Of Novels and Children
Guest Post by Helena Page Schrader
My novels are my children. They are the product of the conscious desire to bring them into the world, but they are not really mine. I have a degree of influence upon them, particularly in the beginning, but they go their own way as they mature. I can to imprison them perpetually on my computer and never let them see the light of day (publication) or even kill them by deleting them. But I do not really have control of them. Do you control your children?
My novels go their own way because the characters in them decide their own fate. I can provide guidance and suggestions, just like any good parent, but ultimately my characters have free will and defy attempts to force them to do things they do not want. Characters prefer to commit suicide than be misused, so there really is no alternative to letting them go their own way.
But, of course, that is the greatest pleasure of parenting and writing: not knowing where you are going to end up when you start out upon the journey! You start off with some good intentions and pointed in a certain direction, but you cannot see far enough to know where you will end. Along the way, children (and novels) will surprise you with their unexpected behavior. They will make you re-think your own values, test your patience and your temper, but ultimately reward you by teaching you things about yourself, your fellow humans, the meaning of life and the nature of inspiration. They will show you things you could not have done or imagined on your own.
No child and no novel are ever perfect. They all have flaws, weaknesses, quirks and blemishes. Some will be more popular than others. Some will have virtues that too few others (outsiders) recognize. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have our favorites – but we love them all, the good and the not so good.
This is the principal reason I find it so very difficult to sell my children. How can I put a price on my children’s heads? How can I praise them like a “product?” How can I expose them to the criticism of heartless reviewers? Or compare them to others? Obviously, I must – just as a parent must encourage their children to face real-life competition for employment and affection. I must trust them, have faith in them, and stand by them even if they experience set-backs and rejection.
They are my children.
Helena Page Schrader is a career diplomat, who earned a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking dissertation about the mastermind behind the Valkyrie Plot against Hitler. She has published non-fiction works on the German Resistance, women in aviation in WWII, and the Berlin Airlift. Her novels on the German Resistance (Hitler’s Demons, the Battle of Britain (Where Eagles Never Flew), and Ancient Greece have won praise and awards. She has just completed the third book in her Leonidas Trilogy, a biographical novel in three parts about the life of Leonidas of Sparta, the hero Thermopylae. Leonidas of Sparta: A Heroic King is scheduled for release in September 2012. You can find out more about Helena and her books at her website: www.HelenaPSchrader.com.