‘Issues Fiction’ Writer – That’s Me

by Sylvie Fox

The question I’m asked most often, but answer least often has to do with inspiration. In my mind, ideas are free. There are thousands, if not millions. It would take immortality to write about them all. (Tuck Everlasting popped into my head here. I greatly enjoyed this book in sixth grade, but I digress). What I intended to write and what I actually write have diverged quite a bit. When people ask what I write and what inspires me, I usually answer romance. But that’s not strictly true.

Old books on a wooden shelf.

A literary agent once described my books as fitting within the ‘issues fiction’ genre. Although my books span multiple genres, romance, women’s fiction, and legal thrillers, they have one thing in common—all of the characters have issues. A lot of them.

Like many other authors I started writing at a young age. I loved reading and wanted more than anything to emulate those authors I read. Poaching a steno pad from my grandmother’s junk drawer, I tried writing out my first stories. My handwriting was atrocious. I had a hard time keeping the letters within the lines. I’m not sure there were more than a few sentences on the page. In a word, it was awful.

But that urge to write never went away. I used to dream up stories while I was washing the dishes, walking the dog, and cleaning the cat litter box. From day one though, my characters had issues. They suffered death, destruction, and destitution. Thinking back, one books that influenced me was one I borrowed from the library, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’m going to say I probably picked up the book, not because of the cover or the description, but because of the city of my birth was in the title. Until that time, the books I’d read were mostly about London, Paris, and Boston (a tattered copy of Johnny Tremain decorated my bedroom bookshelf). Brooklyn, New York was something I could understand.

Though I remember the book quite idyllically, it’s a book about issues. Birth, death, marriage, alcoholism, potential rapists, and immigration. I was fascinated with the saga of the Nolan family though it was nothing like my own.

Some twenty years later, when I sat down to write my first book, Qualified Immunity, I wrote about most of life’s best and worst moments. The story of a federal judge who loses her child to foster care, the book covers the gamut, mother-daughter relationships, child abuse, alcoholism, and redemption. The book a dark and brooding tale took a lot out of me. When I write about dark themes, I inhabit that world.

Because I read a lot of serious fictional tales, I like to lighten up by reading romance. Several years after completing Qualified Immunity, I penned my second book, Impasse. It’s a romance—of sorts. When writing the book, I imagined a lighthearted sexy romance. That’s not exactly what came out on paper. My heroine Holly finds difficulty trusting. My heroine Nick is working on growing up. While there’s falling in love, and sexytimes, the book veers into themes of what it means to give someone a second chance.

The rest of my novels get deeper into ‘issue’ territory: secrets, lies and truth is how I describe my women’s fiction. I think of my writing as a mashup of imagination and 60 Minutes. I may never be light. I may never be fluffy. But I love my flawed complex characters and all their issues. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sylvie-white-backgroundSylvie Fox is the author of In Plain SightQualified Immunity and  The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of UnlikelyImpasse, and Shaken from the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, and The Secret Widow from the Judgment series. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.