While we're busy here on deadlines author M.J. Rose was kind enough to stop by and fill in for us. For those of you who don't know M.J.—could there really be anyone out there who doesn't know the fabulous Ms. Rose? — she's the author of seven novels including the newly released Lying in Bed. M.J. will be giving away five free copies of Lying in Bed during the month of June. Drop her a note at [email protected] to be entered into the drawing.
When We Lie To Tell the Truth by M.J. Rose
It was a blistering hot day in July and I'd walked to the top of a hill to visit a 17th century convent and it's chapel. By the time I'd reached the oversized wooden doors, I was hot and tired.
Inside was a silent oasis of cool air and dark shadows.
According to the guidebook, this small church was where the convent nuns came to celebrate mass. Now, years later, it was a tourist destination in an remote area in the Italian countryside where few tourists visited.
I'm not religious but I am an art lover and the chapel was a gem that boasted a lustrous altar painting of the Virgin Mary and a glorious stained glass window that washed the interior in lavender light.
To the right of the entryway, a carved wooden confessional stood like a sentry. It might have been sacrilegious but I pulled open the door and went inside the tiny enclosure. The air smelled musty and I wondered how long it had been since anyone had knelt where I was kneeling. Putting my hand up to decorative grille, I felt the intercrossed metal design with my fingertips and whispered the words that, although were not part of my religion, were familiar to me as they are to most of us.
"Forgive me father for I have sinned."
How many nuns had knelt there and had confessed their sins to the priest on the other side of screen?
The story came to me without effort. It was not sweetly religious but sinfully erotic -- about a young nun and a priest who had met in this confessional. Invisible to each other that first Sunday, she had whispered her secrets and he had listened. Week after week, she exposed more and more of herself to him and as her soul became naked, he became aroused. Soon he was in her thrall and begged her to meet him just so he could see the face of the woman who had shown herself to him so completely.
As I began to imagine their face to face meeting, it was then, for the first time, that I became aware that confession is one of our oldest forms of storytelling.
It is our need for intimacy that pushes us to reveal more and more of ourselves. It is our desire to be completely accepted that drives us to disclose our most private thoughts and deeds. It is our fear of isolation that gives us the courage to open up and take the chance that we will be understood - or worse - that we won't be redeemed.
One way we can and do share our deepest sins and our most dangerous secrets is to spin them into tales that we can tell our listeners.
It’s what many writers do. And definitely what Marlowe Wyatt, the main character in my newest novel, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373605080 Lying In Bed does — uses fiction to explore darkness through fantasy in order to connect with someone in the orgiastic light of revelation and acceptance.
In the guise of a fictive dream she is really saying:
Let me tell you this thing I have done or has been done to me. It is wrong, (or bad, or evil, or illicit, or blasphemous) It may be burden for you to hear it, but just as possibly it will be a revelation. If you listen and you respond we might experience a sudden intimacy. It could create an emotional bond between us. It might bring us closer, allow us to be spiritually naked together.
As fiction writers, we all take that risk every time we put pen to paper because even though we are not saying that this very thing happened to us, we are confessing that it might have happened in some way. How else could we understand it in so profoundly? How else could we communicate it with such pathos and credibility?
And so, like Marlowe, we take chances. We make up fantastical, sensual stories, we confess our imagination's machinations. If what we expose, if what we write, touches our readers, then the reward is not only deeply satisfying for both of us but insures us that we are not alone.
We put ourselves on the line with what we write even though none of our stories are true in the literal sense. As confessions, they are all lies. But lies that tell the truth.