Monday, November 29, 2010

A VERY SIMPLE CRIME



I had the pleasure of reading a fabulous book this month, A VERY SIMPLE CRIME by Grant Jerkins. Grant explores a few hot topics, including mental illness in a marriage, extreme sibling rivalry, and just how far people will go to get what they desire. I was compelled to reach out to Grant, hoping that he would join us in the lair and share some of his thoughts about these fascinating facets of his novel and I'm thrilled he agreed. Please welcome talented author Grant Jerkins!!!
Thank you all for the opportunity to play a small role in this community you’ve created here. I’ll talk a little bit about the book and answer any questions.
The effect of mental illness on a marriage and the portrayal of sibling rivalry at its most extreme are two aspects of A VERY SIMPLE CRIME that early readers have commented on, so I thought it might be worth exploring those two themes.
To peer into a marriage, I think we have to first look at the two halves that make up the whole. For me, this story started with Adam Lee, and the novel opens with Adam on trial, accused of murdering his wife. I can’t say that Adam is based on me, because he is not, but he did spring out of an incident from my childhood.

My bedroom then was in the basement of our house, and one night I got up to go to the bathroom. I didn’t bother to turn on the light because I knew the way upstairs. I’d made the trip a thousand times before. That night, though, I grew conscious of the pitch darkness and became disoriented. I got lost. I had a little panic attack. A mini melt down. I just stood there and screamed my head off until someone heard me and turned on a light. It was just one of those weird experiences we all have as kids.

Somehow, in thinking about that incident, my mind latched onto the idea of a man who was never able to escape the darkness, that it infected every aspect of his life. And Adam Lee was born.

From there, I got to wondering what it would be like if someone such as Adam got married. Started a family. What kind of woman would he be attracted to? Enter Rachel Lee.
From the start, Rachel is portrayed as someone with mental illness. There is evidence of suicidal gestures, depression, and manipulation of others through self-injurious behavior. If we had to put down a diagnosis, it would probably be Borderline Personality Disorder; so-called because the person straddles the line between neurosis and psychosis, and it is hallmarked by the symptoms described above.

Up front, Adam admits to us that this is what he wants in a wife. “Can I admit it now?” he asks. “Can I acknowledge that on some level, even then, that I was attracted to her mental illness? Certainly it was there, like a badge of achievement for all to see. I saw it, stretched and pink edged across her wrist, and I responded to it. Darkness is drawn to darkness.”
So, what we end up with is a toxic stew of a marriage, because clearly, Adam has his “issues” as well, and what those issues are make up the meat of the story as he is investigated for Rachel’s murder.

One of those issues is Adam’s relationship with his older brother, Monty. One Amazon Vine reviewer said “Adam Lee and his brother Monty are some real tales from the dark side.” and I would have to agree with that. One brother is portrayed as existing in the dark (Adam) while the other is described as being of the light (Monty, right down to his Aryan physical features.) They are flip sides of the same coin. Opposite, but the same. Each wants what the other has, and would seemingly do anything to possess it. Much like his marriage, Adam’s relationship with his brother is far from clear-cut. And it all seems to stem from a boyhood incident, a secret the two brothers covered up. A secret, as James M. Cain once put it, too terrible for two people to share.

And it could be that whatever it was that happened to him as a boy has caused the adult Adam to be drawn to broken women, to women who are “crippled inside”
Is it worth pondering, when we sit down and take inventory of our own lives, of our own relationships--and we find that we are not satisfied with what we have--to ask ourselves to what degree is it our own fault?

If your husband drinks too much and grows violent, were the signs of his alcoholism there from the start? And were you drawn to that? Is that why you picked him?
If your spouse is verbally abusive and uses humiliation to control you, was the seed of that behavior always there? And is it possible you recognized it, and you were drawn to it?
If your wife has slid into a constant state of suspicion and near-paranoid jealousy, could it be that you recognized that potential in her from your very first date? And on some level that is what you wanted for yourself?

Uncomfortable questions, to be sure.

KJ back again. Grant, fascinating thoughts. I'd love to hear how the readers would answer your probing questions. Does anyone know of any real life tales you could share?

If you would like to learn more about Grant, the book, or the upcoming film project based on A VERY SIMPLE CRIME, please visit his website: www.grantjerkins.com

The winner of the Writer’s Network Screenplay and Fiction competition, Grant Jerkins’s first novel, A Very Simple Crime, was selected from well over two thousand entries to take the top honors. The novel has since been optioned for film by the writing/producing team of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (At Close Range, Reversal of Fortune,) and Audrey Kelly, publisher of Fade In: magazine. The film is currently in pre-production with Barbet Schroeder attached to direct. This will mark the first pairing of Schroeder and Kazan since their landmark, Oscar-winning film, Reversal of Fortune.

