Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Musings: Authors world voices

Hey, Sunday!

Is everyone ready for December and the fun chaos it brings? Come on, you know you love this month and you know it gets crazy. Yes, some have a difficult time this time of the year, too. And, there's some major changes coming for our American Musers. Then there's the world and the worries, fears, and heartache. Makes you want to hold on tighter to those you love, doesn't it?

Well, this is something we're wondering about today: In times of turmoil do authors owe the readers their voice?

Because authors use words to express themselves, I look at this as more how we write about what is happening around us as a way to understand. The world fuels our imagination and through that we voice our opinion via the story and characters. If we're lucky, others connect to us because they agree, even disagree but perhaps see something different than what they thought before.

A reader can easily make assumptions about an author’s politics and beliefs. But can the subject matter of a story, or its characters’ dialogue be assumed to reflect the author’s personal views? In my historical novels I portray realities I am not that keen on, such as the widespread use of prostitutes by Victorian men, gambling, the effects of war, colonialism. So the answer is probably not. But I suggest we all have boundaries which determine our own “no-go” areas which we would not portray in our fiction.

Nevertheless it is quite valid for authors to expose issues (contemporary or historical) through their fiction. Charles Dickens is an example of this. Is this different to an author speaking out in public on an issue they feel strongly about? In the first case, they expose the issue to the reader through their characters in a fictional story; in the second they “nail their colours to the mast” and speak out as a citizen, if they are fortunate enough to live in a regime where this is possible. I am not a famous author, so I doubt the few letters to the press I’ve had published would be of widespread interest. For the more famous…well, that’s up to them!

The message intended by an author may be subject to different interpretations by readers. If you belong to a book group you’ll have experienced this. George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” as a satire against Stalin. When I taught in a small central African “one party democracy”, it was one of the set books, believed to encourage students in anti-Communist sentiments. Someone in the regime suddenly realised it was also a metaphor for how their own dictator had come to power. It was banned overnight and a replacement book had to be rapidly studied in time for the school certificate exams. Ironically it was “The Diary of Anne Frank”, a true story of where autocratic power can lead.

No, not in the sense of wading into the fray, unless maybe as a voice of calm and reason if it's possible to cool things down that way.  There is always more than enough screaming and chaos live and on the various media without throwing more fuel into the firestorm.

My feelings and opinions can be found in my books, in some more than others depending on the situations in which the characters populating them find themselves, but I write to tell stories.  I've never reduced them to platforms for pushing personal or public agendas.  Please God, I never will.  Readers want my works, my characters, not my big mouth (no climbing on a soap box by the author, thank you).  May I always remain true to their trust.

No matter what we authors say about and in times of turmoil, we’re going to annoy half our audience. I write fiction, my audience enjoys a nice clean story to get away from reality for a while, or to make sure the side they’re rooting for wins, despite reality. I owe you my consistency.

Well, I'm not sure I adequately understand the question, but generally speaking, I never thought of the author owing the readers a voice during times of turmoil. Sooo, I do not think so. Now, during something horrendous such as 9/11, the author may give voice to their own thoughts and thereby provide a voice that readers can relate to. Or during a national event such as the Iraq War (2003-2011, 2015-Present), again the author may express their personal thoughts and provide a voice that readers can relate to. But, the bottom line is that I do not think that we owe the readers a voice. I believe the readers are able to express themselves, from their heart and soul, without authors "speaking/writing for them."

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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