Any thoughtful writer has different reasons for writing her stable of books, ranging from a story that must be told to commerce, plain and simple. In a reflective moment, I realized that many of my books are the ones inspired by the child I once was or the adult I’ve become with important things to impart.
Examples from the kid end? I wrote the Brave Kid series for my younger self, stories in which ordinary children show courage in hard times. I found kids who lived in different eras to bring in another element. But my real message was that you don’t have be an expert in the martial arts to be a hero. Being scared and acting anyway is heroic. Standing up against something wrong, even just a little bit, is heroic. Getting through something really hard is heroic. Way back then, I wish I had known that we don’t have to measure ourselves against an ideal or end goal to be brave. Trying is brave.
I made sure to reveal some foibles of Washington, Jefferson and Adams in See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes and the Race to the White House for the same reason. In the service of giving kids a moral lesson, we used to paint these guys as gods (okay, not Adams, no one ever seemed to like him much but Abigail). But we robbed kids of the chance to see that imperfect people struggling to do right is perfectly heroic.
An example from the adult end? I’ve already blogged about why I wrote On This Spot, a book that describes a specific place in New York City from present day all the way back through geologic time. In this post, I explained that I was inspired by overhearing a young girl who was very upset and couldn’t quite fathom that things would change. (http://inkrethink.blogspot.com/2009/08/sometimes-truth-finds-you.html)
What an important lesson that one is. It’s the one that inspired the “It Gets Better” Project in reaction to the rash of suicides by gay teens. Sue Macy wrote a great post about this project that has people on youtube telling their own stories to stricken kids to say, in essence, “Hang on, things change.” (http://inkrethink.blogspot.com/2010/10/making-it-better.html)
Last thought. Many of my books, serious or funny, have an uber-message the adult me wants kids to know. It boils down to: Hey Kid, you think that the world you see, hear, touch is THE world. Well, it’s just one part of it. Your truth is a truth; but there are others too. Check it out!
Authors out there, I’m curious. What are some of the deeper reasons behind your books? Is there a pattern? Some message important to you that you keep trying to get across?