Thrillers on society: Michael Fine’s Children of Hope
Michael Fine believes that thriller novels can serve as venues for serious social commentary. As a writer for both children and adults, he’s created Children of Hope, a new title dealing with reproductive rights.
Lois Lane interviews him here about this book:
How did you decide to write about reproductive rights?
The central image of a male Senator being “impregnated” on the Senate floor took hold in my mind after I read an article about artificial womb technology. Once that picture was in my mind, I just had to write a story around it. While writing the novel, I did a ton of research on the legal and political battles around women’s reproductive rights and all of it boiled my blood, which further fueled me to write the best possible story I could.
How do you balance fiction and writing craft with social commentary in a novel about a current hot-button issue?
First and foremost, I aimed to write a compelling story that people will enjoy reading. I hope people want to keep turning the page to see what happens next! That said, I knew I was writing a book with a strong social and political message and tried really hard not to write a preachy screed. I actually love that as the book took shape it was the hero and her friends who are the ones doing some pretty bad things and it’s the antagonist who is giving millions to charity. Plus, the final scene in the book is there specifically to provide balance and nuance to the subject matter.
Did it ever feel unusual to you that you’re a man writing about an issue traditionally associated with women, or was it always just a human story?
The moment I came across an article about artificial womb technology, the core question of, “what if men could get pregnant?” came to mind and the image of a man being “impregnated” on the Senate floor blossomed. From there, I just ran with the idea, shaped my characters and plot, planned the novel, and wrote it hot. I wrote the story because I couldn’t not write it. I felt like the story in my mind just had to hit the page. I certainly hope women don’t turn away from the story just because it was written by a man. If it helps, I was raised by a single mother in an otherwise all-female household of three generations of women.
You also write for children, and young students. Was the process of writing a grown-up novel different?
Regardless of what I write, a strong central idea, image of a scene, or character forms in my mind and then I weave a story around that starting point. But that’s where the similarities end, at least for me. When I write short fiction, I “just write.” But when I write a novel, I’m a meticulous planner and typically don’t write a single scene until the entire novel is planned out. And, of course, subject matter, tone, and word choice are all quite different depending on the maturity of the target audience.
So, I have to ask…is your book suggesting that violence might be the answer to challenges posed to legal abortion?
Vigilantism is illegal, and I don’t condone violence. That said, millions of fans around the world cheer when the grieving father or mother, husband or wife, ex-cop done wrong, or “regular Joe” fights back against bad guys or powerful corporations in hundreds of movies, TV shows, and novels. The only difference in my book is that the “evil” being perpetrated by the antagonist and his secret cabal aiming to Christianize America isn’t as obviously violent.
I do think that the technology described in the book — or something else like it — will radically change the debate about abortion rights in this country. Sadly, perhaps not for the better. Whatever might limit the need for a woman or girl carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term will almost certainly be used by the radical Right to further limit abortion.