Authors go into their books with what they intend to put on the page. But there are also the things that they put in there that take them by surprise — and sometimes those things add a new level to the work. Mary Weber talks about one of these things in Storm Siren — and how it got into the book in the first place.
My big idea didn’t start out as big. In fact, I didn’t realize it was even an “idea” until a friend gave me feedback that went something like: “I love your focus on diversity. It’s cool you incorporated other races and special-needs characters into the book. What made you decide to do that?”
“Huh?” I frowned. She clearly didn’t understand. The big idea was supposed to be female empowerment. You know – slave girl with superpowers discovers her worth isn’t in her status or abilities but in who she is? Yeah, that.
Later, as my shaky hands slipped the story into a few more inboxes, the replies came back with more of the same: “Good job on how diverse it is. How’d you come up with that?”
Um… I didn’t. But I should have. I should have considered the importance of diversity in story. Been intentional. Yeah, that.
Now, in my defense, I did purposefully make my main character’s love interest a hot black man instead of a hot white guy. Because HELLO. He’s hot. But did I add the various individuals and special needs into Storm Siren to make a statement? No. Part of me wishes I had, because that sounds so intentionally awesome. But the truth is much simpler. Perhaps humbler.
I live in the real world.
I work with special needs individuals and their families. Some of my own family members have special needs. And those people and families are the most incredible, passionate, and hardworking that I know.
I also live in a California coastal community that’s a virtual mixing pot of cultures and ethnicities and beautiful beliefs. Rarely have I encountered any shade of skin copping an attitude toward another person’s shade of skin. We simply are who we are. People. Trying to get by as a community of college-agers, professors, lawyers, waste-removal truck drivers, plumbers, dentists, artists, photographers, middle-agers, parents, homeless, wealthy, elderly.
So, I’m not sure it’s really a big idea when those faces weave their way into a fictional story and are “represented” in romance or fairytale, or westerns, or, in my case, fantasy. It’s simply that they are in my community, and therefore, the people who influence my life story. I bet they’re the same type of people who influence yours as well – people who empower us.
In looking at it that way, maybe my earlier big idea wasn’t too far off. Because at the core of female empowerment – heck, at the core of human empowerment – is value. No matter what things make us different or the same, we are each valuable because of the very fact that we exist.
And we add value to each other by the fact that we choose to live life together, sharing with each other, caring for each other. We add value by standing up for the rights of anyone who has to fight harder to have her voice heard.
And if you ask me, that right there is what makes us powerful.