Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dark Night of the Soul

A lot of people ask me if the Shadow Fox series is YA. They usually get a resounding "No!" along with a look of horror. If they have an older teenager (or are an older teen themselves), I usually tell them I don't recommend anyone under 17 reading the series. It's not that the first book is that bad; I'd say some mature 15-year-olds could handle the first one. It's the sequels, and particularly the third book, that I'm concerned about. I have a rating system for anyone who asks. Shadow Fox is PG-13, Fox Rising is R, and Night of the Fox is NC-17. I haven't been too worried about the third book until, of course, it came out last week. Now I'm starting to get nervous.

It's a lot for an author to ask his or her readers to care about the "hero" when he's committed an unthinkable crime. Heroes are supposed to rescue, not terrorize. However, books shouldn't just reflect the lighter side of human nature. People screw up and make bad choices. They're driven by obsessions and haunted by past traumas. If they've been victimized, they often perpetuate the abuse, sometimes even switching into the role of the victimizer. One of my favorite themes to visit as a writer is the path that a victim of childhood abuse chooses as an adult. Usually I will have two people who have been victimized and showcase what happens when one chooses to perpetuate the abuse, and the other gains strength and wisdom from the experience. I understand that my portrayal of these choices will make some people really uncomfortable, but I want it known that this does not stem from an exploitative or perverse motive. I had a point to make that as awful as Jared's genetic disease is, his psychological issues are worse. As a reviewer so poignantly pointed out, "There are no monsters to blame the evil on, just the human soul and the depths to which it can sink." The inherent message which I hope will come across despite all the ugliness, is that we all have the power to self-destruct or not, and we can't use our traumatic pasts as excuses for depravity.

If you've come on the journey with me so far, I hope you'll hang in there to see it through to the end. I promise that there will be a lot of incredible things that happen on the way, not just the traumatic ending. I also promise that my next fantasy will be much lighter fare; I think we could all use a breather.

Many thanks to Darkiss Reviews who just gave me the most amazing review of this final volume, along with hope that the message will get through after all.

Ashley J. Barnard
Dark Fantasy with a Contemporary Twist


Jude Johnson said...

Ashley, you have a masterful series here. I read Night of the Fox and yes, it was disturbing but more because of how much I had become emotionally involved with your complex characters. I've told you I had dreams about them after I finished the story. This tale stays with you, makes you think, and lingers in your thoughts for quite a while after you finish. Happy la la totally pat endings don't make that kind of impression for me. Well done, Ms. Barnard.
And I think your rating system is spot on.


Creepy Query Girl said...

huh- this sounds like it has a really unique spin and cast of characters and there's nothing wrong with writing for adults and making it known that it isn't meant for teens under a certain age.

Linda Kage said...

OMG, Jude. I had dreams too! One night, it was really hard to sleep after reading a certin part.

Great book, great series, but yeah, not meant for younglings! It's pretty hard core stuff, but my oh my, is it gripping.

Ashley Barnard said...

Wow -- "Welcome to my nightmare" seems very appropriate!; ) Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

TKToppin said...

I'm still reading it, nearing the end. Have to say that I'm enjoying it immensely, dark stuff and all. I have to agree with everyone here, in that not all tales are light and airy with happily-ever-afters. And depending on how it's written, can be addictively absorbing and taps into our natural interest for the dark stuff. As the saying goes: 'S**t happens.'