It is the eve of my book release day, and I have been reading quotes from Chuck Palahniuk, trying to find one in particular that popped up on Instagram. I thought I had saved it. In my draft outline for my Virtual Book Release Party, I referenced it: “Insert Chuck Palahniuk quote here.” But the quote itself has vanished. I spent hours searching for it only to find thousands of mind-bending, thought-provoking Palahniuk quotes, but not the one I wanted to reference.
So, I will attempt to recreate the quote, or at least its meaning. It went something like this: Even if a writer never sells a single copy of his or her book, never makes a dime from it, that writer will have still succeeded in resolving some deep-seated personal issues that are consciously or subconsciously revealed in the book. That is what motivated the writer to write book in the first place. Those issues are worked out in the writing process. The writer can’t help it. The book is finished when those issues are resolved.
Wow. I get that. And it’s true.
I can identify two personal issues that reveal themselves as themes in Lifeline to Marionette. One is obvious—family. The character of Jason Henrey only eludes to his problems within his family: His father was shot in an argument. He talks fondly about Montana but never talks about going back. He admits that he “needed a break” from his family.
On the other hand, Michelle’s conflict with her father is the driving force behind the story. She suffered greatly while trying to meet his demands, and she continued to try until she couldn’t take it anymore. She was his brilliant prodigy and she saw herself as failing him until she realized that it was herself she was failing. The underlying theme is that of a daughter who, no matter how hard she tried, could never get the approval from her father that she hoped for. Her resolution was to give up and walk away. It was only when she realized that walking away wasn’t giving up that she began to come to terms with her relationship with her father. She left him in order to keep what was rightfully hers, and that was her talent.
Here is another related quote from Palahniuk:
“The act of writing is a way of tricking yourself into revealing something that you would never consciously put into the world. Sometimes I’m shocked by the deeply personal things I’ve put into books without realizing it.”
The second personal issue that is woven into the story has to do with trying to find my way in the world without any sense of structure or clear path within view, without a mentor or confidante. Even the most independent-minded individuals sometimes need someone to take them by the shoulders and re-calibrate them. My early twenties were nothing like Michelle’s, with one exception: nothing was unconditional.
These issues were unraveled and resolved through the writing process much the way Palahniuk said they often do: subconsciously. I did not make a conscious decision to portray Michelle’s issues with her father in such a way so as to mirror my own. Just because a writer draws from personal experience does not mean that experience is recounted verbatim. It merely becomes a subconscious inspiration. The same is true of being lost amidst opulence, of being somewhere but not belonging.
All of this is on my mind as I face the release of Lifeline to Marionette knowing that I will have to answer questions about what inspired this story and its characters. Now that the book is truly finished and I cannot go back and rewrite any part of it any more than I can go back and rewrite my own history, I think I am ready to answer questions about it.