Grant lives with his wife and son in the Atlanta area where he worked for ten years advocating for adults with developmental disabilities.

55 comments:

Christie Kelley said...

Did I get the GR on this frosty morning?

Christie Kelley said...

Great post, KJ and Grant.

Grant, the book sounds really interesting and very much like something my mom would like to read. I may pick it up for her for Christmas.

Sue Roebuck said...

Definitely difficult questions, but I'm attracted to read the book - it sounds very special.

Grant said...

Christie, that's funny you would mention your mom potentially enjoying something like this. The copy I presented my mom was inscribed, "please do not read this book." As there are some "gritty" passages :)

Grant said...

Thanks Sue. I do think the book has a certain power to it. After it being out a bit over three weeks now, and seeing reviews and reader comments, I'm starting to feel confident about the book.

rld said...

Really enjoyed your approach to the psychological issues in your book. That kind of use of real science can be scarier than many other approaches to villians and relationships.

This one is going on my to be read list for sure!

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Kim.

Susan Sey said...

Wow, this sounds like a fascinating book! Not an easy read, maybe, but well worth the journey into the darkness. I'll have to grab it soon--maybe for Christmas!

Grant said...

Kimberley pushed me to write something (blog) of value, to consciously examine the psychological aspects of the story that I had not previously looked at in-depth. What I normally tell people is that it's a borderline-pornographic potboiler. Which is true. (hence my urging my mother not to read it.)

Grant said...

Susan I have actually read your website/blog, just stumbled across it meandering the net one day. I remember it (and your picture.) so interesting to see you hear. In a 'it's a small world' way.

PinkPeony said...

Hi KJ & Grant!

The book sounds like a fascinating read.
There was a murder case a couple years ago where a husband was accused of killing his wife. My husband went to school with the suspect. He was sure the guy killed his wife and hid the body because he remembered the guy's behavior in the classroom. I was on the fence. The police had yet to find the body. After a two year investigation, the guy pleaded out to second-degree murder. He took them to the location where he'd buried her. Very creepy!
Grant, congratulations on your film option.

Grant said...

I could never "get away" with murder because the guilt would be too much for me to bear. I can imagine a heat-of-the-moment scenario (I think we're all capable of that,) but I could never cover it up and continue to live my life. I would probably confess. When I hear about people like your husband's friend - you just never know what people (even people close to you) are capable of.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Grant, sounds like a very tense novel. Congrats on the accolades it's received.

I do think there is something there about darkness being drawn to darkness, about one damaged person being drawn to another. It's scary, but I think all too prevalent.

Donna MacMeans said...

Grant - What a fascinating topic! Major congratulations for achieving such accolades with your first book! What's it like to have your book optioned for film? I understand authors have little to no input on the film process, but still...

I have no real life stories to share but I do believe the seeds of darkness are evident in adolescence for those that can recognize them. I hadn't thought about them having a potential for attraction but I suppose that's a possiblility - just not for me (grin).

KJ Howe said...

Go, Christie! Have fun with the GR!

KJ Howe said...

Sue, the book is a fabulous read. I had a hard time putting it down!

KJ Howe said...

Grant, at the Bandits, we loooove the gritty bits! :)

KJ Howe said...

Thanks for stopping by, RLD. There's nothing I enjoy more than psychology, and that's why Grant's book stood out--interesting and articulate info on psychology.

Nancy said...

Christie, congrats on the GR!

Grant, welcome and congratulations on your success. The characters in this book sound fascinating. Contrasts of light and dark always interest me.

KJ, I can see why you wanted Grant to join us. The book sounds great--dark and gritty, but intriguing.

KJ Howe said...

Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by! Grant's smooth writing makes the book seamless, like being transported into another realm.

KJ Howe said...

Pink Peony, thanks for sharing that scary experience with us. You just never know...

Grant said...

The film rights were optioned LONG before I found a publisher, so the novelty of that has worn off a bit. I'm still excited about it, but it has turned into a waiting game. I have actually had quite a labyrinthine (12 years) trip to publication. I see a lot of you guys are authors, so I'll do another post telling you a little bit about the long road to getting it published.

KJ Howe said...

