I once briefly dated a girl who expected me to be a demon. She knew me to be such – this brooding, bad boy and a creature of the night – because she had read it in one of my novels: “Darkness Feeds”. Or at least she thought she had. Before our first official date, she was very excited to be speaking to me on the phone – this mysterious, evil entity who would possibly come swooping down from the rooftops to cover her in his black cloak and whisk her off to his midnight lair. Oh, how wonderfully dark and daring she must have felt to be talking to such a fiend!
I am afraid that our first date did not go very well and it also proved to be our last. For what she found instead was a nice, shy, slightly awkward writer with a big imagination who was used to putting on many different hats for the purpose of conjuring up the characters in his stories but in real-life had one very fixed, non-demonic identity and I had no interest in claiming her soul or anyone’s soul for that matter. I wouldn’t even know how. Is there a “Soul Claiming for Dummies” manual I can refer to?
How anti-climactic I must have been for her! She told me:
“You’re not at all like you are in your book”.
I pointed out to her that I do not appear in the novel at all – you will only find my characters there and in this particular novel they were split between lunatics, demons and vampires. If she really wished to find a lunatic then I could point her to a local mental institution and perhaps when she arrived there she could tell the psychiatrists that she believed her date was a demon.
I start with this most extreme example but there are many more. I have had concerned family members phone me up because they read a sad story of mine and therefore it must follow that I am depressed in real-life. I have had a girlfriend accuse me of sleeping with other women due to one of my characters in a short story having an affair. I have been accused of plotting a real-life crime based on a dastardly deed perpetrated by an outlaw in one of my short stories. I have also had somebody believe me to be in love with them because they found a similar character to them in one of my romantic poems.
Much as these misunderstandings can be frustrating and awkward at times, they are also almost as important a part of a writer’s makeup as is his preferred pen and pad and something to aspire to. For if you are writing so assuredly as to convince the reader that what they are reading is the truth even when it’s clearly filed in the fiction category then it speaks greatly to your ability as a writer. Anatole Broyard had this to say about misunderstandings:
“To be misunderstood can be the writer’s punishment for having disturbed the reader’s peace. The greater the disturbance, the greater the possibility of misunderstanding.”
And yes, I would agree with him. I would also say that as a writer it is your duty to go out there and disturb your reader – to make them take a break from their everyday lives, hold your poems or stories in their hands and make them think, feel and believe – even if it is only for a moment.
You WILL find traces of the real me in my writing and if you lined up a hundred of my poems and a hundred of my stories and carefully sifted through my every word then you might – and only might – be able to gather some inkling as to the man behind the writing. However, that would be an extremely time consuming and unreliable process. If you want to find the real me, by far the easiest method is to just say “Hi” and ask me questions directly. That’s partly what the Comments section is for after all.
So, do you dare to get to know the real me: this part outlaw, part lion, part demon, part vampire creature of the night (well, at least according to some who have read my writing)? Please don’t feel obliged to though. It makes me happy to think of you sitting down and enjoying reading my poems and stories as works of fiction instead.