My husband, a writer in his spare time, finds passion in mystery. I like his refined writing and the meticulous details in his novels. Yet, I had a feeling of queasiness in my stomach the first time I read a murder scene on his published novel "Confirmation Bias". Something made me feel uneasy.
I am not into horror scenes, I thought. That explains it! I tried to convince myself.
During a writers conference my husband and I attended last year, we had the pleasure to hear David Morrell’s presentation. David Morrell is the award-winning author of First Blood, the novel in which "Rambo" was created. Mr. Morrell was an excellent speaker, able to motivate the audience, especially when he started to link his writing to his personal experiences. He spoke the connection between his character (Rambo) and his own life. I listened without blinking.
“We all are damaged. We write to heal,” were David’s powerful words.
Then, on a review about Mr. Morrell’s work, I found an interesting comment.
“Anyone who studies David’s work will uncover certain themes—the search for father figures and the unveiling of murky pasts, perhaps as a fictionalized way of searching for the truth in David’s own past.” (K.J. Howe)
The writers conference brought me into an interesting reflection where writing began being more than a fun, creative activity, or a profession. I started to think more seriously about the therapeutic component in writing. Writing as a therapy, not limited to journaling—which is a tool often recommended by psychologists and counselors. On a much larger spectrum, novels, short stories, poetry, and memoirs can have a significant healing effect on the writer.
I found it interesting that Mr. Morrell made a reference to best-seller, Lee Child, expressing admiration for his work, and especially alluding to “Jack Reacher,” Lee Child’s fictional character starring in his series books.
During an interview with Lee Child regarding the difficulty to write his first book and how long it took him, he said: “I just played a psychological trick on myself... It took five months and it was really not difficult. I was in such a sort of burning rage about everything, I was just full of energy and it came quickly.”
Curious about Lee Child’s best-selling thriller series, that’s when I started reading one of his novels during a vacation in Jamaica last year. Laying on the beach, abandoned to the pleasure of reading, repressing any current worries, I engaged in the plot. It seemed like a fascinating read from page one. I was captivated by the story and charmed by Jack Reacher. But the entertainment suddenly turned into an appalling feeling. My uneasy feelings of when I read the murder scene of my husband’s novel returned at a twist in the story.
Jack Reacher’s terrifying discovery was that his brother had been murdered. Jack became outraged, revealing mixed feelings—sadness, guilt and anxious desires of revenge. I found it a dreadful scene, negatively affecting me as if it was real. I lacked understanding of what was happening to me.
It's just a novel, a work of fiction, after all. I scowled in disappointment. Why is it causing me emotional pain?
Rather than putting the book down, I took a deep breath and continued reading. The suspense as to how Jack would look for revenge got me a bit obsessed about the unfolding story.
And clenching my teeth, I hoped the crime would be punished.
I took a break when it was close to lunch time. I rested the book on my lap, and looked at the horizon with inquisitive mind. Why was Jack Reacher becoming my hero?
Deeply absorbed in thought, I felt I came now with the right question, and would hopefully arrive at the right answer.
What makes me different from the average Lee Child’s reader? I asked myself.
Then a vivid image flooded my mind, a horrific one: my cousin’s murder.