Trish, loved your insights! I've seen many examples of darkness attracting darkness--and the results have been powerful.

KJ Howe said...

Hey Donna, if you're interested in some good reading, try Anatomy of a Motive by John Douglas. Fascinating book about darkness and evil.

KJ Howe said...

Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by! Hope your writing is going well.

Grant said...

I submitted the manuscript to The Writer’s Network Screenplay and Fiction Competition (now defunct)and ended up winning the fiction category. They in turn submitted it on my behalf to agents and publishers, but there were no takers. After that, I was on my own. I burned through three literary agents and pretty much every publisher out there. They all said essentially the same thing: it’s too dark. There’s no one to root for. We need a rootable character. This went on FOREVER until I finally found an agent who genuinely liked it and placed it at Berkley.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Grant, welcome to the Lair. And thanks, KJ, for inviting such an interesting guest.

I like dark novels, ones that explore the sketchy side of human nature, so I'm sure I'll enjoy A VERY SIMPLE CRIME, with its ironic title.

My son married a woman whose mother is bipolar and whose father was a tyrant; the efect on their marriage was devastating.

jo robertson said...

Yay, Christie. Poor rooster will be confused trotted across the ocean from a sunny, hot clime to frost on the ground.

Had to LOL, Grant, at your comment to Christie. Many of my own manuscripts are marked DO NOT READ for my sons. Somehow they still think their mother is saintly and virginal.

jo robertson said...

Grant said, "What I normally tell people is that it's a borderline-pornographic potboiler. Which is true. (hence my urging my mother not to read it)."

Funny, my critique partner and I were just having this conversation yesterday.

I commented that I'm now willing/able to explore the darkness in a person's mind much more easily than when I was younger. There's always the fear that in exploring someone else's darkness, we'll resurrect or initiate something in ourselves that we don't want or like. That fear seems to diminish with age.

jo robertson said...

As far as mental illness is concerned, I do think there's a certain type of person who's drawn to "broken" individuals. Maybe it's a need to "fix" or help people, a sort of Florence Nightingale syndrome, or maybe it's a bad-boy/bad-girl attraction.

jo robertson said...

Pink said, ". My husband went to school with the suspect. He was sure the guy killed his wife and hid the body because he remembered the guy's behavior in the classroom."

Hi, Pink. Boy, I remember a sophomore student I had who was so arrogant and vicious that I'm sure he's a serial killer today. One class period, during an in-class timed essay, instead of addressing the topic he wrote a two-page rant about how worthless the assignment and my job were and how he learned nothing in school in general. Clearly he had issues with females in authority. But pretty scary.

jo robertson said...

Hey, Grant, forgot to congratulate you on your great reviews and the movie option. Such honors!

jo robertson said...

Donna said, ". I hadn't thought about them having a potential for attraction but I suppose that's a possiblility - just not for me (grin)."

Don't you think, Donna, that many romance readers enjoy characters that SEEM dark and dangerous, and maybe the heroine is drawn to that, but the reader knows that in the end, the hero will have goodness beneath that veneer of darkness or danger?

Nancy said...

Jo, I think there are a fair number of young guys, and some young women, who have problems with females in authority. I've taught some of them. I had expected there would be far fewer by the 21st century!

You were talking to Donna, not to me, but I agree that in a romance, we expect the hero's darkness and danger to have goodness at the core.

Grant said...

So many great comments going on here. In regard to Donna/Jo/Nancy and dark characters, Nancy said "we expect the hero's darkness and danger to have goodness at the core." That was the essence of my problems with getting this book published. There is no goodness at anybody's core. Which probably sounds like a turn-off, but somehow I think you still end up caring about the characters. I think there is room for a variety of experiences.

Grant said...

Thank you Trish. Great comment.

Grant said...

Jo, Thanks for all insightful thoughts. And LOL your sons and the Do Not Read instructions. At least not until they are 50. Someone in my immediate family married a woman with (undiagnosed) biploar. It can be a devastating illness that impacts the entire family.

Grant said...

Jo said "There's always the fear that in exploring someone else's darkness, we'll resurrect or initiate something in ourselves that we don't want or like. That fear seems to diminish with age." -- Well said! And scary. We sometimes play with fire.

Nancy said...

Grant, it's reassuring to know books that don't fit the mold or are "difficult" can find a home.

Helen said...

Well done Christie what are your plans for him today

Grant

This sounds like a very intriguing book. I haven't had much to do with people that have had problems like this that I know of although I am sure that they learn to cover these things pretty well sometimes.

