It is my immense pleasure today to hand the virtual mic over to Holly West. I've known Holly for a while now, and she is an extraordinary storyteller (and you need to check out her book, MISTRESS OF FORTUNE), as well as one of the smartest and kindest people I know. Enjoy!
Last week, my esteemed friend, Erin Mitchell, wrote a post about whether authors should speak out about controversial subjects. As my own author platform has grown and taken shape, it’s a topic I’ve given a lot of thought to. I’m the type of person who loves to hear the sound of my own voice, and if I don’t step back and think about my words, I quickly get myself into trouble.
In response to this troublesome trait, I’ve come up with a handy checklist that I use when considering whether to comment on a given situation.
Disclaimer: These are just the questions I ask myself. They’re in no way meant to judge those who speak out regularly, those who don’t speak out at all, or anyone in between.
1) I often hear people say, “It needs to be said.” But does it? Does it really need to be said, or in voicing my opinion, am I just adding to the noise?
2) Let’s say ‘it’ does need to be said. Am I the right person to say it?
3) Am I just preaching to the choir?
4) Just because it says “share,” doesn’t mean I have to, right?
5) Who give a crap what I think?
6) Finally (and this is the most important question): Is whatever I have to say important enough to risk alienating a potential reader and/or someone I care about?
This last question is a tough one for me. There are certain issues that I must voice my opinion on. They’re too important to me not to say something. But there again, I have to wonder if in speaking out, am I really thinking that I might change someone’s mind? Is there any chance for a meaningful debate? Or is simply standing up for what I think is right enough of a reason to say it? In many cases, yes, but sometimes, no.
More and more though, I find myself keeping my mouth shut—not so much because I’m afraid of losing readers, but because much of what I see spewed on the Internet is just hurtful. Mean-spirited political memes abound. Needless accusations about one religious group or another are everywhere. If you believe this you’re an idiot, if you believe that you’re the antichrist. YOU, AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU, ARE THE REASON THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL. CLICK “LIKE” IF YOU AGREE.
Whew. See how quickly it escalates?
I’m certainly not comparing these things to heartfelt commentary on a subject one feels passionately about, but at some point, we all have to consider who, exactly, our audience is and what we hope to accomplish by speaking our piece. Or is it peace? I never know.
Admittedly, this post may violate some or all of the questions I like to pose to myself before speaking out. But it needed to be said, didn’t it?
Holly West is the author of the Mistress of Fortune series (Carina Press). Set in 17th century London, it features amateur sleuth, Isabel Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II who secretly makes a living as a fortuneteller. The first in the series, Mistress of Fortune, was published in February 2014 and the second, Mistress of Lies, will be released in Fall 2014. She’s currently writing her third book, a stand-alone crime novel set in 1948 Philadelphia. Holly lives, reads, and writes in Los Angeles with her husband, Mick, and dog, Stella.