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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Author Insight: Social Issues

When writing a book do you include nods to real life problems or social issues or do they emerge organically?

"Always organically. I don’t write 'issue books'. But as a psychotherapist, I always seem to retrofit damage into each of my characters. Those problems become a layer rather than the crux of the story." - Daniel Marks, author of Velveteen.

"Everything in The Memory Chronicles developed organically. The problems my main character faced were directly related to her experience and upbringing." - Lenore Appelhans, author of Level 2. 

"If it doesn’t come out of the story organically, it shouldn’t be there at all, is my feeling. It’ll stick out like a sore thumb and probably be a bore to read. Characters have lives and emotions of their own. They’ll do what they do. You try to control them too much, you’ll end up with a book full of flat, lifeless characters." - Lili Peloquin, author of The Innocents

"Whether they intend to or not, all writers address social issues. I prefer it when there's intention behind it, because it's apparent that the writer is investing themselves. I have a lot to learn about the world, for sure, and one of my great projects in life is to sensitize myself more to issues of race, class, gender, and all of the ways in which we intentionally and accidentally support the oppression of others. This is the ocean I try to swim in as a writer, even though half the time I'm almost drowning." - Steven Arntson, author of The Wrap-Up List.

"Most things in my books emerge organically. I'm too afraid if I try to force something, the reader will see that and be turned off. I'm also not a big 'issues' writer - I never feel qualified to take on most issues. I think I'm always afraid of doing it wrong. I did put my first gay character into Falling For You but that only happened as this character started to talk to Rae and began to appear in my mind, and when I realized he was gay it was like, okay, cool, he's gay." - Lisa Schroeder, author of Falling for You

"The situations in my book arise organically from character and story. I’m aware of what’s happening in the world and my books reflect that in certain ways, but I want my books to feel modern without being locked into a certain time or place. Trends change, language changes, technology changes. In a recent novel, I was afraid to write 'Facebook' in a scene because (no offence to Mark Zuckerberg), nothing lasts forever. If you wrote a book filled with MySpace references six years ago, people might have thought you were hip and awesome. But right now, you’d have to hit that book with some serious Wite-Out. (Half of your readers just said, 'What’s Wite-Out?')" - Allen Zadoff, author of Since You Left Me.

"They emerge organically for me, at least so far. In Kissing Shakespeare, feminist and religious questions came into play, but only because they were so pronounced to a modern girl dropped into Shakespeare’s time. Building a story around a real-life social issue or problem is done, and done well, all the time. But I think you always run the risk of the emphasis on those issues overshadowing character." - Pamela Mingle, author of Kissing Shakespeare.

"A lot of the world building in Hemlock was based on past precedent—WW II interment camps, the AIDs scare in the 80s, etc—and so it does reflect issues of prejudice and fear. I tried not to consciously think about that when writing, though. I think it’s always best when things like that emerge organically, otherwise it can sometimes come off as a bit heavy handed." - Kathleen Peacock, author of Hemlock.

"Most of my stories develop pretty organically, so if social issues appear it's because they work, rather than me looking for them." - Trish Doller, author of Something Like Normal

"I don't design my characters as soapboxes to stand on. Some of them do face real-world problems, but most of their issues are purely fictional. Unless the reader actually is a teenage vampire, in which case I hope they find Fang Girl an insightful commentary on the issues facing the unexpectedly undead in modern society." - Helen Keeble, autor of Fang Girl

"They emerge organically at this point. I prefer to write about real life problems or social issues as an aspect of a story rather than the point of the story. For example, Jason in Freaks Like Us has schizophrenia, but the story isn't about his mental illness. It's a mystery/suspense tale with a strong romantic element that's more about friendship, loyalty, love, and doing what's right." - Susan Vaught, author of Freaks Like Us

Come back Thursday to find out if social issues appear in the authors books as they write or if they include them intentionally.

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