What I would like to do with this post is give you some insight into A Dark Country. I would like to answer some of the questions that my readers and family and friends ask about me and my writing. I am going to give you some of the story behind the story. So to start with I’ll go with the most commonly asked question I get: “what’s the book about?”
I really don’t even want to talk about a story until it is entirely complete. And entirely complete means way beyond the rough draft, way beyond the second or even third. In this case, with A Dark Country, somewhere around the fifth revision which was still two shy of entirely complete, I changed the ending. That is the first reason I don’t like to talk about a book while I’m writing it. The second reason is I might not even finish the story. Or if I do, I may not even publish it. I may not like it. I’m sitting on five unfinished manuscripts. One of them is really good and occupies most of my conscious thought these days. It will certainly be completed, I’m not sure when, but hopefully by midsummer. Another is one I set aside when life’s challenges got in the way but I’m about half sure I’ll go back to that one sometime in the next year or two. And of the other three, one is a slim maybe, and the other two are dead. So you see why there is no point in talking about them until it is time. But now, only weeks away from publication, it’s time.
I’ve come around to finally answering the question: “what is A Dark Country about?” To start with I’ll give you my typical response for the last year and half: “it’s about a hunting guide/contractor who goes broke and sells his soul to a human devil”. In a sentence or less that is a good description, but there is obviously much more.
In my mind you can break human beings down into three groups: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Good, are people who can do no wrong. They are babies, some small children, and a handful of saints who were wired without the ability to do harm to their fellow man. Then, on the other end of spectrum, we have the Bad. Serial killers, rapists, child molesters, and the list goes unfortunately on. These are the monsters, the sociopaths who can’t empathize with the pain of their fellow man and can’t control their violent and abusive appetencies. It would appear that the list of purely evil folks goes on a little longer than the purely good, but still a very small percentage of the human population. Then there is the third group, the Ugly, which is really what our story is about. Why the Ugly? Because the vast majority of us fall into the “Ugly” category and it is after all, an ugly business being human sometimes.
So for me, A Dark Country is about a middle age man, Jack Duncan, and the struggles that come with that time of life: spouses, kids, work, the lost verve of youth, and money. Jack Duncan is a regular guy, although an interesting regular guy who has had some irregular twists of fate put him in an extraordinary position. This is our external plot, the classic story arch with a physical quest. Jack Duncan’s quest takes him from his home in the ranch country of Southwestern Montana to the deserts of Mexico and the waters, beaches, and jungles of Central America in his quest for the story’s prize.
But the more interesting story is always the story within. It’s the internal struggle in any story which makes it most interesting and typically what drives a hero or protagonist to the end of his physical quest. We’ll get into that on my next post.