This is a long post, so here we go. The recent election has stirred up a lot of emotions and thoughts about where our country is headed, and it brought up questions on social media about whether it was wise for authors to voice their opinions versus keep their heads down and focus on “entertaining people.” One author wisely noted that “all art is inherently political,” and I agree with that. Over Christmas break, my family went to see Star Wars: Rogue One. We all loved it (though my son had an issue with the ending that I won’t spoil here), but the entire Star Wars franchise is heavily political with rebel forces fighting against a fascist government. We even have an incoming member of the president’s administration who used Star Wars as an analogy when he proudly compared himself to Darth Vader. Let that one sink in a minute. Anyway, the Star Wars franchise is entertaining, but also tackles serious issues regarding government and the cost of a “free” society.
What do politics have to do with YA books? A lot. Pick any YA book and there’s an issue in there somewhere. My Burn Out series explores an oppressive government set in an apocalyptic world, while a new book I’m writing examines the dark side of our youth correctional system. I have a YA urban fantasy coming out this year about a serial killer stalking faeries who bind their wings out of fear in an attempt to look human. It’s creepy, and hopefully entertaining, but also addresses the prejudice that faeries experience by humans, and oh yeah, they have to register with the government. A writer’s words are a form of expression the same way a sculpture or painting is for an artist. It’s entertainment—with a purpose.
So why am I and other authors talking more about political views on social media, rather than just sticking to book and candy tweets? Well, here’s one of many reasons. Our anthology through Wicked Ink Books (Tick Tock: 7 Tales of Time) almost did not come out in Turkey, because last summer, 29 publishers were closed down by the Turkish government in an attempt to repress free speech. Now, journalists and free speech are under attack in our own nation and you know it’s not good when the Turkish leader praises how our incoming president handles the press. Therefore, it’s more important to me to speak out to help ensure we still have publishers and a free press, so there can be more books in the world. When threats to basic rights like freedom of speech are on the table, my tweets about Cadbury Eggs will just have to wait for happier times.
I think authors have a responsibility to use their words when necessary, and I’m also a psychologist who feels a responsibility to be a voice for the marginalized and others who feel they are not heard. Though I’m one of the 20-30 million who will be impacted by the repeal of Obamacare, which due to a pre-existing condition was the first time in my life I could get health insurance on my own, I’m not as concerned about myself as I am for others. I’m very concerned for the millions of children out there with diseases, and the millions of adults with life-threatening conditions, many of whom will die without ACA. And here’s a really political statement for you: I believe someone is the worst kind of hypocrite to call themselves a “pro-life Christian” but only when it refers to the unborn, and then vote for millions of children and adults to die by taking away their health insurance. That’s the exact opposite of Christ-like behavior and I’m not overly religious, but I hope there’s a special place in hell for those people. I refuse to be quiet about children and other vulnerable people dying, no matter what someone else thinks.
But won’t you lose readers? As to the argument that voicing your beliefs could cost you readers, well, here’s the thing about that. The people out there who are white supremacists, homophobic, or sexist would hate my books anyway. Like really hate them, as they include strong kick-ass females, diversity, and LGBT characters. I believe that all people are created equal, which is, in fact, one of the main tenets of our nation’s Declaration of Independence. I’m not against any political party. In fact, I live in a conservative county inside a mostly blue state, and have a mix of Republican, Democrat, and other party friends, but here’s what I am against: fascism, racism, sexism, and all the other -isms that oppress any groups of people. If you support hate, I don’t want you buying my books anyway.
What am I doing in addition to writing? I’m still writing because it is a much needed outlet right now, but my main goals right now are speaking out, standing up, and fighting back. Ironically, I’m now part of a group called The Resistance who oppose a fascist society, and if you have read Burn Out, you know it involves a group named… wait for it… The Resistance, who fights a government that uses terror and weapons to keep order. I wrote that book years ago, and truly thought I was making up a “worst case scenario” at the time. Thank you, life, for imitating art and once again reminding us that truth will always be stranger than fiction.
Final thoughts: Before this election took place, I was speaking on a panel at Comic Con, and someone asked about the issue of authors openly addressing political views. Though I had no idea what was to come in November, I quoted Spider Man to this person (because if you know me, of course I did), and said “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Writers with a platform or audience of any kind have some power, and therefore have a responsibility (IMHO) to use that power for good. A bonus to speaking out more has been a “yuge” increase in social media followers of people who share my passion for this country. When I recently expressed feeling exhausted about speaking out so much, a fellow author wrote to me and said, “We need you right now. Please keep going.” So I will. And I will be there for my fellow authors who are also tired, for my fellow citizens who are scared or angry, and for my fellow Resistance members who are determined and brave—because I am all of these things too. Sometimes all at once. Above all, be kind to each other, stand up for your neighbor’s rights as well as your own, and remember that we will always be strongest when we stand together. May the Force be with you all!