Why do writers write? Certainly, reasons differ for each of us and motives morph with time, but given the shared polestar of this blog I’ll have a go at the question anyway.
Inspired by what they believe is important, some writers want to speak to an audience. One example presently occupies first place on June’s New York Times Best Seller list—Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be Antiracist. An obvious model for our time, the book redefines racism as being related to actions and policies and not necessarily a frame of mind.
In crime fiction, Sisters in Crimes’ CrimeBake recently featured two authors whose books also embody social issues. Ann Cleeves’ North Devon Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is a homosexual cop estranged from the strict evangelical community of his upbringing and his own family. Walter Mosley’s Easy Rollins series infuses detective fiction with descriptions of racial inequities and social injustice experienced by African Americans (e.g., Rollins) in post WWII Los Angeles. Both were terrific and inspiring presenters.
Anyone who has heard me speak about my own series knows that I never, ever intended to be a mystery writer. Yet inexplicably here I am. Motivated by the climate change crisis and a passionate environmental educator, I weave issues about our warming oceans and related topics into my Maine oceanographer Mara Tusconi series. Latest in the series, Glass Eels, Shattered Sea, is somewhat of a departure. It features trafficking of elvers (long, skinny fish native to our NE coast) which Mainers net in the spring at night and sell for upwards of $2000/lb (for sushi). The amazingly high price explains why these critters are trafficked.
Two years ago if anyone had asked me about elvers I would’ve answered “huh?”. But colorful stories in local newspapers hooked me (pun, sorry) and research papers intrigued me further. Yes that’s another reason writers write. Research for a book is the best education ever.
That’s partly what Stephen King means when he says writing “enriches your life and gets you happy”. You learn a lot, yes, but crafting those words into sentences, those chapters into a satisfying whole is undeniably happy-making.