(art:Eric G. Thompson)
Today I want to do something that I normally never do: I want to talk about one of my books and explain. I firmly believe that an author should never do that. We write the stories, and the explaining, interpreting, discussing, belongs to the readers.
Today, though, because I've been asked a couple of times about it, I'm going to explain something.
Jon, in The Distant Shore, calls Naomi "little beast" from time to time, and he uses it as a nickname, as an endearment. Some readers have complained that it can't possibly be an endearment, their relationship is way to intense and way too complicated for such a silly phrase.
Well, that's exactly it.
The term "little beast" is born at a crucial point in their relationship. They've just found each other again after many years apart, and after a very tense day during which they carefully wade through their past and the pain it brought to both of them, this is the first time ease and a trace of humor blossom, and it's clear that Jon and Naomi really can and want to build a future.
Here's the scene I'm talking about:
In a lighter tone, Jon asked, “So what did Joshua say when you told him? What do you think he will say when we meet?”
“Oh, he’s seen you. We were at your concert in London. We had really good seats. Third row, right in the center. You looked down often enough.”
It took a long while to digest this. He had not seen her, but he felt as if he should have sensed her closeness, even amid the many thousands of others.
“And what did Joshua say?”
There was laughter in her eyes. “He said you were a chick’s man and no self-respecting teenager should be forced to listen to you. He thought your shirt was disgusting. I didn’t think it was that hot, either. And the tickets were incredibly expensive. You should be ashamed of yourself. Sean was good, though. I love his bone-dry rendition of The River. It’s really sexy. And he looks sexy playing it.”
“You little beast. You were truly there and never tried to see me? You were just sitting there, watching me bawl out my heart, and never did anything? And then you talk to me about how sexy Sean is? I’ll fire him immediately!”
Jon uses "little beast" to respond to Naomi's teasing about his friend and musical director, Sean, to show that the mood has indeed lightened, and he feels secure enough to tease her back.
"Little beast" is not the sweetest of endearments. It sounds rough, slightly off-putting, it's not a nickname that invites tenderness.
Naomi is not an easy woman to live with. She's sensitive, moody, reserved, and she has a tendency to be negative in her view of the world. She's easily spooked by difficulties, and she hates being public. And yet she's willing to marry a rock star, a man so famous he can't walk down the street without being recognized. Her love for Jon outweighs everything. Once she has overcome her doubts she's ready to jump from a cliff for her love. And Jon recognizes that. He feels secure enough in their love to give her a name that's fun.
And that's what it is: fun. It's a code word for them, a reminder of the moment when they realize that even though they were apart for seventeen years, even though their parting was painful beyond measure, they will be together, and this time, forever.
So there. "Little beast" explained.
I know – as every author does – that my writing or my choice of words doesn't please everyone. And that's as it should be. Books and stories are a matter of taste, like anything else in the world.
It's fascinating to read comments on my books on Amazon, and it's even more fascinating to see that what one reader loves and embraces will be completely rejected by another.
It's also fascinating to see when a reader identifies with my characters and says, "YES! That's how my husband and I talk to each other, too!" and someone else says, "Normal people don't talk that way!"
it shows me that I got it right, and it also shows me how different readers are as human beings.
Everything is as it should be.
And I'm a very happy author!