Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Your Comments about Heroes of Fiction

This has been an interesting and exciting exchange. I've asked about your fiction heroes and the responses so far (there is still time to get in on the conversation, so feel free to post a comment or you can e-mail me at bcg@bonniegrove.com) have been diverse, introspective, and fascinating.

I wanted to share with you some bits and pieces of responses, and add my thoughts to yours. I thought about jamming every one's responses together in one long post, but that idea ended up offending me (way to go Bonnie, you manage to offend yourself with your own brain!).

Your responses, each one, while very different from each other, were obviously deeply thought out and felt. Our heroes, or lack thereof, have shaped us in ways that are difficult to talk about, only because it is much like talking about ourselves - complex, changing, shifting, unreliable, and doomed (we fear) to be misunderstood.

One response to the post came via e-mail. It was a fantastic note about childhood, friendship, tobogganing, and Tolkien. The Hobbit - and books following - changed this person's life.

She told me about how she and her friends, imaginations captured and held by the larger than life characters inhabiting middle earth would mount their trusty steeds (toboggans [sleds] they loved and even named as one would a trusty steed) and fly down snowy slopes together. They formed a secret club (oh, how I remember the heady joy of belonging to a secret club!) based on The Lord of the Rings and its inhabitants.

Fantastic stuff, that. As I read her e-mail I was transported to my own childhood and, I confess, teen years, where fantasy made up at least 75% of what I did each day. The author of this note is a fantastic writer, and even her e-mails contain a sort of power, or movement, or convincing voice that makes you want to go where she takes you, and I went - slogging down the hills with her and her friends, calling out our fictional names, giggling when others looked at us with questioning faces, wondering what these girls could be up to.

But Bilbo and pals played a role in her life beyond childhood fun - she read and re-read the books throughout her teen and adult years. Always finding some spark of truth, some archetype of virtue by which she could learn, ape, and admire. She lists these for me, and I find myself nodding in agreement. Yes, these pages are filled with characters, both minor and major, who display for us the finest of humanity - the deepest of confusion (he who is passionate about life must learn to kill in order to preserve it), and passion, the longings for greatness, and the searching in small places to find it.

It was enough to make me want to swoon. But, since the days of swooning women is long gone, I smiled instead. She ended her all to short e-mail with a vibrant quote from one of the books. You see, there is this fine lady in the books, one Lady Eowyn who, royal and grand as she is, follows her heart into the grit and blood of battle in order to fight for what she believes in. I'm quoting my friend as she writes about how a fictional moment has helped shape her self understanding:

"Oh and how could I forget Lady Eowyn who masquerades as a man to follow her heart into battle? As she dares to step outside the norm for her gender, she kills the evil Lord of the Nazgul who according to prophecy will not be killed by any living man. In one of my favourite fictional moments, the Nazgul says, “No living man may hinder me!” Then Eowyn removes her helmet and says “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman,” and then delivers the death blow. I found this heartening as a young woman who often found herself outside typical gender roles."

There is a complex depth to how this scene makes its way into the hearts and minds of those who read it, and, in some way, identify with it. My e-mailing friend is no sword wielding killer, no marauding warrior. She's a nice person with a good job, a family, and a heart for Jesus and people. But, something fantastic in Lady Eowyn reached into this woman's heart and gave her a drop of outrageous courage, gave stay to the idea that she could be who she felt called to be, even if that meant leaving certain expectations unfulfilled.

And, after I had read her e-mail, I was left thinking: There are heroes in fiction.


max said...

Good questions.

My circumstances might present an interesting case in point. I began writing at the end of 2001. After researching some of the larger bookstores, I determined that there were plenty of books for girls, but less choices for boys. I also had grown up as a reluctant reader. After much study, I decided to write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys.

My reason for choosing this path comes from my earlier days in the production and distribution of 16MM films for children. We found that boys didn’t particularly enjoy girls’ stories, while girls were far more tolerant of boys’ adventure stories.

I chose this model for my books. To date, I’ve completed 35 manuscripts, and 7 of these have been published by a royalty-paying publisher. It’s a small publisher with limited financial resources.

As I’ve approached other publishers, and as my agent has done the same, we have encountered resistance. It seems that things have been done in certain ways for a long time, and when something different comes along, it’s difficult for it to be assimilated in to the publishing process.

At the same time, my reviews have been very positive. About 50 pages of those reviews can be found at http://maxbookreviews.blogspot.com I also receive extremely positive emails and letters from young readers, their parents, and teachers. My blog, Books for Boys at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is currently #5 on Google, when anyone searches for books for boys.

You’re correct that there are massive changes occurring in publishing. We’re seeing consolidation of publishing houses. Yet I believe that it is impossible to keep a good story down. In time, I also believe there will be a place in the market for the stories I’m writing, and I have confidence in the publishing process.

The problem isn’t so much that there are too many authors. It may be that so much, which is being written, doesn’t stand out from the rest. My hope is that what I’m writing will stand out, and that I’ll be rewarded in time for going in this direction.

Max Elliot Anderson
Author of action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys

Bonnie Grove said...

I'm encouraged by your determination and optimism, Max.

I wonder if, when you write, there is too much out there that dosen't stand out from the rest, that you are hinting that much of what is out there on bookshelves are cookie cutter replicas. Or are you saying that writers aren't turning in the their very best work?
Or, something else?
heh heh
Or am I muddying the waters??