Award-winning self-published author Taylor Fulks reveals how she came to write a novel about the taboo subject of the sexual abuse of children – and why she's glad she did.
Readers, of all makes and models, “read what they need.” Some are inquisitive, with an insatiable desire for knowledge; seeking out the How-To’s and What-For’s of Non-Fiction; while others, need the distraction of fiction, or make-believe; an escape from the mundane or toilsome life they’ve been dealt.
A little over two years ago, I sat on my back porch ready to embark on the world of writing; hoping to be more than just a micro-droplet in a sea of romance novels. I’m an OR nurse. I sew flesh back together for a living. I had no credentials, just a desire to write.
But as I began to try and pen my intended story, I kept hearing a small, subdued voice in my head saying, “Tell our story, Taylor.” Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, I listened. It took me several tries to summon the courage to even write the first sentence, many weeks later. The reason: my story is taboo…
Choosing Fact or Fiction
I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to write a memoir; though some feel and say it reads like one, since it’s written in first person. I had never read a memoir, so I didn’t have a clue how to begin to write one…or end one for that matter. I also felt that a memoir had to be unadulterated fact (I learned much later on, it does not), and my story would have to be altered (names, dates, times), to protect not only my family, but also myself. So I chose to write my story as a fictionalized novel, based on a true story…my story.
A scandal erupted here in the States; tantamount to the fall of the Roman Empire. I was about one third of the way through my manuscript when all hell broke loose on the national news. A prominent University and a popular coach, and an athletic director were ensconced in a child sex abuse scandal; spanning two decades and numerous little boys. The coach, and beloved icon, had been informed and had done nothing.
I watched like a hawk for stories from the victims but the only stories provided were grossly edited snippets of interviews that minimized the severity, and sometimes, questioned the validity of the abuse. Then I watched a group of students, administrators, and staff from Penn State University, stand in front of a TV camera and cry foul! One middle-age man looked right into the camera with unflinching eyes, and said, “The punishment is too harsh for the crime!”
I have known rage in my life; feelings of anger so toxic, it was quite frightening, and made me feel hollow for days. I was possessed! I didn’t think. I didn’t process or calculate what I was about to do. I just wrote. Raw, blatant honesty became my mission. I had to take the reader to that dark, dismal, shameful place no one ever talks about, and with my written words…make them feel.
To my utter amazement, my novel was well received by readers with 150+/5 star reviews and I’ve also been the recipient of two prestigious awards.
I also found myself embroiled in a defamation/slander campaign, and on the verge of having my book banned for content. We all like neat and tidy: the girl gets the guy, this gizmo or gadget will do that, if you do this, and the ever-popular, happily-ever-after. My Prison Without Bars is none of those things, unfortunately. My book is the raw, unfiltered truth about child sexual abuse.
One year after publication of my taboo novel, I am forever changed. I have received over five hundred emails and private messages from readers; other victims struggling to find “normal.” In writing my truth, my way, I’ve found something I never expected: acceptance. Not so much from others, though it is offered quite freely, but acceptance from me. I cannot change events from the past, but I can remember “I don’t live there any more.”
[…] I received an email from the Alliance of Independent Authors regarding a blog post entitled, “Why I Wrote About a Taboo subject.”Â Needless to say, the title caught my eye.Â To my surprise, it was about an award-winning book […]
Wishing you success in getting a difficult story out to show others the effects of abuse. It takes courage to share your most difficult moments in life.
Thank you so much for the encouragement and well wishes. It’s been a difficult, yet fulfilling journey for me. It has truly changed my life, forever.
All the best to you,
If you don’t write it, someone who hasn’t your insight will – taboo subjects can also be magnets – and the readers won’t get the truth.
I’m glad you found the courage.
I’m trying something not as brave as what you did – I’m writing about how a person with a disability is not allowed – by society and herself – to want what ‘normal’ people want – and it’s going to be hard in many ways, and worse when it’s published, but that’s okay.
Because not writing about it doesn’t change it – it just doesn’t get written about.
Most people are not writers – they need us writers to put things into words.
Keep up the good work.
Alicia, you are so right: writers write so non-writers (the majority) can echo the voice as it were, can see it being said – hopefully with honesty, integrity, and insight.
You are spot on! However, I have found that readers want the truth; the reality as it is, as long as it stays within certain parameters. That is the problem with taboo subjects. They push the envelope, making reality a bit too real for comfort.
This post was rather L.O.N.G. when I submitted it. Unfortunately, something I wanted to say had to be cut or I’d have to add chapter headings…heehee! But what you want to write, and the feelings you have about writing it, bring this to mind…
Whether you are an author or an unpublished writer, self-published INDIE, or a traditionally published artist; you bleed from your soul on paper, putting yourself out there, time and time again. You expose your thoughts, ideas, and dreams; â€œyour truthsâ€ to the world to be judged, fairly or harshly, it doesn’t matter. You are still being judged by the public, and theirs is the last word. Miraculously, you do it again and again, regardless of what others say, because it is who and what you are. You were born to tell your truth. You were born to write.
You are brave. Anyone willing to lay themselves out there has tremendous courage. Write your truth my friend.
Thank you for the comment.
You don’t choose a lot of what life throws at you.
But you do choose whether to write about it (assuming you can write), or not. Writing puts it all out there in public – where other people can call you foolish, or a liar, or someone who exaggerates.
That’s the price – that’s when you also want to write well and be entertaining, or at least interesting: so that people can’t discount your truth because you’ve told it badly. Separating ‘author’ from ‘truth’ will be difficult for most people.
Your problems are never unique – to the contrary, there is much ‘compassion fatigue’ about your subject from people who have heard it all too many times.
You have a chance, as a writer, to make people care again. That’s your job. And that is your satisfaction.
People in the North of the US knew about slavery in the South – but it wasn’t until Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe) that many of them started to care.
Very interesting. The world seems to’ve centred itself on hunting out this horrible thing, yet those of us who grew up being warned off strangers etc and lived in families free of it had grown up imagining it was a rare, vile, thing which was not around every corner but might be behind some. WHen a friend of mine told me her father had been convicted of it, I carried the thought around like ‘her father did that very rare, terrible thing: however must it be to be her?”
I think you are right to’ve done it as fiction: for many reasons. Fiction certainly speaks.
No time for more, but I wd guess that as you’ve been close to it, you have not sensationalised, which is probably more powerful than if a writer exploited the subject to sell books. Thanks for posting this.
It is for those that have lived a relatively “normal” life that I wrote this book. We have become so desensitized by what we hear and see in the media that is offered. My rage at the ignorance of some (University officials), compelled me to share my dark and dirty secret, whatever the cost.
It is written as a fictional novel; a tragic story from a child’s point of view through adulthood. That child was me. As for sensationalizing to sell books, maybe if I had used a pen name, or told another person’s story; but I used my full name, my life, my experiences, and I get to accept all the backlash for the content. I’m no Hugh Howey, but I’ve been blessed with great responses to my little taboo novel.
Thank you for the comment.