The critique of the first draft of Lucifer’s Promise is finished, and the revisions have begun. The primary criticisms are: 1) Too much exposition early in the novel, and 2) Willful ignorance of reality regarding one of the principal ideas. I attribute the first problem, which has arisen to one degree or another when writing all my books, to my legal training. Briefs and arguments in court always begin with a recitation of the facts before getting to the meat of the case. A novel, on the other hand, requires that something important be revealed early on in order to engage the reader’s attention.
The second issue derives from authorial laziness. Suspense and plot are much easier to create if the author ignores things that everyone is familiar with. That way, his characters can be continually “surprised” by things his readers already know. It’s good for the characters, not so good for the readers.
A third criticism is one I reject. The fellow who reviews my manuscripts isn’t only interested in a well-written novel, he wants me to sell a few books, too. He believes the easiest way to achieve that goal is by writing genre fiction. He may be right, but I don’t want to write genre fiction.
I’ve written about genre in this space before (see A Review, December 12, 2013). The premise is that each of the various categories (romance, thriller, etc.) has its own conventions that fans of the genre expect to encounter. Often this means sacrificing characters, settings and ideas to plot. If the book falls outside these parameters, the book is hard to market and people won’t read it.
Genre fiction is a product of economics rather than art. It’s about the bottom line, and it assumes (and reinforces) that readers won’t engage in an unpredictable, and maybe uncomfortable, reading experience. I’ve often noted here that good writers are entitled to good readers, and there are still some out there.
Lucifer’s Promise has several story lines that are (hopefully) woven into a coherent whole. One of those is the mystery of the death of three women, another is the potential for abuse inherent in modern-day genetics. There are others. All are populated by carefully drawn characters in settings that could be characters themselves. The reader will not know what to expect when he turns to the first page. I think that’s a good thing.
The New Hope Tour (cont’d)
This is South Building, one of the principal administrative buildings at the University of North Carolina. It is the backdrop for several scenes in Lucifer’s Promise.