May 12, 2010

FOREVER ODD From the Author

When I wrote ODD THOMAS, the title character came to me fully formed, as if he were a real person whom I had known all my life. No character in any of my previous novels led me through his story with such grace, with his voice unfailingly strong in my mind’s ear, making revelations about himself and his family that were surprising — even shocking in some instances — yet seemed inevitable to me the moment they were made.

Other characters have endeared themselves to me — nearly always because of their humanity and their courage and their intellectual conviction — including but not limited to: Einstein, Nora, and Travis in WATCHERS; Chris Snow and his friends in FEAR NOTHING and SEIZE THE NIGHT; Thomas in THE BAD PLACE; Barty and his mother and others in FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE; Curtis and Leilani in ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN; Jimmy Tock and his whole family in LIFE EXPECTANCY. Never had one of them filled me with awe and with admiration, which it seems could be earned only by real people, never by fictional characters — but then along came Odd.

By the time I finished ODD THOMAS, I knew Odd was on a journey unique to a character in contemporary fiction, a journey exploring the beauty of humility. Yes, these books are about the power of love and friendship. About the reality of evil. The first is about the necessity of perseverance, the second about the necessity of action to earn redemption. But whatever else they are about, at the core they are concerned with the beauty of humility and the power and the peace that come with the embrace of it.

Odd is a flawed character who knows what all his flaws are — and therefore he is not in the least Freudian, not self-deceived, not neatly labeled, understood, and dismissed. He has a sense of humor about himself and therefore a sense of perspective, and of proportion. He’s wise in the ways of the world — especially as regards the violence in it — yet he retains an appealing innocence arising from his enduring humility.

Readers and critics of ODD THOMAS recognized that Odd was unusually humble, and were drawn to him in large part because of this aspect of his character. Interestingly, while Odd knows all his faults too well, he would find it difficult to give you a list if his virtues. As for humility — when he mentions it, he usually does so in the context of a joke. By the end of FOREVER ODD, he does not yet fully understand that his journey is leading him toward ever more humbling experiences, and that in the attainment of a purer humility, he will find greater strength, courage, and hope.

Yes, it looks to me as if Odd will return for a third book, and soon. I do not feel that I created him. He came to me, like a stranger knocking on my door; he was given to me. Odd has a gift, his sixth sense; and the gift I’ve received is Odd. He cannot repress his gift; he is compelled to use it. I cannot turn away from his story. I am compelled to follow it.

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