Heart and Soul
By Holly Lisle
published in Romancing the Blog)
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.
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