Tuesday, August 9, 2011
"I'd love to read more as soon as you get rid of the incest." Sure, in most of our daily lives, having less incest is typically a good thing. Unless you've got a Play Boy Bunny sister you've never met lurking out there somewhere, I'm guessing having no incest at all is at the top of your daily goal list. And to be sure, I've never met anyone with "have sex with my sister" on his bucket list. But when your entire novel is based on a pair of teenage twins coming to grips with their incestuous secret and their feelings about one another, the quote above is hard to process.
So when I sat across from an agent who I liked a great deal after her panel presentation and certainly respected the opinion of and heard those words, I should have been devastated. The fact is, however, I anticipated such a conundrum from the beginning. Daniel Asa Rose and I had already discussed this possibility and ways to get around it. Step-sister? Adoption? Just an inner lust without action? All could work. But by eliminating the edgiest content in the novel, am I a sellout? Am I throwing away all of my artistic integrity to get published and make a buck? Certainly some would see it that way.
My response? I don't think so.
First off, my desire to get published has very little to do with making a buck...or a quarter or penny for that matter. The dream isn't about money, it's about widespread global adoration and validation--duh! Actually, the truth is that nobody can be confronted with the ideas in the novel and struggle with the moral ambiguity presented in it unless they read it. And in order for anyone other than me, my wife, my brother, a close friend, and a few people who read part of it and give up or never get back to you after begging for a chance to read it (you know those types...we've all got 'em), it has to get published.
Secondly, I think I've found a way to make sure a good portion of readers will still be uncomfortable with the subject matter and will still be forced to contemplate those same issues. They will kiss (in a drunken haze), which will still enable Allan, the protagonist, to be ostracized for his incestuous thoughts. He will still be attracted to his sister throughout, and he'll even fantasize about her and a world where they can be together forever happily. It just won't happen. Even in the original version he didn't end up with her and realized he was confused about his emotions, so the results are still the same without them actually doing the deed.
In the end, readers will get the same effect without getting myself blacklisted. Like most things in life, it's perfectly fine to have a twisted thought, we all have one from time to time, but acting on it is just unacceptable. Probably as it should be.
And as for that agent, I'm hoping once I'm convinced the changes are just right that she'll be interested in representing me. I really liked her and can easily imagine working with her on starting my career. I got a second opinion, and it was basically the same anyway, so no resentment. For now I'm making the changes to The House on Bittersweet Trail while she digests my query for Scout's Honor.
So have I sold out? I'm interested in hearing what y'all have to say.