So I'm not going to talk about it.
Instead, I'm going to vent about that stupid question. An actual conversation:
"So what is your book actually about?"
"Well, it's about an orphan who becomes a maverick commander of one of the best infiltration teams–"
"No, no. What is your book actually about? What is the theme?"
And there it is. The most irritating pitch question I keep hearing over and over. It is a useless question, to my mind. There are several reasons why this is such a shitty question to be asked. The most prevailing is this:
Who am I to dictate what readers walk away from my book with? Different aspects of any story will resonate differently with different people. In the case of Skylark, some people may walk away from that book pondering the strength of love and it's capacity to cross all boundaries, even death. Or they might question the nature of heroism, and what it means, how it is achieved, and who is deserving of such a mantle. Perhaps they will turn their minds to the destructive nature of blind prejudice. How the fuck am I supposed to know what readers will latch onto? How am I to know which aspect of the story will get the most traction with the largest body of readers?
Obviously, I can't know.
And I don't believe it's my job to dictate to readers what to take away from any of my stories.
I honestly could not tell you what the 'theme' is for any book I've written. I think about Human and I haven't a clue. Monsters can be good? I don't fucking know.
Part of the reason for this is that I don't write with a particular theme in mind. My goal is to tell a great story. That's it.
I honestly believe that forcing a theme onto a story is the surest way to stifle that story, smother it in the effort of giving it life. It's too rigid. It forces characters to behave in unnatural or counter-intuitive ways. The story fails, because it's squished, stretched, torn, bruised and mashed in service to a theme. I believe it should be the other way around. Everything, everything should service the story (and by story, I mean your characters' journey).
Theme, to me, is something that happens by accident. At least, it has to me so far. Look, I get it. We all want deeper meaning to the things we love and consume. Perhaps we all imagine our favourite writers as being more clever than they actually are.
But I'm not here to tell you how to read my books, or what in which book is actually important and what each details mean. That for you, dear reader. You're welcome to latch onto whatever part of my book that captures you, and run with it. Don't let me, or a publisher, or a book critic tell you that you're wrong. No on can dictate what a story means to you and why.
That's not my place.
My place is to tell the best story I can.
So? What's the theme of [insert story here]?
Whatever resonates with you.