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Karen Harrington | When a man loves a woman…who murders

April 23, 2008

When a central character is still deeply in love with someone you and I would judge harshly, for, say, murder, that presents a challenge for the writer. How can readers be sympathetic to a misguided, love-struck protagonist? And does a writer necessarily have to sympathize with him?
I know all about this challenge.

In my debut novel JANEOLOGY, Tom Nelson is still in love with the woman who has destroyed his life. He misses her. He craves her. He wants to touch her. He wants to talk to her over a cup of coffee the way they used to as friends. But this is never going to happen.

The story begins with Tom’s horrific discovery that his wife Jane drowned their toddler son. An act he feels is so out of character that it defies logic. Now, he judges himself harshly for still loving the woman he thought he knew. The world quickly vilifies Jane and urges him to join in their group hate. If that weren’t enough, prosecutors charge him with ‘failure to protect’ believing he should have known Jane was ill and shielded his child from her. This legal charge only makes Tom delve deeper into questioning his love for Jane. Was it misplaced, he wonders throughout his own trial? Is he, in fact, partially responsible as the prosecutor alleges? And what does he make of his attorney’s bold defense: that Jane’s nature and nurture conspired to make her ill-equipped to be a loving parent?

I began writing this story with the central question: what causes a mother to kill her own child? I could not ignore this question. It didn’t seem to add up that a mother could be pouring Cheerios one minute and be altered the next. Someone in her family, I reasoned, had to have witnessed the decline. It had to have taken place over a period of days, weeks and months – not overnight. While the horrible murder sets JANEOLOGY in motion, the novel is really a story of a man desperate to for understanding.

The idea that we sometimes miss changes in loved ones precisely because we love them began to take shape. I realized, at least in the fictional world of JANEOLOGY, that a spouse like Tom could indeed still love the person he originally knew without acknowledging the person she had become. We are all guilty of this at times. Time stands still in the face of love. And that is what happens to Tom Nelson to his profound detriment.

I invite you to read an excerpt of the novel by visiting my website

You can also view the video trailer for JANEOLOGY below, which so hauntingly couples water imagery with hints of dark family secrets trickling down among the generations of Jane’s troubled family. The unrelenting tribal drumbeat of the music ratchets-up the tension until you feel like the hairs on your neck stand at attention and you have to know what happens. (Fortunate author that I am, this trailer was created by THE inventor of the novel trailer art form, Kam Wai Yu, who has been developing this art since the 1980s.)

Thanks to FreshFiction for inviting me to blog here today among so many great authors.

See you on the bookshelves!

Karen Harrington

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