I’m excited to welcome Anna Katherine to Literary Escapism. A brand new author for me, I had the chance to read Anna Katherine’s new novel, Salt and Silver and it was an interesting take on demons in our society. Today, we have a great post on telling lies by Anna Katherine. Make sure you stick around for a chance to win a copy of Salt and Silver.
One night six years ago, Allie and her friends got drunk and chanted a fake spell they made up… and accidentally opened a portal to Hell. Now it resides in the basement of the diner Allie runs, and it’s a pain in the ass — mystical crap is always coming out, and then it has to be killed. Demon guts get everywhere, stuff gets smashed up, there are salt circles and sigils all over the place… It gets tedious.
The up side is that Allie gets her own personal demon hunter guarding the Door and killing the demons: a sexy and mysterious, Stetson-wearing, snide-remark-making, dark-eyed demon hunter named Ryan.
But after six years of jibes and sexual tension, the Door disappears at the same time there’s a surge in demonic activity — and no one seems to know what’s going on. Not Narnia the bitchy psychic witch, or Roxie, a kickass demon hunter from the other side of town.
It’s not Allie’s idea for a team of demon hunters to find another Door and go into it to see if Hell is about to take over Earth, but she definitely wants in on that plan. After years of seeing the havoc a Door to Hell wreaks on the world, she’s ready to grow up, take responsibility for helping open a Door in the first place, and kick some demon butt.
Okay, and she’d also like some quality make out time with Ryan, and mortal peril is always a turn-on, right?
You can read my review here.
One of the big writer maxims is: Write what you know.
It’s advice that usually works. Do you want real action, real emotions, real consequences? Remember what you’ve done in your own life, and write it out. “Write what you know” is a classic for a reason: pour all that lust for your midnight lover into your sex scenes, add the tiny details about what it’s like to live in Boise, Idaho, and use the uncomfortable memory of what you saw a friend go through in high school for a surprise plot twist to make the reader weep. Nothing sounds more real than what is actually real.
On the other hand we do sometimes run into problems. After all, how many of us have really faced down a demon?
That’s where I think the bookend to the above maxim needs to come in. Write what you know… lie convincingly about what you don’t.
A story is nothing more than something you’ve made temporarily real for the reader–basically it is a giant lie, filled wit just enough truthful moments to make the reader give the lies the benefit of the doubt. This relationship is particularly important for fantasy, science fiction, and, for that matter, romance novels. The author is telling such an enormous whopping lie (a federation of planets, going boldly where no science has yet to make possible!; elves and witches and quests, magical objects and magical creatures; that everyone who wants one can have a happy ending) that the rest of the story had better strike to the heart of the reader with its absolute truthfulness.
Sometimes, though, you just don’t have the sort of experience necessary to “write what you know” and make the story real that way.
In my book, Salt and Silver, the main character is living in a world of demons, Doors to Hell, and sexy hunters who don’t really take her seriously. What do I know about that? Zilch. The closest I’ve come to a demon hunter is seeing the Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Van Helsing (and thinking, “wow, I want to be that when I grow up”). How am I supposed to make that real for the reader?
As any teenager who’s had to explain why she cut school or stayed out past curfew knows, the hallmark of any good lie is that it could be true. I probably wasn’t saving a kitten from a tree at midnight on a Wednesday, but I totally could have been comforting a close friend who had recently lost her grandma/broke up with her boyfriend/fought with her mother and lost track of time. (Since my mother is not reading this, I can confess: that is never what was actually going on.)
When I needed to describe something to the reader — and to myself — I pulled out what I knew, and I took the true parts, and I just rearranged all the other details around it. This leads the reader into knowing there’s a lie going on… but maybe not exactly what the lie is. Here’s one of the more literal examples of this in Salt and Silver:
I stand up and turn around–I can’t see where we came from anymore, but when I close my eyes, I can see the Door, glowing a little, but it’s really far off in the distance. It makes me think of sitting on the roof of the diner, facing Manhattan. Amanda and Stan and I did that a few times together, stared out at the skyline. Without the Twin Towers there, Manhattan could be any city, except for the bridges. But from the diner, the bridges are blurry, fuzzy, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can’t see them.
That’s what it’s like, looking at the Door across the water with my eyes shut.
The memory I have of sitting on a roof, looking out over Brooklyn and Manhattan, and missing the Twin Towers is real, and I’m giving it to the reader. And I’m using that memory–I’m using it to say, And this is what this other experience is like as well.
With something from real life to touch and understand, I’ve made it easier for the reader to accept the lie of the fantasy life my characters lead.
It’s tricky especially because, like any lie, if one bit of it fall apart, the whole structure will fall apart. The extended lies in the book build on the truth and each other, and if any one of the lies rings false, the whole book collapses, the reader throws it against the wall, and the author has failed.
The skilled author–the skilled liar–lures you into her world, carefully builds up the lies, and convinces you that while maybe there isn’t really a Door to Hell in the basement of a diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there certainly could be.
Thank you Anna Katherine for visiting Literary Escapism.
Contest Time! We’re giving away a copy of Salt and Silver to a lucky commentator and it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is answer one of these simple questions (or all of them your choice): Has there ever been a part of a story that was an unconvincing lie. Like Anna Katherine said, it’s kind of hard to write what you know in paranormal fiction, so I’m curious to hear if you’ve come across anything that wasn’t convincing enough.
The contest is open to everyone, so everyone overseas can join in the fun as well.
As always, if you want more chances to win, you can post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer (in the same post). The more places you share it, the more entries you get.
For 2 more entries, purchase either anything through LE’s Amazon store sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: myjaxon AT gmail DOT com.
Join the Literary Escapism Facebook page and you’ll get an additional entry (for each page). Make sure you leave a comment so I know that’s why you’re joining. Only new readers to the group will be considered.
For 2 additional entries, subscribe to Literary Escapism’s newsletter in the sidebar. This is for new subscribers only.
I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer. All entries must be in by midnight on June 16th.