Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Serious Side of Self-Censorship

No matter where you live, it’s hard to miss hearing about the attack on the offices of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hedbo. Twelve people died in this tragedy, journalists and cartoonists among them.  The attack was perpetrated by two men, who apparently did not like the articles and cartoons published in the magazine. They were heard to be yelling "Allahu Akbar" (God Is Greatest) as they carried out this savage act.

As a human being, this saddens me. As a writer, it also frightens me a bit if I’m honest with you. The fact that a writer could be targeted for penning something that conflicts with another’s beliefs makes me think hard about what I want to write. In essence, I’m considering the possibility that I have to censor my work to protect my life or that of my loved ones.

Okay, I know. What have I possibly written that would move someone to murder? If you’re a longtime follower of my work, you know the easy answer. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I submit to you that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not I think the work is offensive. What matters is the reaction of the reader.

Every book I’ve ever published, whether in print or online, has been read and reviewed by someone. A majority of those who read my work react favorably, but there are some who don’t. Not surprising when you consider that old adage about not being able to please all of the people all of the time.

Those negative reviews make me think though. What if the person who thought “This book is a waste of miney and it’s free” was angry enough about its content to do something about it? Oh, and that was a direct quote from a review of my young adult novel Like You Mean It.  At the time, the misspelling of the word money amused me. The reviewer had the nerve to take exception to my story and didn’t even do it well. Of late, it’s made me think.

For the most part I’m a romance writer, including young adult romance, contemporary romance and erotic romance. Other than people taking exception to the copious and sometimes gratuitous sex scenes in some of my novels, there’s not much to make me the target of a terrorist attack.

There is one exception. For a moment, I considered not naming it, but that’s pointless. The novels, my Unholy Trinity trilogy, are already online, available for anyone to read. The tagline for the first book is “What happens when the daughter of a mass murderer falls for the son of Satan?” I can most certainly tell you there are some who take exception to my trilogy and remind me that I’m going to burn in Hell for writing such a terrible story. In the past the warning made me laugh, especially when a large number of readers jumped to my defense. Now, I wonder.

Is it time to take those stories down? Is it time to be a little more prudent with what I publish, particularly in the social media age that makes it easy to find people?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and even still as I write this article and I’ve come to one conclusion. I will not fold and I will not self-censor. Not when the editors of Charlie Hedbo have bravely pressed forward to release their latest issue without wavering from what’s made them so popular. I will follow their humble lesson and keep them in my thoughts.

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