Readers’ Questions: Writing Camille

©iStock.com/VCT Style

©iStock.com/VCT Style

Perhaps the most common question readers ask me has to do with my relationship with Camille: Was it fun writing from Camille’s perspective? Was it hard ? Did it scare me ?

Yes. All of the above, and in that order. What surprises people (and me) is that, after those stages, I progressed to another: a deep sorrow for Camille. And that helped me see God from a perspective that I’d never really considered.

When I first began writing The Race, I often laughed my way through the chapters written from the enemy’s perspective. I was probably halfway through the first draft of the first book before it occurred to me that that might be a problem. After all, there’s nothing particularly funny about demons in real life. As I evaluated that contradiction, I realized that I had created the literary equivalent of a pitchfork-wielding devil in red tights; I had created, not “real” demons, but caricatures of demons. In literary terms, they were “flat” characters — superficial, too simple, unreal. And, because they were caricatures, they behaved like, well, cartoons—which made them funny.

Once I corrected this problem, it became hard to write in Camille’s point of view. Not hard because I couldn’t believe the bad stuff the demonic representatives did. But hard to write that bad stuff because, once I had shaken off the mental protection of the caricatured mindset, the demonic activity felt much more real to me.

Camille became scary to me on the day I furnished her office—a day that lives clearly in my memory to this day. I had trouble with the assignment at first. I could see the stylish Queen Anne desk, credenza, and chairs along one floor-to-ceiling window, the ladylike seating arrangement along the other window, the empty corner that she inhabits when upset. I also immediately saw the built-in bookcase covering one entire wall and the elegant cherry wood furnishings upholstered in blues and grays. All of this came to me easily and naturally.

But what was on the other wall, the one flanking the door into the adjoining living quarters? I just couldn’t see it. I diagrammed the office in scale and in detail and stared at that empty wall for the longest time.

The answer came to me suddenly in the form of a memory: an exhibition of torture implements that I once saw at an attraction in San Francisco (Ripley’s?). Instantly, Camille’s collection jumped to life, proudly displayed in fancy cabinets along that empty wall. I had no doubt that she would collect such items—and not just to look at them.

I was so horrified at the vivid mental picture of those elegantly-displayed, well-used monstrosities that I literally gasped, jumped back from the diagram I was pondering, and had to leave the room. I had trouble writing again for several days, and was so revolted that I couldn’t write Camille’s scenes for some time.

Finally I began to ask myself, Why would anyone become such a person? How could any intelligent being, someone who had once known the bliss of God’s presence, descend to such levels of pure evil that she could enjoy torturing people? I took a little break from the book itself at that point and explored Camille’s backstory in some detail. Why did she leave Paradise? What was it that came between her and her best friend, Stan? What drove her to continue fighting, even after the betrayals and disappointments she suffered?

In answering these kinds of questions, I came to understand her, at least enough to write her fairly (I think). In the process, I came to feel a strange sort of pity for her (although she would hate hearing me say that) and, ultimately, for the demons represented by the Moden personnel. These were once (and, compared to us, still are) incredibly intelligent, beautiful, and powerful beings. Yet they’re now stuck in a no-win situation. I believe they’re smart enough to know that they’ve already lost the war against God; I believe they’ve known that since the cross. So why do they continue to fight? It can only be because they’re driven by terrible, consuming emotions like hatred and vengeance. Humans driven by these motives live wretched lives, but they die after several decades. These beings have been living it for millennia. They can’t be happy. In fact, Roger Morneau and others who were once part of the enemy’s camp have said that many of them have even been driven insane by their hopeless predicament.

It was at this stage that I began to see, in the smallest way, how the demons’ situation might affect God. After all, if I, with my limited capacity to love, could feel sorry for Camille and sad at the circumstances she’d gotten herself into, how would God—who is love, who has an infinite capacity to love—feel about it?

I’ve read some Christian novels that represent God’s relationship with the fallen angels as aloof, as hardly even knowing which demons He kicked out of Heaven, let alone caring about them. These books represent the Father as giving the fallen angels no opportunity to reconsider their decisions and no chance to repent before evicting them. In one book, a demon even gets kicked out of Heaven “accidentally.” Does this make sense? Wouldn’t the same God who knows every hair of a human’s head also know each of his angels individually? Could the same God who lavished the human race with such love easily turn His back on the majestic creatures that served him for eons before their fall?

No! A heart of such love must have cared for each of those fallen beings just as intensely as He loves us. It couldn’t have been easy for Him to expel his errant children and watch them descend ever deeper into the morass of despair they created—just as it won’t be easy for Him to destroy the unrighteous. The Bible refers to this as God’s “strange” or “foreign” work (Isaiah 28:21). Yet He will accomplish it because His love compels Him to, because the continued existence of sin would forever threaten the well-being of all His creatures. The deadly virus must be exterminated, even though He may weep through the whole procedure.

I don’t believe that we, limited as we are in our ability to empathize, will ever be able to understand God’s great love for those who rebelled against Him. Yet the demons were once his children as surely as we are. And, as any parent knows, a child does not become less dear to you because he rebels. Going through the process of creating Camille, of watching her develop into a “real” person, of coming to understand her deepest yearnings, and of watching those yearnings be consistently disappointed because of her own choices—this has helped me appreciate the Father’s heart of infinite love just a little bit better.

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