Saturday, April 9, 2011

LOVELESS: The Story Behind the Book

“When are you going to write something nice, Ray? Something I can read? When you are you going to write a love story?”

This has been the mantra of my family for decades. None of them reads horror fiction. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that none of them reads. To hear them tell it, the main reason they don’t read is that I have not yet written something nice that they can read. Something like a love story!

The fact is, I’ve written many love stories. Nearly every one of my novels contains a love story – even my horror novels, although Loveless: A Dark Love Story isn’t one of those. Of course, they’re not the kind of love stories my family would consider nice. The kind of love story they’re talking about is the kind of thing Nicholas Sparks writes. And if they’re waiting for me to write one of those ... well, all I’ve got to say is, pack a few sandwiches and get really, really comfortable, because it’s going to be a long wait.

My novel Loveless: A Dark Love Story is the kind of love story I write. I can’t help it. It’s out of my hands. Everything I write, even if it’s meant to be funny, takes a dark turn or two or three at one point or another. If it didn’t, it would feel dishonest to me. I think fiction should be a reflection of reality, not a distortion of it. In my horror fiction, things happen that have nothing to do with reality – people turn into werewolves, vaginas have fangs, spiders the size of Volkswagen Beetles eat people. But all of these things happen in an environment that is firmly grounded in reality.

Lots of good things happen in life. Wonderful things. They happen to all of us at one time or another. But bad things happen, too. They happen to good people for no other reason than ... well, for no reason. They just do. There’s a quote I love from Lawrence Kasdan’s sadly underrated 1991 film Grand Canyon. It’s delivered by Danny Glover:

“World’s a hard place. Sometimes you just get lucky. And, of course, sometimes you don’t. One thing’s for sure is that if you’re alive, some terrible shit’s gonna happen to you, and maybe some good things, too. But you can always count on the terrible. If it doesn’t kill you, you’re gonna be around to see it come down some other way.”

Some will say that’s an awfully pessimistic attitude. I think there’s a good chance those people enjoy the work of Nicholas Sparks. I think it’s an awfully realistic attitude. And a healthy one. I guess that’s reflected in my fiction. Bad things happen to good people for no reason. What’s wrong with facing up to that fact early on so you’re not surprised by it later? What’s important is how we deal with those bad things. Dealing with them is a lot easier when you have someone you love – and someone who loves you – by your side. And for me, that’s where the love stories come in.

Loveless is a love story about two lonely people. One of them is Amy Grady. For 16 years, she’s been married to her husband Roy, a man whose unpredictable anger and violence can explode at any moment, a man who slaps, punches and kicks her, and a man she no longer loves. Their teenage son Danny has been living with this tension all his life and it has taken a toll. The other lonely person is Walter Loveless, who has just moved in next door to Amy. He has been living a life of secrecy and isolation for so long that he is almost unaware of his loneliness anymore because it has become such a part of him.

Amy watches him – handsome, rugged – but is too shy to speak to him. But when they are finally brought together, electricity crackles between them and the attraction is instantaneous and powerful. But Loveless has secrets and a past that haunts him. Someone from that past – someone deadly – is still pursuing him. When Amy decides to escape her own past, she runs headlong into his.

Loveless: A Dark Love Story was first published in 2008 with my novel Murder Was My Alibi in a single limited edition from Lonely Roads Books that has become known as the Arthur Darknell Double because it was published under a pseudonym I intended to use for crime fiction, an idea I have since abandoned. Now it is available from Open Road Media in paperback and as an ebook for Kindle and Nook, and as an audiobook from Audible.  For more information about my work and to keep up with new releases, visit my website at RayGartonOnline.


  1. I'm reminded of Christopher Hitchens' remarks about when he was told he has esophageal cancer. He wrote that many people, in such a situation, would cry out to God and ask, "Why ME?!" He said his question is more like, "Why NOT me?" So many seem to have the attitude that bad things happening in their lives are due to the attack of either dark forces (or perhaps a good force testing them...doesn't sound like all that good of a force to me!).

    I like your version of a love story better. A little more realistic.

  2. Thanks, Beth! I just discovered your blog! ~(:-D

  3. I have far more empathy for fiction characters that are flawed and yet deeply humane than I do for the Barbies and Kens that constantly get mass manufactured as our American cultural icons.

  4. I like reading your blogs and other post precisely because of your honesty. Thanks for this. Ha my mom'll probably say the same thing if I'm ever published, she also doesn't read anything.

  5. As much as you cannot help writing dark fiction, I am incapable of reading much of anything else in terms of fiction. The "nice" stuff, the family stuff, the "real" stuff bores me to tears, and always has. That's not reality to me, and that's why we need writers like you.

  6. Ray, can't wait to read this. I'm a big fan of your writing! Hope you're well!