So I had recently somebody ask me why I had abuse in my books, specifically Kit’s books…was I having fun torturing her?
This comes up a lot, so I’m just going to blog about it and when I get asked, I’ll direct people here.
Do I torture my characters or write about abuse because it’s fun?
I’m not a plotter. I don’t set out with a plan in mind lets see how much hell I can put these characters through.
Now when I’m writing romance, I do work at finding realistic ways to keep them apart, because if you’re not doing that, you don’t have a romance. You just have a HEA. There has to be a conflict, internal and external, or there’s just no story and what’s the point.
But yes, I do have a habit of writing about people who have gone or are going through abuse. And no, I don’t do it because I think it’s okay.
Abuse appalls me.
Sexual abuse appalls me.
It pisses me off. I regularly donate to RAINN and I’ve mentioned the organization in at least one, if not more, of my books.
Bullying appalls me. I’ve the one who will approach kids and teenagers when I see them picking on somebody else and interfere. Have I gotten yelled about this? Yes. Do I care? No.
Domestic abuse appalls me. There’s been more than one time when my husband was almost positive either he, me, both of us would end in either in jail, or the hospital because I’d see something happening that I didn’t like and I’d shoot my mouth off and the guy involved wouldn’t like it. When I go out of town on a trip, he tells me to stay safe and behave, and more often than not, I suspect it’s because he knows how I am with my mouth.
I had to leave my day job in nursing, in the end, because of burn out and part of that involved a boy who’d been abused by his father. It was breaking me inside.
I grew up seeing more than a few people I knew in life be abused and I know people even now in those situations.
Trust me…abuse isn’t okay in my book. And if it’s okay in anybody’s book, they had a deep problem that is probably unfixable.
But abuse is out there. Much of society turns a blind eye. I don’t.
One reasons I’ve written the FBI Psychic books, particularly THE MISSING was because like most moms, I have fears of bad things happening to my kids. No, nothing ever has. But I put my fears down on paper..I make them more manageable and I twist the bad things I see in society into a way that makes to where the bad guy is the one who goes down. We don’t see in that in real life often. THE DEPARTED had a scene that was inspired by a real life bullying of a high school girl by some boys during her senior prom. I changed the set-up, I changed the outcome, I changed the methods of the madness, but I left the way one of the parents responded as it played out because the parent of one boy tried to act like …hey, it was no accident…her death was a tragic accident. My character-well, one of them, didn’t die, but the abhorrence of what they tried to do is still there.
My romantic suspense that recently came out was set in Madison Indiana and yes, it is completely fictional, although some things I’d seen in the media – other years – did play a part in some of the things I wrote about, particularly about how people will turn a blind eye to some of the most disgusting evil in society. Somebody made a comment along the lines of I can’t see this happening anywhere. I hoped it never does, but the fact is, child abuse happens. It happens daily. It’s happening in your town. Possibly on your street, or by people you know. Pretending otherwise doesn’t change it.
I’ve always written about some of the harsh facts of life in my romantic suspense stories and yes, in the urban fantasy stories. Evil happens and sometimes, there is no justice for it. When I write about it, I can find justice…I can make it happen. I always thought this was the main reason I did it…to make sense of things that have no sense in my head.
But I’ve realized it goes deeper than that and it took attending ConFusion and speaking on one of the panels to understand just what it was. One of the panelist, I believe it was Christian Klaver, made a comment.
Horror is the most moral of genres
That sounds like a strange statement, doesn’t it?
Horror is about hacking people up, the woman running naked into the field…
Or is it?
See what WhatCulture says about it?
After watching Carrie, I bet you will never pick on the underdog or weakling in your life again for fear that you will go up in a blazing inferno or be killed by flying kitchen implements.
The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue tells us to avoid messing around with nature lest we unleash a wave of flesh hungry undead zombies.
Sure…they are graphic moral messages, but those messages still exist.
Now, I don’t write horror, although yes, some things are rather horrific. I don’t think I try intentionally to write a moral message.
I don’t turn my back on the ugly things that exist in society, but what I do try to do is this…the people in the books I write are often broken. And by the time I’m done with them, they are stronger–they come into my head as broken and they have a story.
I’m not going to fight the stories that God gives me. Humans are capable of remarkable things. Some of the people that I’ve known who have lived through abuse are now free of it…and they chose to escape it. It wasn’t easy, but they left it behind. They fought free of it…some ran from it. But they escaped it.
Others, sadly, didn’t get away. Or haven’t. They are still trapped in that ugly cycle. People turn a blind eye or think, Why don’t they just leave…if it was just that easy, they would.
But many of the stories that come to me are about broken people and during the course of the book, my job is to take that person (or persons) and make them stronger, to help them find the bits and pieces and put them back together. And find a happy ever after, hopefully, justice or closure for whatever was done.
This is what I have a voice for.
I’ve lost track of how many emails I’ve gotten from survivors of abuse, be it domestic, sexual or emotional–there’s one in particular that I can remember reading her email even now and I cried as I read it. It’s been years since I received that email and I still remember her name–that’s not just unusual, it’s unheard of for me. She wrote of how she’d read FRAGILE…how she’d cried…and then she thanked me, because she felt like it had helped her take a step toward healing after her own abuse. She felt that book had given her a voice.
Has Kit from the Colbana books been through hell? Yes. Am I trying to break her? No. What people didn’t see is that she was already broken, even in book one. She used her sword as a crutch, put all her value in it. Others saw that she had more worth than that. Why did things have to happen the way they did? Well, if Kit was around to ask, you’d have to ask her, because I didn’t plan that. I can tell you that Kit probalby won’t have an answer, though. Bad shit happens, period. That’s the truth in fiction as well as in reality. Kit was never going to be a character where life was smooth-sailing for her.
But I don’t plan these stories…they play out for me and I write them down. They come into my head, almost like a silent movie reel and I’m just the narrator. I couldn’t have changed that ending if I tried–the only thing I could have done was written it…and not published it.
Nobody has to like how the book turned out and nobody has to like the book either. But I didn’t write the book just to abuse my character.
I don’t carry these themes in all of my books. My contemporaries are lighter, they’re fun and easy and sexy. But the RS books and the UF books take a hard, sometimes brutal look at things.
I don’t write about abuse in my books because I think it’s okay.
I write about survivors.
One Reply to “Reader Q on abuse in books”
What an interesting and illuminating post. I must say that I don’t focus on the bad situations characters are in unless that’s all there is to the story – and I don’t like those. What I like and what comes through to me from your books is the journey and the slow steady steps that lead the character through to finding their strength. Reality exists and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sugar coating it and wearing rose coloured glasses doesn’t change the fact that evil is out there, so when that voice in your head tells you their story and you write it, I think we should honour that and read it. I don’t like horror books/movies, because I don’t find that enjoyable but a well written story with horrific components is a compelling read. And yes, I do like the HEA because I always want to believe that good will overcome evil.
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