As part of the blog tour for his book, A Thoughtful Woman, today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from K.T. Findlay with you. Many thanks K.T. for taking the time to do this, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour. Before I hand you over to the man himself, here are all the details about A Thoughtful Woman.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but where’s the fun in that?
Artist Sally Mellors has planned the perfect revenge, but with two secret agents on her tail, and her best friends running the police investigation, getting away with murder is going to be tricky…
Everybody loves Sally. She’s a funny, generous, warm hearted friend, without a nasty bone in her body.
Unknown to her friends, Sally’s discovered another side to herself, cool headed and relentless, as she hunts down the three men who killed her husband. But Sally’s not the only one with an interest in the trio. Unknown to her, two agents have arrived in town, urgently hunting a missing man and his diary, which could blow their organisation apart. Their best leads are the very men that Sally’s hunting, and she’s getting in the way…
The inspiration behind A Thoughtful Woman.
The justice system is an intriguing beast. We expect it to be fair, which is why we allow it to resolve our disputes instead of simply taking revenge ourselves, but watch an individual case play out in court and it can seem more like a high stakes game between lawyers than the pursuit of absolute truth. And if you think it’s a game, do you still accept the result if you lose? Is that still justice? At what point will a perfectly normal, perfectly decent person snap, and what happens when they do? Is it possible to plunge into the darkness of revenge and remain the normal, decent happy person you were before you started? Sally Mellors is about to find out.
Now, I will hand you over to K.T. Findlay to share his thoughts on what it is to be “normal.”
“Goodness me, that’s just not normal!”
Well, perhaps before we decide if that’s true, we should make sure we know what the word normal actually means.
NORMAL Definition 1 – A normal variety of something; esp. a sound, healthy, or unimpaired person.
NORMAL Definition 2 – Conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural
NORMAL Definition 3 – A person who conforms and blends in with society; one who expresses no elements of individuality; flat and boring; extremely straight and perpendicular person; cannot cope easily with chaos; could also be described as the living dead; does not dare express over the top displays of emotion in case they might be seen to be mad.
The first two definitions are from dictionaries. The third is from “the county of Bonkershire”, a group of people with a variety of mental health issues who are trying to reclaim some of the older, more useful words for madness that have been turned into terms of abuse since they were originally conceived. You can see and hear them talking with comedian Jo Brand in Series 2, episode 1 of Victoria Coren Mitchell’s Balderdash and Piffle TV series.
Human beings are naturally tribal in nature, or at least most of them are. They cluster together into groups, either little or large, and by definition, anyone outside the group is excluded to some degree or another. These groups often come up with various cultural or behavioural elements they require of their members, to consistently prove their loyalty and commitment to the group. These can be as simple as saying hello instead of hi, as arcane as Victorian middle class manners, or enforce critical hygiene practices such as only eating with your right hand, maintain religious orthodoxy as in going to church on Sunday, right the way up to mutilating yourself or your children.
This is normal. Oh dear… There’s that word again!
The word normal can very easily become a weapon when it’s used to place people deliberately outside the group. “You’re not normal!” But all it really means is that “You’re not one of us.”
Perhaps the real definition of normal could be more along the lines of: “That which me and mine sincerely believe, use, eat, drink and do most of the time.” And that makes the word normal very personal indeed, to the person saying it. It makes the third definition in the list at the top of this article perfectly valid, because it’s that group’s definition. Whatever you yourself might think about that!
So it’s very context specific. Normal food for someone living in rural China in the nineteenth century would be quite different to normal food for a German peasant in the same period, which would be different again for a German noble in the eighth century. The word normal only works if you understand the context in which it’s being used.
You might think that this is all a little bit academic, but it can have real world consequences. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM, is the handbook used in the USA and much of the rest of the world as the authoritative guide to diagnosing mental disorders. It offers descriptions, symptoms and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. Fair enough you might say, but of course it changes quite dramatically over time as society evolves its view as to what it considers to be natural, and what it views as an aberration worthy of treatment.
This is all fertile ground for an author to walk over, because every single character in their books will have their own definition of what normal means to them. Even the best and closest of friends may suddenly discover that their pal has a weird side, and isn’t anywhere near as normal as they thought they were! “I mean, the fellow actually has a monthly bath! Shockingly dangerous… he’ll be dead by Christmas, just you see!”
So while it’s normally not normal to think about normal, it’s good for an author to make sure that their character’s normal. Or not.
Many thanks K.T. for that fascinating insight, and for taking the time to share it with us all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
K.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.