Monday 11 September 2017

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Going To The Dark Side


Given that in less than a month I will be attending my first ever author signing. Aptly enough, it's the Darker Side Of Fiction 2017, so I thought it would be a good idea in the lead up to that event, to do a piece about both being a crime writer and what it's like to go to the dark side writing wise. I've been writing crime fiction the whole of my writing career, and it's always been something that's interested me. However, I didn't really cross over to the dark side completely until recently. It was a gradual process and something that I didn't really realise was happening until after it had passed.

As a crime writer you're usually dealing with the dark side of humanity as it is. The same can be said for a number of other genres, but for me it's crime so I'll stick with that. You're facing situations and creating characters who either go through some trauma or are the perpetrators of trauma and that's sometimes hard to wrap your head around. I once got told that I shouldn't write crime fiction, especially for young adults, because it can steer young people towards a criminal life. I'm not sure how that works since, well it doesn't work like that, but people have also asked me why do I focus so much on the bad and not write fluffy novels with romance, happiness and all the bright side of life.

I would argue that I do and have written books that deal with both the criminal genre but also with the fluff as well. In the Dying Thoughts series, Tara has a wonderful friend in Kaolin, and that continues throughout the series. In the Cramping Chronicles series, which has yet to be released, the main character, Jessie, has a bunch of friends and it's not all doom and gloom. I could name other books, but there's always a balance, in my eyes between the dark and dreary and the light and fluffy. I would say that my latest release - It's Not Always Rainbows - it not one that balances both of those. It is, and reviewers have agreed, my darkest book. It didn't start out like that, but as I grew closer to the end I realised that there was only really one way for it to continue and wrap up. That said, it does have a happy ending, or at least as happy as I could make it.

So why do authors like myself focus on the darker side of humanity? I was asked this in an interview which can be found here. The long and short of how I see it is that readers, writers and everyone in-between do have somewhat of a sense of the macabre. The example I used in the interview was that when you drive past an accident site. You hope and pray that no one is seriously, or even not seriously hurt, but you still can't help but glance at it as you go past. Reading, and writing, dark fiction does not mean that you're morbid (though I will admit, I very much am!), or that you are sick and twisted. It just means you want to be able to escape to a world where the people being hurt, killed, or whatnot, aren't real. Fiction is about an escape, both for the writer and for those who read. The dark side is welcoming with open arms people who want to escape into their worlds.

That said, not all crime novels are dark and grisly. Not all mystery books involve death, and the dark side isn't all torture and graphic violence. Part of being a crime writer means you will write about all manner of crimes. And while I have read a number of books of my fellow attending authors, there is a wide array of just how dark it gets. It's all about where the story goes, what the circumstances call for and all of that wrapped up in a delicious package. My earlier books, especially in the Dying Thoughts series, were a mix of dark and not. You have to remember that I write for young adults, and for that reason, some of my writing will be curbed so as not to get too dark. However, there are and always will be some level of the dark side in them. And there's nothing wrong with that.

While I do agree that young adults shouldn't be exposed to certain elements of the world, in fiction and real life, I think it has to be considered on a case by case basis. I am the guardian to an almost thirteen year old. She is very much ready to read all of my works even though she's on the younger side of the young adult spectrum. She has been ready since she was about eleven or so. I am also aware of other readers who started before the cut-off age at thirteen and have very much enjoyed, processed and been happy with where my books have gone. But there are other young adults, and younger readers who would not be okay with reading what I've written. And that's okay! It's something they have to decide, or their parents have to decide. In the past my advice has been, for parents unsure, to read the book before they let their child read it. If it's something they're not happy with sharing, no harm.

So, as a crime writer, and as someone who is very much happy writing the dark side of fiction into their works, I will leave you with the knowledge that entering the dark side is not a one-way ticket. You can dip your toe into the pond and you can leave at any time. Of course, you might find that you actually very much enjoy it, and in that case you'll probably never leave!

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