I'd like to share some thoughts that have come to mind while I've been having trouble with my next WIP.
The book, Carver & McCain, was going to be a police procedural with strong urban fantasy elements, dealing with issues of prejudice in how paranormals cope with the way mundane humans treat them. I had my privileged, ex-SWAT officer, recently transferred to the paranormal crimes division, and his werewolf partner who would have to put up with his anti-paranormal attitude.
The problem was, I feel, the issue of prejudice was never going to be confronted by the characters. They would learn to respect and eventually like each other, but the more I wrote, the more I realized I was hitting out a lot of stuff about how hard life was for paranormals and how readily normal humans would turn on them, without my characters deciding to do something about it.
In short, it felt like I was preaching.
Lady Raven, on the other hand, is different. Although Cora lives a precarious existence within the Empire's strict rules for women, the story is about her defiance. The point is to show that she's not willing to stand by and let this tyranny continue. While her quest starts out on a personal level, to protect her mother, it will grow to become far greater, and she will grow from a reactionary child to a young woman of power and agency, fighting for a cause.
Of course authors should tackle difficult issues in their work. But are the characters simply enduring the problem, or are they doing something about it? For me, reading (and writing) is escapism. It's about seeing characters do the things I never could. That's why I write the kind of adventure stories I write. I can't defeat sexism or social injustice in one fell swoop. But I can write characters who can. I can write characters who, instead of accepting that their world has problems and trying to ignore them, stand up and make a change by fighting representations of those problems.
To me, that is the difference between tackling an issue, and preaching about it.
So for now, I think Carver & McCain will be shelved. I'll come back to it when I've got some perspective and distance, and can come at it fresh. I have another idea cooking away that could make a suitable replacement for my next book.