While polling my readers several months ago, I discovered that while many like to read purely for pleasure as an escape, some desired books that gave them pause and made them think. Initially when I started writing, more experienced authors warned me not to be too edgy–not to ever kill off an animal–not to write about priests falling in love. Perhaps because I’m older, I’m more intent on writing about important issues and obstacles readers face every day instead of fretting over whether or not a publisher will take on my novel.
In My Dearest Maggie, the heroine’s mother is forced to depend on a food pantry to help nourish her because she’s fallen on hard times. While that’s not exactly a pretty image–a mother of four grown children picking through cans of green beans as she hides from her neighbors, it does reflect the current state of some individuals living in this country. In My Dearest Chloe, the heroine is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who the town is just itching to see backslide. While the townspeople I created in this series are religious and upstanding, they’re far from perfect–prone to judgment. I’m glad I took the risk because this book won first place in the novella category for the 2017 New England Chapter of Romance Writers.
So now that I’ve gotten some fairly positive feedback about taking the plunge and creating more realistic characters, my new series will feature a hero whose wife committed suicide and a heroine who was a victim of domestic violence. I saw firsthand what a battered woman looks like when I was four years old. It wasn’t my mother but a neighbor who lived down the street from us. We lived in a poor neighborhood, but as we all know, abuse isn’t limited to those living in poverty.
I’m not altogether certain that as writers we can stay neutral. If we take a risk and tackle real life issues head out, quite possibly for someone in our village of readers, we will make a difference. We never know the impact our writing will have. I leave you with the words of Elie Wiesel: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”