Congrats on the book

Have Fun
Helen

Grant said...

Helen, Your comment about folks learning how to cover up these kind of problems really jarred me. Here's why: I am currently working on a novel about a woman who conceals a major problem, a significant mental health issue that consumes her life. The woman's name? Helen.

PJ said...

Hi Grant! Congratulations on the success of your book. I hope it makes it to the big screen. Sounds like it has the makings of a fantastic movie.

I'm fascinated by stories like this. I do think, in many cases, that people are drawn to darkness, or weakness, in others. It feeds something in their soul and causes them to seek out that type of person while, in too many cases, hating themselves for doing so. Can make for some volatile situations.

I agree with Donna that in many cases, those seeds of darkness are evident in adolescence or even in young children. I had a random encounter with an eight year old at a soccer match that absolutely terrified me. From that one, brief encounter, I walked away shaken and thinking to myself that I won't be at all surprised if I one day see his name connected to a horrendous crime.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Welcome to the Lair, Grant.

Your book sounds eerily intriguing. Something my sister would adore. Hmmm, another Christmas present to check off my list. Thanks!!

The copy I presented my mom was inscribed, "please do not read this book." As there are some "gritty" passages :)

Now see, that would make my mom read it all the faster.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

I had a friend I grew up with who was murdered in a bizarrely gruesome murder years ago. I don't think it was ever solved.

They looked at her husband as being involved, but his alibi was he was out wih her brother at the time.

Grant said...

Thanks PJ. And your story about the 8 year old boy gave me the shivers. I read the book that Jeffery Dahmer's father wrote, and it broke my heart. Your story made me think about that.

Grant said...

Suzanne my first thought is that clearly the husband and brother were in on it together. I'm so suspicious of people.

As for my mom, I'm sure she's read or seen a few racy things in her day - But I'm her little boy!!

catslady said...

I've always said you never outgrow your childhood. I never got along great with my father and darn if I haven't married someone just like him although it was purely subconscious at the time!

Becke Davis said...

Grant - wow, I'm hooked! This book sounds right up my alley. I like all kinds of mysteries, but lately I've been reading a lot of psychological thrillers. Your book sounds really dark but also intriguing. I'll definitely pick up a copy!

KJ - thanks for asking Grant to visit!

Becke Davis said...

I just went to BN.com and read more about your book. The bio there says Grant "has worked for ten years advocating for adults with developmental disabilities."

Grant, a good friend of mine has a 35-year-old son with autism. She has fought a life-long battle as a parent and educator to give him a decent life.

You might be interested in her blog:

http://climbingeverymountain.com/

Grant said...

Becke, I checked out your friends blog. Good, forward thinking stuff.

One of the characters in A Very Simple Crime has a profound cognitive disability, and I potray it in the worst possible light. This is what I've said before about this subject and my experiences in the field--and clearly your friend belongs to the first category of folks I mention:

The vast majority of the families that I worked with exhibited grace and strength when they had a child with significant intellectual disability. I saw them support that child through the bureaucratic maze of our educational system and on into meaningful employment and interdependence. And on occasion I saw it bring out the worst in people. The move toward segregation, seclusion, and institutionalization. And I had always wanted to explore the darker side of that a little bit.

Grant said...

Catslady, know how you're different from most people? You have the insight to recognize today that subconscious thing you did in the past. I think most of us are still in denial - lol.

Becke Davis said...

Grant - do you blog about developmental disabilities? If so, would you share the link with us?

Becke Davis said...

Christie - I forgot to congratulate you on nabbing the GR. How frosty was it by you today? It was chilly but nice here in Cincinnati.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jo - I think it's a fine line. Personally, I think not only is it expected that a dark charaacter will have true goodness at his soul in a romance - but that goodness must be foreshadowed in some way at the beginning of the novel to give the reader hope - otherwise there's a question of why a heroine would love some one so utterly dark.

Grant - i'm published by Berkley as well. Good editors there. Hope we bump into each other at some Berkley function sometime.

Grant said...

Hi Becke, no, I'm not a blogger. I am on facebook if any of you guys are interested in friendship/networking.

Grant said...

Donna, if Berkley is inviting you to functions, then you are doing much better than me--lol! My editor there is - believe it or not - Lillian Jackson Braun's longtime editor. There has been some minor controversey that Berkley Prime Crime, primarily known for cozies, would publish my odd, dark little book.

Alright Bandits, thank you all once again for hosting me in you lair!