When I put out the call on Twitter for questions, Tweep Kat posted this gem:
Is your writing, for you and/or for your readers, a form of escape from or a tool of resistance against the world we find ourselves in today?
Isn’t that juicy? Short answer, both. I try to be aware of my privilege in this world as a cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied white woman. I get benefits I didn’t earn from a system that isn’t fair. Because of that, I believe it’s my responsibility to learn about people who don’t get those same benefits, to understand how their experiences differ from mine, and to make sure they are included in my work. I don’t always get it right. I am embarrassed and mad at myself and humbled when I screw up. The remedy for that is to get up and try again and do better. There will NEVER be a time when I am completely “woke” and thoroughly free of areas where I am blinkered. I know this is an imperfect process and I will never cross the finish line. There is no end, no moment where I can relax and say, “Well, goodness me, I’m certainly got THIS sussed.” The best I can do is better than I did yesterday, knowing that tomorrow is going to probably kick my ass a little and show me where I can do better still.
And while that occasionally feels weighty, it’s nothing compared to the burden carried by those who have to haul around societal baggage they didn’t ask for and can’t put down even if they wanted to. I write diverse characters from a place of respect, and I am always looking to do a better job of making my fictional world reflect historical reality. (People like to pretend that history was full of straight, able-bodied white folks of two genders doing everything in some sort of cream-cheese, Wonder Bread, Ozzie & Harriet vacuum where they were the only ones who existed. In a word: NOPE.)
In writing an accurate and diverse world, I am creating a mirror of what we are now, and some of the most gratifying messages I’ve received from readers are the ones from people who aren’t accustomed to seeing themselves in the kind of fiction I write. I read their messages and I listen to their stories at signings and the most important thing they want to communicate is their appreciation at being seen. So, when I write a character who is a person of color or with a physical disability or a fluid sexuality, it’s my way of saying, “Yes, I do see you.” Because, having seen them, how can I not write them? It’s resistance in that it expresses my world view–that we all matter, that we must include and accept and widen our reach to embrace those who are different from us. We have much to learn from them.
And as far as escape, I am immensely happy whenever I hear that I took a reader out of some painful situation because I issued an invitation to them to step into a world where their difficulty does not exist, at least for a little while.