My current work in progress deals with a very uncomfortable topic, active shooters. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to go there, being the peace-loving person that I am, but I thought it made sense, given the world we live in today.
Why an active shooter? Why indeed. Sometimes the characters will have their say, and in this case, that's exactly what happened. I didn't plan to go down that road when I started, but there it was.
One of my favorite authors writes formulaic novels about alpha hero men, all caught up in their man-ness and severely damaged heroines in need of saving who don't think they need any help from anyone. I've loved her books, even though the one I just finished might have gone a teensy bit over the top. One thing she does address is socially relevant topics, real problems for real people. She wrote a heroine who had been in a bridge collapse, a survivor struggling to come to grips with living through something like that. She's also written a cancer survivor. Real issues that people might/can relate to. So when my heroine told me about the active shooter, I decided I should go with it. (I should mention that when I say my heroine spoke to me, this is my imaginary friend who lives inside my head, but I assume you all know that, right? Writers are an odd lot.)
My son is a schoolteacher. He's always been one of my biggest fans/promoters, even though I'm pretty sure he's never read any of my books. But that's family for ya. He's worked through plots with me before (he has some pretty good imagination genes of his own), but I'm not sure he was prepared for me when I asked him protocol for active shooters, my questions falling around the holidays. If my kid is anything like me, he gets a little itchy talking about unpleasant things, even if they are a fact of life. We did have to establish when "appropriate book conversations" could be had and when they should not be brought up.
Fiction, and romances in particular, are designed to take people out of their problems. For a period of time, we can step into another place, someone else's shoes, see through someone else's eyes, with the end result being that problems can be resolved. Hopelessness can lead to happily ever after. Horror can be healed. While these topics may be socially relevant and sometimes uncomfortable (watch out, cliches ahead), there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A rainbow after the storm.