family in Miserere--a question by ML Brennan (#SFWApro)

I have another question: this one comes from ML Brennan (whose books you should read ... just sayin'):

In Miserere a fundamental portion of the world construction was about a created sense of family between the foundlings and the adults who essentially became their new parents. Lucian and Rachael are estranged former lovers, but one of the primary things that brings them back together is the need of Lucian's newly-discovered foundling. For a book that features so many orphans who are building new identities in a new world, there's an amazing emphasis on bonds of a nuclear family (Rachael and Lucian also share the same foster parent, who with his wife also forms another nuclear family unit) -- what drove this theme?

Weird as this may sound, I didn't think too much about the nuclear aspect of the families when I wrote Miserere. I wanted to examine the nature vs. nurture aspect of childhood, and the best way to study this is through the adoption process.

I knew two things: both Rachael and Lucian came from damaged childhoods and in order to develop into reasonably healthy adults, they would need firm guidance while maturing. I gave them John and Tanith simply because that is the way in which they popped into my head.

Also, not all of the families were nuclear. Not everyone had a spouse. If you'll remember, Caleb raised Victor alone. Victor got into trouble, but only because he was curious and inexperienced. Victor wasn't malicious, and he suffered no ill effects from being raised by a single parent.

As for the John-Tanith/Rachael-Lucian paradigm, it just worked out that way in Miserere, and since most--almost all--of the action took place outside of the Citadel, I had very little room to give an overall picture of the social structure in Woerld. When I focused on the scenes between Lucian and Lindsay, I figured that his primary objective was in survival as well as keeping Lindsay from inadvertently killing them both with her undeveloped powers rather than delving too deeply into the Citadel's society and how it functioned.

The actual family units were constructs that I saved for Dolorosa. There are at least two same-sex couples within the Citadel. Unfortunately, I didn't get to put them Miserere, but Lindsay will question their presence at the Citadel at some point. She will be told that love between two people is a reflection of the divine.

So it wasn't so much of a theme for nuclear parents, but more of a theme of adoption. How does adoption affect children when they are taken from one set of parents and placed with another? In our society, we expect these children to adapt like puppies and kittens, but even infants have shown changes in their brain chemistry when they are taken from their birth parents and placed in a new home.

The child's sense of security is threatened; the world is suddenly a hostile place, sown with uncertainties. It's not a new theme. Disney has used it over and over.

Most YA literature is about youngsters searching for their identities. However, a person's identity doesn't magically stop evolving after age twenty.

I wanted to write about adults who utilized their past experiences to further develop their personalities. So with Miserere, I examined the adoption theme from the adult perspective. How did their removal from their respective homes affect them?

Rachael doesn't look back. There was nothing in her earthly life but abuse and horror. She left her father to drown in a well, and though the memory haunts her, she feels no remorse for his death. She accepts her place in Woerld and will eventually thrive in Woerld's environment.

Lucian, on the other hand, has intense memories and a longing for home. He can relate to Lindsay's desire to return to Earth, and her initial refusal to accept Woerld.

Lucian wants to protect Lindsay, she ignites his paternal instincts into overdrive. Rachael wants to protect Lindsay too, but there is a distinct difference in how they value the child. Lucian shifts his strong paternal instincts from Catarina, who has rejected him over and over, to Lindsay, who values him, and Rachael sees Lindsay as a valuable soldier in their war against the fallen.

Lucian wants to nurture Lindsay into becoming a good person, and Rachael sees a weapon to be honed against the Fallen. In spite of all of this, I never really saw Lindsay as being the unifying force between Rachael and Lucian. She is more of an observer, the reader's eye into the story.

In a lot of ways, Miserere is about families, but it wasn't the nuclear theme that I wanted to stress. I wanted to examine whether blood really is thicker than water.

Lucian finds the opposite is true.