When I was invited into this fine group of writers, one of the things I was asked to discuss was why I write. Certainly, I enjoy spinning a tale that will propel the reader out of one reality into another. But behind it all, at the heart of my efforts, is an attempt to learn more about myself and the world by sorting through the sum of my experiences to answer some of the deeper questions, like what does it mean to walk responsibly through the grand mystery of life? What is the deeper truth behind the mystery? In her March interview for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s online “Author Magazine,” Alice Hoffman agrees with this line of thought, saying, “I think fiction and literature is a way of trying to explain the world to ourselves.” In my thriller, The Messenger, I crawled out onto a long, thin, shaky branch to provide the reason for everything.
Yes, he said that: the reason for EVERYTHING.
As Nathan Hollister, a television reporter, recently returned from Afghanistan, confronts a world on the verge of nuclear war and a terrorist cell’s efforts to murder the entire population of Manhattan by poisoning New York’s water supply—very possible and I explore how it can be accomplished—he is visited by an angel. God, it seems, wants him to deliver a message of his own making to draw the world back from the brink. Hollister, “a doubtful agnostic, uncertain in his uncertainty,” is having difficulty with this, even after Angela, the angel, works a miracle to prove her authenticity. At one point, the conversation turns to the reason for creation and she offers the following:
“…all sentient beings have a fundamental need to understand themselves. There is no exception: man, angel, God. However, it is impossible for anyone to understand himself except within a context. That is the reason for creation. Alone, God could not say He was good, evil, large, small, wise or anything else. Compared to what? Without an other, there can be no basis for those conclusions. Consequently, God created the context. He made the universe. Made Himself into everything imaginable… As the universe unfolded, He saw every possible interaction from the moment of creation to the end of time. And since time is irrelevant to Him, in that instant He understood everything and at once knew Himself. We, however, not being timeless, must move through every second. We must live, love, struggle, suffer, learn …”
I, like Hollister, am not sold on the concept of creation, yet an intelligently contrived universe is, nonetheless, one possibility. While I have not turned The Messenger into a philosophical treatise by any means, a well-crafted story is an excellent vehicle upon which to hang some of the questions that intrigue us all at one time or another. I think, when handled well—in this case brief, at a point when the plot needs to slow so the reader can catch her breath and Angela must respond to Hollister’s cynicism—they can pull what might otherwise be a two-dimensional plot into a fleshier three. My writing business card describes my vocation as “[t]he art of suspending disbelief.”