What I write has to work on the simple storytelling level, but to keep my interest, it also has to do something more. I want to learn something I might never have otherwise known from the process of writing and researching it. And I want there to be a dialogue somewhere in the text that touches on issues that are important to me.
My themes are pretty basic. They center around the need for us to treat each other and the world we live in with respect. I also write a lot about the value of loyalty, honour and friendship; the idea of the viability of the family of choice; and the belief I have that there is more to the world than we can see with only a cursory glance.
In a sense, much of what I write centers around what I believe is a poet's job to do: show the familiar in a new light so that we can see it again, as though for the first time, and appreciate its worth, no matter how common it might appear. It's like the difference between weeds and garden flowers. Truth is, I like a lot of weeds better. Those of you familiar with my writing won't be too surprised by that, since the other story I tend to explore is that of the outsider.
Who are the outsiders? They're the disenfranchised and the homeless. The victims who have to face their terrors on their own. They are the outlaws and the artists. They are the people who are considered to have the wrong skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. They are the weeds in the garden, and in the animal world, they are the crows and the coyotes.
It's easy to romanticize the outsider, but to do so isn't really fair, because that romance can minimize the very real trials they face. Before you create a romantic portrait of a homeless person, try living that life yourself: no money, no home, no food, and you're invisible to the rest of the world. Or at least the regular, tax-paying citizens try not see you. Your portrait of them shouldn't concentrate solely on those aspects either. Treat them instead as what they are: individuals, with stories of their own.
And that, I suppose, is at the heart of everything I write, this idea of respect, no matter the differences. And putting forth a sense of hope—that there is a way out of the darkness. Because as William Morris wrote in News from Nowhere, that way out of the darkness can only come about if we ourselves change. It can't be forced upon a person. In other words, we'll only stop hurting each other when we truly believe that it's wrong to do so. Not because someone tells us it's wrong.
I see a lot of dark fiction, and I'd never tell anyone what to write, but it depresses me when that darkness is all we're given. I believe stories should be uplifting; that even in the darkest stories, there should be a sense of hope because, well, to quote one of my own characters, "If there's only supposed to be darkness, then why were we given light?"