What is “fiction that doesn’t fit in”?
Humans ourselves have never been good at fitting in. We’re constantly in search of new lands, new ways to make money, new ways to make our work easier, new ways of thinking about ourselves.
Some people embrace that about themselves and others. Other people rebel, preferring tradition and routine and rules. The two should be in balance… but they usually aren’t.
My fiction is for people who not only don’t fit in, but have been made to feel shame for it, as if their very existence threatens others’ status quo. I don’t believe anyone should ever feel that way, but I know how dark it is, and my fiction reflects that darkness… along with, I hope, a little bit of light.
That’s also why I try to push the boundaries of genre. You’ll only rarely find a “pure” piece of crime or horror fiction; mine often intersect, with other social elements thrown in, like characters who identify as gay or nonbinary, or who are shapeshifting crimefighters.
Along the way, I try to ask social questions like:
- What does good environmental stewardship really mean?
- When does opportunity become exploitation?
- What are our rights and responsibilities when it comes to integrating other cultures in our own lives?
- What would happen if we legalized the worst of what we’re capable of?
- When is one person’s belief another person’s cognitive distortion?
Sometimes, of course, fiction is just fun or interesting to write. But what I’ve found, over the years of reading and movie-watching, is that it can give us the tools we need, as critical as a sextant or looking-glass, to navigate the rapid changes in our world and in our own lives.
I have never been good at fitting in. I certainly tried; stints in ROTC, both at the high school and college levels, and the Boy Scouts’ Law Enforcement Explorer program reflected my efforts to be a good little do-be. Sadly, I still come across as a goody-two-shoes, but I’ve learned that people’s stories and contexts are almost always more complex and nuanced than we give them credit for, and I try to honor that most of all through my fiction.
I also learned, as a writer, and quite late (not until after I turned 40) that I can’t even conform to traditional notions of fiction. I always wanted to write police procedurals, but mine never quite made it. They always felt too constrained, and it wasn’t until I started writing horror and fantasy that I realized that what I really wanted to say came out better untethered to the real world. Furthermore, I don’t write traditional-length novels. Maybe someday I will, but right now, my “sweet spot” seems to be in the long short story / novelette / novella length range. Again, anything longer feels constraining.
Also of note:
- I’m not well traveled. A lot of other authors are, but not me. I sometimes fantasize about selling the house and taking the kids and going global, but previous leaps of faith didn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped, so I’m shy now.
- I was forbidden from watching horror movies as a kid. I snuck them instead. Then I married a horror fan, and it was all over.
- I’ve always written stories. I’ve taken hiatuses when I didn’t believe I had anything left to say, but the stories always come back.
- I didn’t write fantasy or children’s until after I turned 40.
In spite of all my non-conformity, I live in one of the most conservative areas of the U.S. Bible Belt (Greenville, South Carolina), where I’ve nonetheless found a wealth of diversity from many different cultures both foreign and domestic. I’m raising two sons and volunteer on the board of a local animal rescue and sanctuary. In addition to writing and reading, I love long hikes, long swims, and long, lazy afternoons in my hammock.