Dear Beverly

*click on title for image

Dear Beverly,

Please excuse the impersonal formality of typing, but I am used to writing ideas in this way. Tapping fingers facilitate my thoughts, while holding a pen slows me down. This is a shame perhaps. Anyway, thank you for the unexpectedly quick reading of my manuscript, <em>Crystal From The Hills, and for generously giving your time to this project. Again, I am truly grateful.
I thought I’d respond to one or two items in your notes, starting with an explanation of the Shadow concept, as that seemed to intrigue you in particular. As you know, or heard from Letha, providing psychotherapy is my day job. Actually, it’s more like an afternoon and evening job, and writing generally starts around eleven at night and lasts for a couple of hours. That’s my life currently. For many years, I have been influenced by psychoanalytically-derived models of psychotherapy, though not specifically Jungian models. In Carl Jung’s concept, the Shadow is roughly equivalent to the Freudian unconscious, with a negative inflection. The Shadow represents the undesirable or denied aspects of self, but also the source of creativity.
A Jungian might interpret Chris Leavitt’s drama as follows: his “Shadows” represent the denied aspects of his self, both from Chris’ point of view, and that of society (It thinks him crazy). I wouldn’t quibble with the Jungian interpretation, but I see Chris more as a victim of recent and chronic trauma. Secrecy, as a way of being in relationships and preserving homeostasis, is simply transported into his present drama. Modern psychoanalysts observe trauma more directly than their Freudian forebears. They assert that survivors need witnesses, external or internalized; therapists or others who will not only acknowledge reality, but in so doing show caring, and hold individuals accountable for responsible action.
Chris is torn between his loyalty to those who compel secrecy, both past and present, and his hidden need for reality. Meanwhile, he hungers for an original “me” that once lived happily without conflict. That aspect of himself is frozen in time, unavailable to his adult self, which is why he craves a return to childhood, and distorts matters of time and age as if they were toys to be played with. Chris is still being bullied by peers. He still has difficulty sharing and playing with others. Like all victims of trauma, he needs witnesses, and though he has some (Aunt Jenny, and more serendipitously, Sweet, or even Costman, Aunt Jenny’s gardner), he is or has been swayed by darker, more powerful models: his ever secretive parents, the innocence subverting, misanthropic Weed. The shadows are witnesses of his own unconscious invention: there to mediate in the space where real-life witnesses have let him down. But it’s not a simple task. Before he can make healthy use of the shadows, he must decide if they are real and beneficent, or imaginary, or malevolent. I think this is the drama of CFTH: a man with an underdeveloped conscience externalizes his conflict, and plays out a war with himself.
Ultimately, I think he is a resilient character. The story’s climax delivers him into reality, where he needn’t further rebel against adulthood with childish action. There seems to be hope for him in the end as he contemplates a re-commitment to his working life, the possibility of working with kids, accessing the child in himself in a more flexible, wholesome fashion. Perhaps he will even have kids one day.
You’ve made numerous comments in the margins of the manuscript, all of which I appreciate. My attention is drawn to the need for a good copyediting, but also a reconsideration of diction in several places, and of ideas, or narrative fragments that are unnecessarily repeated. You also make several important comments about words, actions, and descriptions that seem to not fit the situations indicated. Or the words don’t fit the characters sometimes, especially in the case of Aunt Jenny. My re-write will incorporate this feedback.
You’ve asked about the target audience for the book. This is an area where I am currently getting feedback, both from friends and other writers. This weekend I will be attending a workshop in San Francisco that will focus upon marketing of writing. For the time being, I’ve considered that my audience will be youngish, interested in either mystery or psychological fiction, or the travails of substance users or the mentally ill. At the same time, I hope to find a way to pitch the novel so that readers can identify with Chris Leavitt; not just think of him as disturbed, separate, and therefore different from others. Many will know what it is to be traumatized, alienated or lost in an unconsciously functioning, toxic system, be it a family, a workplace, or a community at large. I think the book will speak to these readers, if I can reach them.

Thanks again. Sincerely,

Graeme Daniels

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