Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Naked, painful truths...


Many professions require uniforms, or steel-toed boots, gas-masks, or airbags. Perhaps a Taser, a safety rope, or shatter-proof goggles.

Some require makeup and high heels.




Novelists, though are required to lay themselves out bare--devoid of even sunscreen protection. Just out there...naked. For all the world to see.  To scrutinize. To compare, criticize and ridicule.

Or...to enjoy.

The scariest part of writing novels is laying one's soul bare but if one doesn't, the reader knows immediately.  A single sentence that muffles a point, a plot that ends too abruptly, a protagonist who, for a brief moment in time, steps out of character...the reader spots it--like a gerentologist spots dementia, a wrinkle...a single grey hair.

But we authors oh, so much want to glide over issues that pain our hearts, or stir bad memories, or require too much research. Perhaps we're embarrassed by our promiscuous characters, or taken back by a blasphemous curse, or unsure if there's a difference between a pistol and a revolver.

I write crime novels and I'm terrified I'll anger a criminal gang...or the cops.  I'm scared those who know me (but not all that well) will imagine I must have a sordid, drug-dealing, biker mama past...or a secret background in law enforcement.

However, I'm slowly coming to feel more confident in my work as reviews from those within the judicial and educational systems and those who deal with at-risk youngsters confirm that my stories are indeed realistic--despite the fact that many of us might prefer that they weren't.

"Although occasionally I got a slight feeling of disbelief..." one reviewer wrote, because after all, who wants to imagine a real-life 13-year old kid becoming involved in drug dealing and murder and cybercrime?

But those in the know, know that kids younger than my little Katrina are being recruited by criminal gangs to do their dirty work in exchange for belonging, or money, or drugs. Those making the big bucks stay out of jail by building layers of lackeys, both young and old, between them and their deeds. They toss these lost, lonely, hurting youngsters empty promises that their juvenile status will protect them from the law and all other evil that their actions may cause. They suck them in and do not let them leave.

"To understand our children, it is nécessaire to read this book," one reader in France wrote.

Claudia Lefeve, a teacher of criminology said, "...Schuh managed to write a wonderful book deeply rooted in truth and reality." Lefeve has since put THE TRAZ on a suggested reading list for her college students.

Lloyanne Galas, a provisional psychologist working with youth and teens said she found THE TRAZ "...to be an amazingly insightful story paralleling so many youth with whom I work."
So...here's to THE TRAZ for shining a light on the dark side of life and revealing the natures of the adults who live there.

Here's to THE TRAZ for reminding us our youngsters are in danger and cluing us in on what to do to help keep them safe.

Here's to me for being brave enough to lay myself bare, to let the characters tell their stories in the excruciatingly honest, brutal, coarse way those tales needed to be told.

And...here's to you, my readers, who have given me the confidence to promote THE TRAZ and continue writing the BackTracker saga.


FATAL ERROR, Book II in the BackTracker Series will be released later this year by Imajin Books. 

THE TRAZ also comes in a School Edition complete with Discussion Guide. Both editions are available in both eBook and paperback formats.

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer www.eileenschuh.com


Jim Szpajcher said...

Eileen -

Your post clearly illustrates the difference between readers and writers: writers let it all hang out. Readers KNOW, but cannot bring themselves to tell the tale.

I once had a plot for a novel about drilling rigs that horrified me so much I could never bring myself to put it onto paper. (There were no computers or word processors in those days.)

I dared not make this idea public, because I did not want someone, who was unstable, to use it.

In the meantime, don't worry about me spilling the secrets on your "sordid" past. We have too much to lose if the truth were to come out: after all, everyone likes mystery in their women, and I'd hate to be known for "outing" the real you. :-)

Well done on this entry, at any rate.

Anonymous said...

It is definitely true...writers must really "let it all hang out" in their work - that's part of the beauty of the craft! Great post!

Eileen Schuh: said...

Thank you Jim and Sheryl for your comments.

Yes, Jim, you have reminded me of another fear I had about THE TRAZ. I was worried that an exciting story about a youngster going-it alone in an adult world would entice youngsters into dangerous lifestyles.

That's partly the reason I included a Discussion Guide with the School Edition--to ensure kids think about the dangerous and traumatic side of street life, not just the adrenaline rush or sense of belonging and power that gang life may provide.

However, I think authors sometimes worry needlessly. Nobody who's read my book has raised this concern.

I myself don't fall for the arguments we've heard that song lyrics caused bad behaviour--the pen might be powerful, but we have to remain realistic about the level of our influence.

You ought to write your book, Jim... Sounds like a thriller.