by Marissa Clarke
Discrimination. Nothing makes me lose my cool faster than a jump to judgment based on stereotypes. I’m from the South, so racial prejudice was a part of my youth growing up with parents born in the 1920’s. My dad even had a history book from his school days that described why a particular race was inferior due to over all cranium size. He and I both agreed it was outrageous.
I have a son with a disability and it has been a challenge to educate people and guide them away from the stereotypes associated with autism. Nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing a person summarily lumped into a category without consideration to his or her individual gifts and weaknesses.
I think all writers have a recurring theme throughout their works, and discrimination is mine. I hadn’t realized it fully until I stepped back and looked at my works as a whole, rather than individual projects, but it’s the major force in all of them. (Stereotypes addressed in prior books: Shattered Souls – teen drug and alcohol use, Ashes on the Waves – physical disability, Fragile Spirits – poverty and outward appearances)
Love Me to Death is no exception. Because of the scope of The Underveil Series, there is considerable world building that includes multiple species of immortal creatures, all living by their communities’ distinct codes. When I consider the level of stereotyping in my own society, it strikes me how difficult co-existence would be in the Underveil.
The following excerpt from Love Me to Death takes place after the heroine, Elena Arcos, witnesses the death of a teen canine shifter. She’s outraged at the level of barbarism and violence under the Veil. Oddly, she’s the one who is stereotyping at the time, and not the vampire she has just accused of being a bigot for his treatment of the bovine shifter in his employ.
LOVE ME TO DEATH
The vampire cut off another bite of fish, his manners impeccable. “The killing of children is not unique to the Underveil. Human children are killed in wars all over the world and in gang battles in your own city.”
He was right there. Teens were caught in gang crossfire and the victims of horrible murders. She’d seen it on television way too often.
He took a sip of wine, never taking his eyes off her. “The loss of young life is tragic, despite species. Which is the real issue here: species. Humans only have only one. We have many. Do you think your world would deal with this kind of diversity better? Is everyone in your society slated to be CEO, president, commander, or king, or do they need a skill set, education, connections, or a birthright, just as we do?”
Again. He had a point. She turned her attention to her food.
“We have shifters in our leadership and all jobs in the Underveil, though most pursue careers that best suit their skills or animal nature, sticking with their flock, pack, or herd by choice. They are not oppressed or excluded, unlike in your world where females of your species were not even allowed to vote until the current century. Recall how hard it is, even in your own country in modern times, for different races to accept one another. And that is only skin color or mild differences in features within a single species. Imagine how hard it is to integrate different species. We’ve done well.” He set his wineglass down. “Adjust your thinking, Elena Arcos.”
And she adjusts very well, embracing her new reality and even leading an expedition to save the hero of the story, Nikolai Itzov, breaking out of her own stereotype of weak human.
I have found that when an author is passionate about something—a cause, a problem, a societal issue—it translates nicely into a theme, whether the project be commercial (in this case) literary, or non-fiction. I also find that if I care about something deeply as an author, that depth translates to the reader, even in a non-didactic piece intended solely for entertainment, like Love Me to Death.
This book was a delight to write. I am so grateful to Liz Pelletier and the team at Entangled Publishing for giving me this opportunity, and for the support of readers and blogs like Writerspace.