I couldn't help being punny, as the title of the latest New Atlantis novel lends itself to so many possibilities. One friend even commented on the fact that it was Pieces of 8, as in pirate gold. I didn't have that in mind when I chose the title.
To me people are like jigsaw puzzles that need to come together to be fully understood. In real life you never really have all the pieces, even when you live with someone for years. You may never have all the pieces to your own personal puzzle either. There are always times you go 'Why did I do that?' and not have an answer.
I think I loved astrology because it so symbolically reflected all the pieces that make up an individual. But even when you look at a chart you still haven't got all the pieces, as the Soul that inhabits that chart gets to use the building blocks in a unique way that suits them.
The person who pointed out the pieces of eight also let me do her chart recently. Her cousin was born in the same hospital within ten minutes of her, so for all intents and purposes their charts were identical (all right, there is a slight difference in the Ascendant). But my friend and her cousin couldn't be more different, and yet its likely that the dynamics at work in both lives are the same. Just different choices made by their unique Souls.
I think that's why I find human nature so fascinating. It has so many possibilities open to it, within the genetic/social framework the person was born with.
When I was exploring Dirk's personality in Pieces I had to see the shades of grey while describing him as a person who couldn't see the shades of grey. To him there was right and wrong, and when he did something that countermanded that sense he beat himself up badly.
Romance novels are usually not the place to explore psychological complexity. The heroes are usually good, the baddies are usually bad. You can't afford to have your reader lose their attachment to your hero by letting them behave in an unacceptable way and fall below the line of morality we all commonly share.
So saying, I can't help making my characters play with that line. Allyn in Liquid Fire rapes the heroine. Vali in Barbarian's Mistress is a violent prostitute. Braxus in that same book is a thug for hire. Julio kidnaps a child in Dreamer's Prince. Luke in Savage gets pretty close to the line of psychologically abusing Faith... and the list goes on. So it wasn't a big step for me to want to see if I could get a Gestapo agent, who would normally be cast as the baddie, crossing over the moral line so he could be a good guy. He still did things he considered reprehensible... things we consider reprehensible... but because he is so hard on himself we get to make allowances for him. Or I'd like to think we do.
I found Faith giving some powerful messages of forgiveness and acceptance in this book. And I think that is a message we all have to get sometimes. It easy to cast people into the role of goodie or baddie based on superficial evidence. Sometimes we have to let go of those labels and just accept people for who they are, and allow that they're doing the best they can in any situation. Even a Gestapo agent in Nazi Germany.