In the past few years, since I began producing novels, I’ve had many interviews and answered multiple questions about inspiration, the logistics of writing, dealing with writer’s block, research, character development, and in-depth questions about specific novels. One question I’ve never been asked is-why do you write? What do I hope to accomplish in my writing life? What do I want to convey to the reader? Do I want you to learn something new, or bring a societal issue to the forefront? Back in the old days when I wrote policy papers and newsletter articles for a medical association those were exactly my goals. Now, as a fiction writer my number one goal is to entertain my audience.
The thing I love about a good book is its ability to transport me somewhere else — either geographically, or historically. My goal in writing my own novels it to provide a break for my reader from the harsh realities of real life. Let’s face it, there are so many concerns pressing down on us. In our own lives we might be dealing with illness, job insecurity, struggling to pay the bills, difficulties raising children, the list is endless. Outside of our private concerns, we are bombarded with the state of the world-terrorism, mass shootings, racial upheaval, and market fluctuations turning a hard-earned 401k into a 201K overnight. All coming at us from a sensationalist industry following the motto, “if it bleeds, it leads.” My family jokes about the 24-hour news network CNN, calling it Constantly Negative News. If I can carry my audience away from the world for a few hours, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
Many would argue this goal is superficial, and writing should be about more than entertainment. Perhaps they would be right. Don’t get me wrong. I address serious nonfictional matters in my novels ranging from cancer (Planning for Love), to war injuries and survivor guilt (Second Chance Christmas), abusive relationships, divorce, and single parenthood (Heart of Design, Art of Affection). I even thought I created my own medical condition, only to find out that Mirror Touch Synesthesia is an actual syndrome and is probably as difficult to live with as my character portrayed it in Poplar Place. These matters are researched and respectfully handled and may bring new knowledge to my readers. I’m always grateful to readers who provide constructive feedback, both positive and negative, about these issues in the storylines. However, my first question I want answered is whether you loved it or hated it-did it entertain you? Did you find the humor, feel the struggle, get angry at a character, or stay up late to find out what happens next? If the answer is yes, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
I gauge television shows with what I call my anticipation and disappointment meter. You know what I’m talking about-the show that’s so appealing you anticipate it from week to week, and are sorely disappointed when the credits roll, because you could watch it for hours more. Those addicted to Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey probably know what I’m talking about. I take great pride when a reader tells me they were sorry when the story ended and beg for the next installment. It means I distracted them from their own concerns for a short period. As someone who dealt with postpartum depression, and rediscovered laughter through Stephanie Plum novels, I know the value of being pulled up from the depths of despair through a book. Perhaps one day I can do that for another. That’s why I write.