What’s Important: Livelihood or Beliefs?

Back in 2013 when I started my debut novel, Among the Branded, I wanted to write a story about a woman who stood up for something she believed in within the workplace. It was published in 2017 and has resonated with many people.

Fast-forward three years, and I still think about the story and what Stephanie, my main character, wound up doing. When writing, authors have to keep in mind the personality and nature of the characters—and, in this case, how much they’re willing to rock the boat. Stephanie had to do what felt right. One reader thought Stephanie made the right choice, and put it this way, saying, “Stephanie represents every one of us. Smolkin has made her main character the collective conscience, which is a bold move in a story some may wave away as a tale of friendship. It’s not; whether it’s per chance or intentional, the author is asking her readers to acknowledge the way we react can perhaps change the repetitive process of human mistakes and history.”

I sometimes go back and read that review, especially the part about the collective conscience. But I also look back and wonder: Should Stephanie have done more? And then I remember: It’s not for me to answer. It’s for my readers to decide. I’ve always said that once one of my books is released out into the world, it no longer belongs to me. It belongs to my readers. And I’m always interested in hearing what readers think.

For those who haven’t read Among the Branded, I don’t want to give away the moral dilemma that Stephanie faced. But I will say that it’s a very timely topic. If you have read it and/or are interested in having me talk about my writing process, the story in general, or more about the moral dilemma, please reach out—either for a personal book-club event or a workplace chat. I love talking to readers!

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