense; if I thought that where I was born, my family, education, hobbies and pets and private life generally were any of your business, I’d write memoirs, not heroic fantasy.
I also have very little interest in commenting on my stories. My comments are the stories. Now – despite my dislike – I’ve done both of these things, and reasonably often, because that’s what people keep telling me I have to do to promote my books. The Good Folk, however, gave me license to write whatever I want.
I want to write about what I believe.
Most of what follows will be about story, because I make stories the same way I breathe: even to pause requires an act of will, and if I ever stop, it’s because I’m dead.
So… This I believe:
Not all honest writing is good, but all good writing is honest.
What’s not said is as important as what is. Often more important. Most of the trick to writing is knowing what to leave out.
It’s easier to make people cry if you’ve already made them laugh. And vice versa.
Whatever a story’s other virtues, if it’s not entertaining you, you’re wasting your time. A story is only great if it’s great for you. Personally.
What any work of art means depends on who you are when you look at it. What you get out of a book depends on what you bring to it. A book is only marks on a page (or pixels on a screen). The story is what happens in your imagination as you scan those marks. Books aren’t deep. Some readers are.