Denise Mina is one of my absolute favorite crime writers and a constant inspiration. At a recent Bouchercon (San Francisco) she gave some of the shortest, sagest advice to writers and aspiring crime writers I think I’ve ever heard:
Write about what makes you angry.
It doesn’t take me a millisecond’s thought to make my list. Child sexual abuse is the top, no contest. Violence against women and children. Discrimination of any kind. Religious intolerance. War crimes. Genocide. Torture.
I have long found it toxically ironic that the crimes that I consider most unspeakable: slavery, rape, torture, the sexual slavery of children (including incest and prostitution – the average age a woman begins that life is thirteen), animal abuse – none of these were even worth a mention in the Ten Commandments. Apparently taking the Lord’s name in vain, stealing, and coveting thy neighbor’s wife rank above any of my personal hate list.
And I think the lack of Biblical sanction against those crimes has contributed to society’s continuing and pretty mindblowing ability to ignore those crimes.
And I’m angry about it.
That anger has fueled a lot of my books and scripts over the years. Gar wrote about this recently, and I agree: I’ve always thought that as writers we’re only working with a handful of deep themes, which we explore over and over, in different variations. And I think it’s really useful to be very conscious of those themes. Not only do they fuel our writing, they also brand us as writers. And if you need a hint about what your personal themes are, look to the themes of your favorite writers; chances are it’s theme that’s attracting you more than almost anything else about those books.
So when it came down to creating a series that I could sustain over multiple books, it’s no surprise that this issue came up again as one of the main thematic threads. With Huntress Moon I’ve finally created an umbrella, an interesting world populated by characters I care about, to explore, dramatically, the roots and context of the worst crimes I know. And at least on paper, do something about it.
But while writing is great to call attention to a problem and explore it, it’s not enough in the face of real, everyday evil. There’s writing, and there’s action.
I’ve been thinking a lot about child prostitution (more aptly called child sex trafficking) recently as I’m writing the Huntress sequel, because there are characters in Book Two who are in that life. The fact is, most prostitutes start as child prostitutes. Women (and boys) who work as prostitutes almost always begin that life well before adulthood. Kids run away from abuse, usually sexual abuse, at home, and are sucked up into the life by predators: raped, battered, terrorized, and hooked on drugs so they’re kept enslaved to the pimps who live off their earnings. Yes, still.
I’ve worked with some of those kids, when I taught in the L.A. County Juvenile Court systerm, and I find it unimaginable that we just let this happen, and often treat these victims as criminals rather than getting them help to break free.
So today, I don’t want to just get angry about it, I want to do something about it.
I’m very grateful that sales of Huntress Moon have been very good. And since this issue is so much on my mind, I’ll be donating all of my proceeds from today’s sales of Huntress Moon to Children of the Night, a Los Angeles-based shelter which helps children and teenagers in prostitution from all over the country get out of the life.
So if you haven’t gotten your copy of the book and you’d like the extra satisfaction that that money is going to an excellent cause, today’s your chance:
Or – take that money and take a minute to donate directly to a cause that’s fighting something that makes YOU angry.
So you know the question today:
What makes you angry? Do you write about it? If not, do you think it might benefit your writing to try?
And I’d also love to hear about other people’s favorite charities and causes.
Here are a few more of mine:
And – I just had to mention that Murderati regular, the lovely, talented and deeply insightful Billie Hinton and I are both featured in Digital Book Today’s Weekly Great Reads – you can pick up Billie’s claire-obscure for just 99 cents!