Updated: Jun 5
Discussing the Real Life Issues Behind the Stories
It's true that every story comes from somewhere. It has an inspiration, conscious or not. It could be a dream, or something that's happened to the teller. It could be anecdotal or literal. It could be a commentary on the world itself. And it's fair to say that the overall message of a story may elude even it's author until the tale is told to near completion.
Its a unique business, writing, in that you can start writing a novel with just a character and a situation and it'll morph as the tale grows. Lord knows that's happened enough times with my books. Maybe its a side effect of me being a pantser, or discovery writer as opposed to a plotter or a planner. But every one of my books has a message buried in the text that I may not have even been considering at the time I put my fingers to the keys.
My first book, The Stairs in the Woods, I started writing while I was going through a divorce. And while my divorce was amicable, I had a lot to process. Divorce plays a large part in the story, specifically with Kaitlynn's parents and how it affected her life leading up to the story. Her father's cancer diagnosis is also something I've dealt with in my family. For me, those themes were pretty easy to see, because the were personal.
When I started writing The Forbidden Scrolls I was working within the framework of a character, a villain, and a situation that had been rattling around in my head for roughly fifteen years. I knew certain things about these characters going in, but as the book unfolded it became clear that I was also telling a tale about racism. Juliya is a half-elf from a city that takes all the people like her and throws her into the slums. Frost is a necromancer born from the human family that rules that city. And when you think about it, its not exactly a leap to see how dehumanizing one group of people makes it easier to dehumanize everyone.
When you consider everything that was going on in the world when I was writing these three books, with the BLM movement, the Muslim ban, and the ongoing battles for LGBTQ+ rights, the parallels are there, intentional or not. These are things that I have been vocal about my opinions on because to me they are not issues that should be simply waved away as "political differences." Political differences should be about how we spend the tax money, not over human rights. These are about who we value in this country.
At it's core, my latest release, The Miranda Project is a story about a fascist future. At the time I was writing it, having Moscow as the home of the Centralized World Government made sense. When the war in Ukraine started I considered delaying the book's release. after a lot of thought, I decided to go ahead with the April 5th release date--but I've kept all the marketing I've devoid of mentions of anything that could appear to be taking advantage of a truly horrible situation. Its also made it very hard to get started on the second book in the series. I don't want to look like I'm trying to capitalize on a crisis.
Which brings me to my current work in progress. I decided to start working on a new fantasy story while The Miranda Project was with my editor. The last thing I wanted was to have started book 2 and then have to scrap it all if I'd needed major rewrites. I did the same thing by starting The Miranda Project between Redemption & Ruin and The Last Sorcerers.
This new story is about a young woman who is a reluctant servant of a dark entity. This entity can literally puppet her through her own shadow, taking control of her and making her do his bidding. At it's core it was supposed to be a story about being forced to choose between doing the evil yourself in order to maintain some semblance or illusion of control, or do you fight it and end up committing the act anyway because this creature can control you.
I had started writing the story a few months ago, and I'm now twenty-two-thousand words into it. With the leak of the likely overturning of Roe v Wade last week, this is yet another story that hits a little too close to the mark as it does focus on a woman's lack of bodily autonomy. The problem is that I really like where the story is going if I can force myself to sit down and write it in the middle of this current firestorm.
As someone who often writes from a place of darkness, there's always the chance of diving too deep down the rabbit hole. It what caused the delay in the release of The Last Sorcerers. Once again, the fantasy was a little too close to the reality of the moment. Once again I don't want to look like I'm trying to capitalize on a crisis. But at the same time, analogous as they may be, art, music, writing--much of it has always been political in nature and this is a way I can raise my voice.
Maybe someday I'll write something lighter. That would be nice, right? And maybe even all the characters will live happily ever after. But as someone who sits at a position of privilege as a white male in America, I feel it's important to keep writing these types of stories. By keeping the tales analogous, I am hopefully not silencing any of the voices that need to be heard. I'll leave it up to them to write the stories in a more direct manner. But we all should raise our voices when we see injustice. And hopefully you all can enjoy the ride along the way.