Richard à clefJanuary 21st, 2009
by Richard Cox
Recently I wrote a novel. Well, I didn’t write the whole thing recently, but I did recently finish it, and by finish I mean I’m waiting to hear from my agent if he likes it or not. He’ll suggest changes and so will an eventual editor, so it’s not really “finished.”
In the meantime, I have sought the opinions of friends and loved ones, which is an experience both rewarding and nerve-racking. Rewarding to finally share it with people you care about, and nerve-racking because those people immediately go looking for themselves in the story, and further they conclude all opinions contained within are yours.
Matters are complicated further when you write a novel like this one, which is a sort of Roman à clef about your own life and/or the life of the famous science fiction author, Philip K. Dick. The story is also an homage to VALIS, Dick’s Roman à clef about his own life…and for those that don’t know, Dick believed he was a sort of dualistic being who lived a life in the present while simultaneously existing as someone else in ancient Rome. Dick believed these things strongly–it was the central preoccupation of the last years of his life–but he also suspected he was schizophrenic and not at all stable.
So my story begins with the protagonist living a life strikingly similar to my own, but almost immediately he realizes something is going terribly wrong. Either he’s been given a task to find the truth about his own life (and the world as a whole), or he’s hallucinating and basically losing his mind. Things spin out of control very quickly for him, and he says and does things that become increasingly reprehensible.
It’s one thing for a bunch of readers you’ve never seen and will never know to read your work, but something altogether different for your friends and loved ones. When you are intentionally trying to mirror your own life, people close to you have every right to wonder what is real and what isn’t. And yet the very point of the novel is to question the nature of reality itself, to confuse your own reality with that of a person who could be crazy, and at the same time force the protagonist to suffer through his own unique problems.
But people don’t want to hear that. No, they just look at you funny after they read it. They don’t return your calls anymore. They block you on MySpace. Drop you from Facebook.
Burglarize your house.
Lock you up in a Black Iron Prison of your own design and throw away the key forever.
Actually, I could be making up some or all of this. I could be embellishing my own experience for dramatic effect or conjuring it out of thin air. The reality is almost every novel contains elements of the author’s life, no matter how exaggerated or well-disguised.
So maybe this blog is all bullshit. Maybe I didn’t even write a novel at all.
The point is you don’t really know, do you?