The Thinking Reader’s Guide to Fear or, as I like to call it, The Portrait of an Intellectual Defending His Embarrassing Reading Choices:
As with all genre fiction, horror writers work too much and too fast, too often rely on serviceable but weary conventions to get themselves through a rough patch of plot and are generally rather too quick to sacrifice aesthetic unity to speed and raw shock. But the reckless grip-it-and-rip-it approach to storytelling is less damaging to this genre than it is to, say, detective fiction, because the feeling of being at least a little out of control is basic to the experience of horror.
Is that a back-handed compliment, or what? Hm. Maybe just back-handed.
Anyway, on to the The Red Heart of Jade.
I try not to compare (publicly) the appearances of my characters to celebrities or models in magazines. After all, I don’t like it when writers give me a picture and say, “Here! This is so-and-so.” The reason is simple: When I read, I like visualize what the characters look like, and I prefer to do the work all by myself. Yes, you’re given a description, but it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. It’s part of the fantasy, and I think one of the best things about the reading experience—because you are allowed to participate in the adventure in the exact way that you want. The writer gives you the story, but you’re the one who lives it. You’re the one who sees it.
I’ve made exceptions, though. With A Taste of Crimson, I posted photos of who I thought Keeli and Michael would resemble, and I did so because really, the images were just so clear in my head that I couldn’t help myself. And I’m finding myself turning into a big old hypocrite, because I feel the same about The Red Heart of Jade and Mirabelle Lee. So, I’m sharing. But I’m not trying to force a visualization on anyone—just that this is what I saw as I wrote.
But what I find far more important than physical appearances are the feelings invoked by certain images. Such as the one below. Now, it’s true that I imagined Miri Lee resembling Gong Li—but I did not envision Dean as another version of Pierce Bronson (although you can if you want to).
The thing I liked about the photograph, though, and the reason I looked at it as I wrote, is that there’s something about it that captures the essence of how I feel Dean and Miri should be together. As in, there’s an energy of togetherness, of two against the world, of she’s mine and I’m hers and what are you going to do about it? that I found irresistible.
I discovered the photograph about half-way through the book, and I’d take a look at it every now and then as a way of staying with the characters. Almost like a touchstone for their relationship. Do whatever works, I say.