Silver Skin is a scifi/historical fiction inspired by the Stone Age village of Skara Brae on Orkney. There are 3 main characters: Rab, from the far future, and Cait and Voy from the Stone Age. When it was (wisely) suggested that Rab was coming across as too young, I didn't/couldn't write a different, older character. I just aged Rab. I imagined what he would have experienced in the x number of years that would pass to get him to the right age. He's still Rab, just older. How could he be anyone else?
Why am I telling you this? Because, as Silver Skin's publication date approaches, I'm becoming aware of "issues" ...
For example, I'm officially white, though in reality I'm pinky-yellow with occasional unfortunate flushes of beetroot. Does this mean I can/should/must only write about pinky-yellow people with the occasional unfortunate beetrooty sidekick? This is a legitimate question and we won't be finding the definitive answer to it any time soon.* But the situation I find myself in isn't one I consciously sought. I blame my characters. I blame the story.
Rab is black. (He's also male, which I'm not, but that's another hornets' nest altogether). He could have been any colour under the sun because he is from the far future. when "human colouring and characteristics had been jumbled together for so long that any couple could produce a child of any appearance. Nobody stuck out because everybody looked different." But he walked into my brain black and I saw no good reason to bleach him.
Cait is taller and paler-haired than the people she lives with.
Voy, the Old Woman, has arthritis-crippled hands.
The bulk of the story is set in Neolithic Orkney, at the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age, which was a time of major climate change. Rab's future world has been shaped by climate change too.
But this is not a book about being black, or about having a tall blonde heroine, or about disability, or about climate change. Those things are just in there, because they have to be, for this story to be this story.
Or am I being naive? Is every book about the issues? As writers and as readers, what do you think?
* I've pulled up just a few of the excellent ABBA posts on the issue of issues for you to re-visit:
Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.