There’s a simple question at the end here for folks who have read Beyond the Will of God.
When I started to seriously write Beyond the Will of God back in 1993, I knew where the book was going to take the reader. I knew that there were questions I’ve always had about altered states of consciousness and the power of music. I had some weird adventures late at night back in the 1970s. Adventures in my mind. Adventures that needed to be turned into an intriguing story.
But I didn’t know how to get the story to where I knew it had to go. [I promise there is no spoiler in this brief essay]. The first scene I wrote is part of the first third of the book. It came out of nowhere for me. I woke up one New Year’s Day and sat down in front of my new Mac II. I wrote one sentence: “His vision has that vibrating feel to it, like his eyes are being massaged with electricity.”
And then another: “In the distance, through the humidity, ribbons of watery light look like Technicolor shower curtains strung one after the other into 120-degrees of rippling physical distance, overlapping ever so slightly in rainbow flashes, glistening in a sun made for teenagers and movie directors – neon orange, fluorescent lime, metallic blue, purple, aquamarine, magenta and yellow.”
I had no idea why I wrote this. It was an extremely intense moment, to be honest. I knew the guy was weird and had secrets and that he might be connected to all the conspiracies that had ever been. That was it.
So Beyond the Will of God got its inception as a mystery. But I knew it was going to go way out there as a story. I wanted it to. I wanted it to be a kind of funhouse fictional ride for Boomers and Boomers’ kids who “get it.” I knew that it had elements of being a thriller as well and that it would also deserve to be called a science fiction story or at least speculative fiction. Once I completed the novel and had sent it off to agents and publishers (2000 – 2002), I learned that some folks thought the thing had signs of paranormal activity. Recently, my good friend and colleague, Paula Silici, has pointed out that you gotta throw in magical realism as a category, too. I like this last description. However, most e-book consolidators — certainly Amazon — don’t give you “magical realism” as a category.
Here’s the problem, though. Genre classifications are in many ways considered the first and fundamental rule of marketing a piece of fiction. Writers like me who offer up stories that are hybrids or that move from one genre to the next are told we have to lock into something. Check out this article on that issue.
The full title for this story is Beyond the Will of God: A Jill Simpson Mystery. So, obviously, I’ve decided to categorize my interesting tale of intrigue and secrecy as a mystery. But here’s the question: Is it really a good thing to classify this crazy story as a mystery? I think most people like mysteries, and they love kind of following along and puzzling things out. But at the same time this story deals with quite a lot of other stuff on a whole bunch of somewhat odd levels. A book in the mystery section of Borders (poor Borders) isn’t going to appeal to my crazy zombie loving friends; nor is it going to appeal to folks I know who love music and are still hooked on understanding the spiritual dimension of life.
I’m asking this because I am in the process of designing a print-on-demand paperback edition of Beyond the Will of God. When you design a book, when you invest in a book, the end product is not as plastic or flexible as an e-book. I need the paperbound version of Beyond the Will of God to fit into the right framework and to look like what it is — the typeface, chapter structure, cover design, back cover, etc.
So the question is, what is Beyond the Will of God?