Charles Martin writes in a dimly lit office of his home in Jacksonville, Florida. In that room, Charles weaves stories for a world inundated with bad news. This week, the New York Times best-seller’s latest novel, Unwritten, will vie for the attention of readers distracted by deadly headlines, cynical social media and tabloid gossip. His words carry a very different message.
“We live in a culture where we’re fed a daily dose of hopelessness,” Charles told us. “They say, ‘Here, you eat this; this is your allotment for the day,’ and you’re supposed to like it. I react strongly to that. I don’t think we should just accept that. I think hope is worth raising to the surface.”
Charles roots Unwritten’s genesis in despair, but doesn’t leave it there for long. In an early scene, a beautiful, renowned actress, Katie Quinn, prepares to jump off the side of her penthouse suite, her neck noose-wrapped. From that dark moment, Katie takes her first steps toward redemption. That’s what keeps Charles writing – not his perfect characters, but his broken ones.
“How do you get her off that railing?” Charles asks. “That arc, from broken to not broken, that’s what charges me.”
But in writing as in living, there are no step-by-step guides on how to find the hopeful ending. No paved roads, no easy answers. For each of us, imperfections and struggles can lead to despair or dynamic change. Brokenness can lead to the noose or to the next chapter. It’s what makes life an inexorable page-turner.
And after all, we have the pen in hand. If we try to write someone else’s story, we’re just wasting our own time.
“There are six billion people on the planet, and you’re the only one with your voice,” Charles says. “Don’t try and be someone else, just because you think ‘oh he’s made it, he’s successful; I’ve got to do what he’s does if I want to be there.’ That’s counterfeit. That’s a lie. That’s not true. Find what your voice is, and write that. Because otherwise you’re just a copycat.”