Our world is rife with darkness. Even a cursory glance at current events reveals suffering, death, destruction, and hate. As a person with a highly-sensitive empathy response (I literally feel what others feel—I can’t stop it), I can’t pay attention to too much, or I make myself physically ill.
I’ve had conversations with other writers at genre conventions about the current rage for “grim-dark” stories. These are tales like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad, where the world itself is suffused with despair and everyone can die. The draw seems to be a sense of realism, of not “shying away” from the darker aspects of life.
While a tone of foreboding and despair is perhaps “realistic,” I don’t find that a compelling reason to partake of that kind of fiction. I go to fiction to imagine a world that could be, a better world. If I want to read about genocide, plague, catastrophe, rape, murder, and war, I can go to any news website on the internet.
Instead, I prefer stories of hope—where justice prevails and where love conquers. I don’t feel that this makes me naïve (although it does make me an optimist). I am a warrior, writing in defense of what I believe to be absolutely true: that if we, as a species, embraced love, accepting our differences and understanding our similarities, that our world would be radically changed. The beating heart of every world religion is love and acceptance, despite what man tries to twist and change about each prophet’s words to justify their rage and hate.
So I write love stories, and I try to add a little love into the universe. I model relationships that I feel are healthy, based on mutual respect and attraction—not on manipulation and abuse. My characters enjoy vigorous sex lives, again based on an understanding that sex is not and should not be shameful, hidden, or vilified. Women and their desires are elevated, celebrated, and equal to men and theirs. They are not made to feel dirty or broken because they feel and experience physical passion.
I made a promise, when I started this series, that none of my characters would ever be raped, either within the story or to create a backstory conflict. Not because I am disconnected from reality, but because I am very, very connected to it. Nearly every woman I know has been sexually assaulted. And if not outright assaulted, has been the victim of misogyny and oppression—has been catcalled, touched inappropriately, or had to deal with unwanted advances that quickly progressed to violence when they politely declined.
So my books will never, ever go to that conflict well. My world is a safe place for my female characters. They have plenty of other problems, but rape isn’t one of them. Instead, I allow my stories to wallow in hope. Hope that things will get better, that we can make a better world, that love and acceptance and understanding and empathy and compassion can and should be the strongest forces in the world.
In my books, love conquers all. Doesn’t that sound like a world you’d want to live in?
Cara McKinnon wrote her first fantasy romance at the age of six, about a unicorn couple that falls in love and has adventures (there is also pie). Now she writes about humans falling in love and having adventures, but she can’t quite stop including magic.
She loves history and historical romance, so she decided to set her books in an alternate Victorian era where magic is not only real but a part of everyday life.
Cara attended the best writing school in the world, Seton Hill University, where she received an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and found her writing tribe. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
Visit her on her website caramckinnon.com, where you can find more information about the Fay of Skye series, writing and romance, and ways to get in touch!