Revenge and Tragedy are two of my favourite themes and plotlines in fiction, and that's undoubtedly why both are recurring motifs in my own stories and novels, and as the most famous revenge plot illustrates – Shakespeare’s Hamlet – revenge and tragedy are inextricably linked.
The desire for revenge is a natural human instinct, but a compulsion that is quite rightly a taboo within both civilised society and religion. Murder, the ultimate revenge, the taking of another’s life in vengeance for a perceived terrible wrongdoing is the most heinous of crimes.
Revenge is one of the oldest human urges and often is used as the prelude to tragedy, and so using it as a theme in a novel, play or poem, it stands up there as a premise which will always throw up questions, encourage debate, and cause angst – for both the writer and the reader. However, the denouement to the act of retribution can never be a happy one, unless there is remorse, an element of punishment and therefore, salvation.
The basic human desire to ‘put right’ a wrongdoing is powerful, and entrenched into the human psyche, and why it is, I believe, a storyline which is hard for the writer to resist. There can be no revenge without repercussions, and these consequences set up the inciting incident, the tragedy, and framework for the narrative.
Another theme I explore in my stories and novels is maternal love – the strongest of human emotions. This is the motif and the underlying premise in Falling Suns. Rachel adores her son, although in the opening chapters we sense that this has not been enough for her; she both wants and needs to return to her job, and with this realisation the seed is sown that Joe’s disappearance is somehow her fault.
In the early stages of planning my story, and with the theme of uncompromising maternal love imprinted inside my mind, I conjectured how I could turn this trope upside down and push it inside out, examining how a mother’s good and nurturing love can transform into the opposite.
I knew I had to explore both.
When I first began to outline the plot for Falling Suns, I did wrestle with myself. Could I possibly have a protagonist, and maintain my readers’ sympathy for her when she is planning revenge and cold-blooded murder?
In the comfort of our own home, I’m certain that many of us have had the thought, if he/she did that to one of mine I’d want revenge on that person, although fortunately, this scenario rarely becomes a reality – that the person saying the sentence would actually be placed within the tragic circumstances to carry out such a threat.
But what if you were placed in that position? What if your child was brutally murdered by a person whom, in time, you were able to confront, and ultimately take your revenge upon – by taking the murderer’s life. What if you possessed all the tools, the emotional and mental strength to do what only others could imagine? What if?
This was my premise for Falling Suns: Rachel Dune, the distraught and grieving mother, plans her revenge on the man who has been placed in a psychiatric unit for the brutal murder of her son. But as the story unfolds, Rachel starts to unearth from the depths of her consciousness her own past, and begins to question if revenge will appease her grief, because what can soothe the grief of a mother’s loss of her child? Although as the story moves forward, it becomes apparent there are other variables at play for Rachel, and it is not until she is able to explore these other factors that Rachel acknowledges the flaws in her plan, as well as the defects within her own family.
For Rachel, revenge is a need and a need that has the potential to destroy her. It is a desire which can only end in tragedy, although ultimately, it is not the tragedy which Rachel anticipates. It is the tragedy of her past and all that lives there.
I have written other novels in the thriller genre, and in several subsequent books I’ve also weaved a historical thread into my tales. However, looking through my work I can see how all of my stories have one common theme – revenge, tragedy, and the maternal bond.