Zoë Sharp knows bravery. She knows risk. But she also knows the kind of courage and hazard-taking that has nothing to do with fast cars and firearms.
As I write this, I’m sitting in hospital wearing the most unflattering garb ever designed by man, with the cannula already in my vein and my wrist tagged like a parolee. I’ve been admitted – an interesting word meaning not only to be let in, but to concede, to confess, to accept – and I’ve signed my form of consent. I’ve agreed to hand over control to a stranger who ran blithely through the details without evening bothering to introduce himself or look me in the eye.
I feel like I’ve signed my life away and, if I’m honest, that’s the thing that scares me most.
Of course, I’ve written about the loss of control many times. It’s a subject that should be familiar to me. But there’s only so far I’m willing to go in search of absolute authenticity.
My main character Charlie lost control of her life and regained it, and the battle was hard-fought and bloody. Before the first book in the series even starts she’s been a victim, raped and beaten and betrayed by the very people she was supposed to be able to trust with her life. And instead of justice, she was pushed around by the system, had everything about her life shoved under a microscope and found wanting. Betrayed a second time.
In effect, she was handed the blame for her own downfall. Sink or swim. It would have been so easy for her to let go, and go under.
She fought back.
And now Charlie faces different fears about loss of control. She knows that if she does, people will die. Killing has become an option for her, under the right circumstances, for the right reasons. But what happens when thosereasons aren’t quite right enough?
Maybe living on that knife-edge is why she loves her motorcycles so much. The freedom and the experience of riding a big bike, fast, is intense. But one false move and suddenly your world becomes a rapid, painful cartwheel sequence of: ground, sky, ground, sky … ambulance.
Still, as I sit here watching the second-hand drag slowly round past theatre time, I hope she’s lent me a little of her steely resolve.
Before you start to worry – or shrug – I’m not here for anything serious (at least, I damn well hope not). It’s a relatively routine procedure. My doctor has just told me he’s performed two thousand similar procedures without mishap. Mind you, he’s also just told me the risk factor for someone of my age is one in two thousand. And when I comment dryly these figures seem to indicate he is about due for a slip-up, I discover that medical men have very little sense of humour to speak of. (I should have known – Charlie’s orthopaedic surgeon father would have responded exactly the same way.)
It’s not that I’m risk-averse. As a photographer I’m more than happy to hang out of moving vehicles scraping my elbows on the blacktop. I’ve broken a couple of ribs in the process. But I’ve always felt in control of my own destiny. Another reason why – like Charlie – I’d always rather be in charge of a motorcycle, rather than just the pillion passenger.
And as a writer I hope I take risks, too. Shooting your main protagonist twice on the first page (in SECOND SHOT), having her cross the line between good and evil (FIFTH VICTIM). And next year I’m going to take an even bigger risk – new characters, new genre.
Why so brave?
Control. Recently I took control of my otherwise out-of-print backlist. I turned down a deal with a respected publisher and decided to bring out the first five early Charlie Fox books myself in e-format, plus a short story e-thology, FOX FIVE. It was a big step.
Understatement – it was a huge leap in the dark.
Almost as big and scary a leap as waiting here, in this ridiculous hospital-issue sack with a tap in my arm, to give control of the next thirty minutes of my life to a stranger who I think I may have just pissed off a little . . .
So, Reds, what was the last time you lost control, or took control, or annoyed someone you really, really shouldn’t have done?