The recent events in Aurora, Colorado have scared me and left me shaken to my core.
It’s not just that two weeks before I’d attended a midnight premiere with my own family and now can’t seem to separate that happy memory from the images of carnage I see when I read the survivors’ accounts. No, it’s more than my sadly selfish and ridiculously human reaction, “It could’ve been me!”
It’s also more than the inescapable conclusion that this latest horror story will continue to repeat itself until our society takes significant steps towards enlightened position that have proven elusive: The understanding that mental illness is not an expression of evil or a shameful lack of personal control, but a real disease that is every bit as terrible and tragic as any physical malady—and deserving of the same level of care and sympathy. The admission that in the history of that tired debate there has never been a single example of a “good guy” protecting himself from seventy “bad guys”—automatic weapons are for massacres, not self-defense. The simple realization that even the smallest of cruelties can have a devastating cumulative effect.
No, it’s not just that. What’s really frightened me about the events that have played out in Aurora, Colorado is that they were “inspired” at least to some extent by a work of fiction.
My debut novel, Blues Highway Blues, is the first of a three book story-cycle that addresses—in addition to other themes—the inescapable whirlpool of destruction that pulls a violent man down to his own destruction. But how to show that dark journey or make that hopeful point without depicting acts of violence?
And so Blues Highway Blues is a book with scenes of brutality. More than a few. And the second book in the series, Rock Island Rock, in which the hero must descend further down his path of damnation to face “the long night of the soul,” is even darker, with scenes of more explicit violence, scenes that I’d written out of what I’d honestly felt (prior to Aurora) was a necessity of artistic expression.
But tonight I’m scared. I’m scared to write.
Like every writer I sit at my keyboard with complete control over everything I create in my universe. And yet I am humbled by the knowledge that once I press “send” and push that creation out into the real world, I surrender that control over my work to whatever audience might find it.
Maybe that will be someone who’ll “get” my point about our violent nature and will understand the purpose of depicting scenes of violence to advance my story. Or maybe they’ll miss my point completely and erroneously conclude that I’m trying to glorify violence. But maybe—my new nightmare—it might be someone of distorted perception who finds a spark of inspiration in my depictions of personal destruction. And that dark thought scares me.
Whether it’s someone of Christopher Nolan’s stature or someone like…well, me…all artists reflect our society to make commentary on it. Other times we simply create fantastical alternate worlds for no other reason but to offer escape from the undeniable pressures and often arbitrary cruelty of the real thing. But whatever our motivation or intentions, tragic events once again force us to reconsider what responsibility we have for our creations. If the pen is mightier than the sword, what is the degree of culpability when that weapon finds itself in the wrong hands?
I don’t have the answer to that question. I have no idea how I’m going to handle the next chapter of a manuscript due at the end of August. I suppose I will get up tomorrow morning, sit down at my desk, and face that challenge then. I only know that tonight—unable to scrub the bloody details of the tragedy in Aurora from my psyche—I am simply too scared to write.
Tonight I’m going to power down the laptop. I’m going to go into my son’s room and watch him sleep for a moment and then climb into bed next to my wife. I’m going to hold on tight and thank whoever will listen for those precious and fragile moments. And then I am going close my eyes and hope with everything that I’ve got that the wrong person never reads my work.
Eyre Price was raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Price was an attorney for more than fifteen years before leaving the practice of law to become a stay-at-home dad. He lives in central Illinois with his wife and son. An avid fan of all genres of American music, Blues Highway Blues is Price’s debut novel. See more of Eyre Price at http://www.eyreprice.net/
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at email@example.com.)