BE: What responsibility do you feel writers have (or that you had in writing this) to complicate readers’ ideas of easily demonizable people by offering opportunities for sympathy?
RL: I think part of telling a good story is to make sure that every person or character you are writing about comes off as complicated and real. Personally, I don’t think there are people who are entirely good or evil—the situational forces that we are born into play a much bigger role than people think. And if you’re going to write creative nonfiction, you need to bring across this complexity on the page. Partly because you are writing about things that really happened, and because as a writer you want to do justice to each person or character you write about. It’s like you need to listen and hear out the arguments for both sides, but not let them affect the unbiased view you are trying to tell in your story.
It’s like going, “On the one hand he did that because of this, but on the other hand he really might have been trying to do this.”
There is a tricky line you walk when you do this, especially when the subject matter is on the darker side like mine, because when you look at the complexities of each side it’s easy to go from observer to activist. While it can be a good thing overall, it also cuts off part of the story when you write. And as a writer, I think you need to show people a complicated view of all sides in a story and leave the reader to decide what was right and wrong.