Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Heart and Soul

By Holly Lisle
© 2006,
Holly Lisle

(Originally published in Romancing the Blog)


Iíve started walking away from a lot more books than I finish.  At bare minimum, Iím looking for heart in a story ó for big problems, and the people willing to take risks and suffer setbacks to solve them.

If a book has heart, chances are Iíll finish reading it.

But for me to consider a book a keeper, or recommend it to someone else, it has to move past heart. It has to have a soul.

Most books donít. There are some cute books out there that have spunky heroines and great heroes, and I read them and like them well enough. But when I'm done, I put them down and never think about them again. They might have cost the author time and effort and sweat of brow, but during the writing, the author never ripped out her heart and bled.

You think vampire fiction is hot? Well, think of me as the vampire reader.

Iím looking for a story that is about more than its plot, more than its characters, more than its throughline. I want to be moved. I want to have the way I see the world changed. I want to find out things that I didnít know, of course ó but much more than that, I want to find the writer in her words.

The best fiction comes from a writer fighting to make sense of the universe, of life and death, love and hate, war and peace in all their mysterious forms. Writers can do this in any genre ó there is no class of books that is by its nature immune to the potential for greatness.

Nor are there writers who are immune to greatness, though the search has its price, and we try far more than we succeed.

But the hope of transmitting soul across the pages, across space and time through the magic of words printed on paper, is the essence of why most would-be writers start to write in the first place. Humans are so very temporary, so fragile, so ephemeral. The most valuable thing we as human beings can give to each other is ourselves ó our time, our experiences, our hurts and heartbreaks and the rare moments when we broke through pain to the wonder beyond. Books are magical because we can touch the hearts and souls, the thoughts and hopes and dreams, of other human beings, from every age and every place in the world. We breathe with writers who are still living, and with those who are long dead ó and when their words touch our minds, their thoughts live on us.

Fragile, middle-aged, watching a clock whose hands turn faster every day, I yearn for immortality ó to leave something behind that matters. As a writer, I believe I owe more than a good story to my readers ó at least to those readers looking for more. I owe my mistakes, my failures, my discoveries, my contribution to finding order within the chaos of existence. I owe something that the careful reader can take away after the story is done: a new view of old pain; a shard of hope found somewhere unexpected; a bit of beauty discovered among the mundane. A drop of my blood, a piece of my soul. This has to be hidden; the storyteller canít preach. The magic I hope to convey has to be visible only if the reader searches for it. Otherwise it isnít magic. The soul you see is not the true soul.

I seek as a reader the same things I seek as a writer. Passion, heart, faith, hope, courage, and soul, tucked within a framework of strong characters, a tight story, and from time to time, a good laugh.

I ask a lot. But for the writer who can deliver what I seek, I offer myself as one stone in the path to immortality. Your thoughts will live again in my mind, I will see the world through your eyes, I will believe with your heart, and I will walk away touched, forever changed ó and carrying your words with me, to pass on to the next person who will live for a while as you, long after you are dust.