Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Does Your Novel Put You in Danger?

I have just submitted The Vesuvius Isotope for formatting. While the novel is now officially in the hands of those who will put it into print, its actual publication has been beyond the point of no return for quite some time. Quite some time ago, when I pushed the novel across the line to that point of no return, I also pushed a thought into the back of my brain, where I feebly hoped it would remain.

Now, as The Vesuvius Isotope teeters on the brink of no-longer-private, that thought comes back to the surface. I am all too aware that this novel, and the one that will follow it, both have a very real potential to piss off some very real people pretty badly.

On the one hand, this is great. Controversy sells, right? But on the other hand, as the release date for The Vesuvius Isotope approaches, I realize I am also setting myself up for a possibility of life imitating art.

As this realization forced its way from the back of my brain toward the front, I found myself thinking that this is probably not an uncommon concern for authors of thrillers. We incorporate a great deal of realism into our stories, even bringing to light modern-day controversies that are very much ongoing. We write of terrorist organizations, government cover-ups and the mafia. We sometimes change names to protect the "innocent," but most of the time, we don't. Most of the time, we point an unapologetic finger directly at the real-life individual or organization that inspired the novel. And not everyone wants those controversies brought to light.

I tell myself that perhaps I am just being paranoid. Perhaps we authors of mysteries and thrillers harbor a particularly keen attraction to the "what ifs." Perhaps it is that attraction that leads us to write what we write in the first place. Perhaps there really is no threat to a novelist, after all. I tell myself this, and then to ease my own concerns, I quickly Google "author murdered." And I retrieve a wealth of evidence to the contrary. Whoops!

Here I pose the question: Does your novel put you in danger? Do you think that exposing a clandestine war, a secret society or a person's dark side ultimately exposes YOU, as the whistle-blower, to the wrath of the ones you exposed? Or do you think that once the cat is out of the bag, the threat is neutralized?

6 comments:

  1. I keep hoping someone will put a fatwa on me for Doha 12. That happened with Rushdie, and look how it ended up -- bestseller, tons of publicity, knighthood, and he married Padma Lakshmi.

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    1. Haha, Lance. Maybe I should add another section to Murder Lab - Support your Fellow Authors - Kill a Colleague

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  2. I have to agree with Lance. I have a couple of scenes where the Main Character expressed some non-appropriate comments towards the Muslim faith. Getting on their list would really help sales, but it would not be good for the social life.

    I also have sever scenes documenting conspiracies within the Oval Office, CIA, NSA, Vatican and other organizations. Most everything I write about has a shred of truth but the rest is totally fiction. My dream would be if I were investigated by the FBI. Because then I would that I hit a nerve and something I wrote about was actually true.


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  3. Yeah, prior to letting Vesuvius out of the cage, my biggest concern was being black-listed by the pharmaceutical industry and becoming unemployable :)

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  4. I want neither fatwa or FBI investigation, though I'm sure either is a possibility with my subject matter. Fear of Beauty explores individual motivations for embracing or resisting extreme religious beliefs. It doesn't take much to set off anger of controlling extremists.

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    1. Susan, I agree with you that either is a possibility for you :) Not only your novel, but also your website calls attention to a lot of important issues that NEED to be in the spotlight. But yes, it's easy to see how quickly this can set off extremists.

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