So you can read my books

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


A book which explains the symbolism and themes in 
the last book in the Odd Thomas Series.

I was sitting at my table in Meilori's, reading a glowing review of my novel, RETURN OF THE LAST SHAMAN ...

and shaking my head at the last line, 

"There’s quite a bit of philosophical talk and thoughts in this story. I mention this only for the people who may not like that."

From out of the shadows, Dean Koontz sat in the chair opposite me with his beloved Golden Retriever, Anna, at his side.

He stretched over the table and read the line and sighed, 

"Roland, in recent years, the thing that has most surprised me when I’m talking to aspiring writers

 is that when I ask them what their books are about, other than its story, they are baffled by the question. 

When I talk about theme, they say such things as “I’m a storyteller, I don’t write message fiction.”

I nodded, "I get that a lot, too."

Mr. Koontz shook his head. "A theme is not necessarily–or even often–a message. 

A theme is an aspect of the human experience that fascinates the writer and that the writer feels compelled to explore. 

If you’re pushing a message, the story is concocted to sell that message.

 When you’re letting a theme develop, the theme–and the characters who embody it–will shape the story in ways you could never have imagined beforehand. 

A message story is planned and executed like a military operation. 

A story exploring a theme or themes is organic, moving where the unanticipated actions of the characters might take it, often to the surprise of the author."

He petted Anna.  
"Every novel does not have a theme.  Only event tumbling after event.  But why aspire to such a low level of accomplishment?"

I made a face.  "That has always been my thought, but my books aren't selling."

Mr. Koontz raised a forefinger.   


But if your story is about something in addition to the events that occur therein, something that in fact has shaped those events in an organic fashion, it will have greater resonance, 

it will feel more substantial to the reader, and it will haunt the reader after the last page has been turned, sometimes long after. This is the quality that makes agents and editors take notice."

He ruffled Anna's ears and turned to me.  "What is the theme in your RETURN OF THE LAST SHAMAN?"

I pulled on my right ear lobe.  

"I guess it is best expressed by a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: 
'Unearned suffering is redemptive.'  

And that at the end of the day ... or the world ... it is only friendship and love that  truly matters."

"Not a bad theme, Roland," he said, getting up and walking into the shadows of Meilori's.

He called out from the darkness, 

"But don't expect a review from me.  I do that, and the ghost of Mark Twain will never let me hear the end of it!"

{For more of what Dean Koontz feels about writing: 


  1. I never plan a theme. They just seem to happen.

  2. Yes, I think a theme will develop from the story. Sometimes, you don't even know it until the story's done.

    I like very much the "Yet." that Mr. Koontz has expressed at your comment about your stories not selling. I'm sure he's right. :-)

  3. Alex:
    The theme to our novels is mostly the theme to our worldview I believe. :-)

    Our worldview shapes the form of our story, and our worldview echoes the theme of our lives.

    Let's hope Mr. Koontz is right, but darn the man, a review from him would have helped! :-)

  4. The theme is always at the heart of the story, and you wisely have themes.

    Koontz is brilliant at writing bestselling books, but I have mixed feelings about his stories. One problem is that in his books the characters are absolutely, totally good or evil, amoral rat bastards. There's no subtlety and no deep and complex human beings, just types. This is where Stephen King, in contrast, excels -- he can give even an antagonist/semi-bad character a redemptive trait and the good guy a very human fault, or several faults, but he still makes us root for him.