WiHM 12: My Fiction Hints to My Reality
My Fiction Hints to My Reality
For Women in Horror Month, I wanted to have the chance to discuss how my fiction hints to my reality. While not all writers, or horror writers, do this, I do.
My fiction in recent years has become much more personal, writing about true crime – mainly because I have been impacted directly by crime. For example, in my poetry collection Into the Forest and All the Way Through, about missing and murdered women, I wrote about how easy it is to be killed. To disappear. I too was nearly kidnapped years ago, standing on the corner, waiting for a bus, and a man pulled up his car, threw open his car door and told me to get in. He eventually left, but drove back around, opened his door and approached me, directing me to get into the car. I ran into incoming traffic to avoid him. He left. I was fine. But during the daytime hours, in front of a busy street, horror happened to me. Yet, the bus came. I went to work, and it was just another day.
That has been my life. Horrific things happen, and it’s just another day. My car is stolen from the parking lot of my job. A man assaults me on the street (He grabbed me from behind and then ran off). There’s a police involved shooting in my alley. Detectives knock on my door to ask me questions, if they can look at my security cameras to see if I captured footage of a crime. I’m nearly carjacked, with my children in the car. And it’s just another day.
It’s just another one of many incidents I have experienced, of things I have seen.
To say I have seen a lot growing up is an understatement.
We often talk about inner city youth, but we rarely talk about what becomes of those inner city youth. That’s me. I’m right here. And through my writing I show you glimmers of my trauma.
My writing career began as a journalist with community reporting in Chicago, which I abandoned after a decade of freelancing. I love my community but covering crime took an overwhelming toll. I had already been exposed to enough violence and heartache in high school, attending a high school with a high dropout rate, and struggling with a lot of socioeconomic inequalities. Journalism became my outlet to show people what it was I was seeing.
I turned to fiction as my outlet. To write the truth through the lie. I’ve written about a young girl fighting the drug cartels, inspired by the influence of the drug cartels in the Midwest distributing drugs. I have written about a little girl who is a vampire, who is then locked away after being “bad.” This story was influenced by my upbringing, how I was unable to leave my room, or house, because my parents were very strict. Now, in looking back, I see that they were trying to protect me, even though their methods could be seen as extreme today.
Most recently I have written about a female detective who walks the line of morality. I feel as though her story was inspired by the things I have seen growing up, how my home – Chicago, can make very good people…bad. Or, how my city has made many people I know walk the gray line between right and wrong to survive. In Children of Chicago, I use nonfiction to make a comparison to what has happened here and what is happening here, making an argument in fiction (with nonfiction) that we have never really broken the cycle of violence here, a city founded on violence.
We are trying to survive in my city. People make calls for peace, for unity, for police accountability. There’s a lot of shouting from the outside of what should be done, said and shown. Then those loud voices fade, and we who live here are still here, trying to take care of one another through so much injustice.
There are a multitude of issues and complexities that I cannot delve into here given space, but I want to stress that if you’re a writer and want to write your truth through a lie then you have every right to do so. People will question you and judge you. People will tell you that your truth is wrong, but don’t listen to them. Someone will always want to be cruel for the sake of cruelty. Focus on what it is you need to say. Your readers will find you.
I wanted to end with in my writing I have started playing with form, incorporating non-fiction and fiction, because to me – it is important to make comparisons between what it is I am telling and how it was influenced by truth. It’s not a device that many readers enjoy. No one wants to sit through history class if they don’t have to, but I am writing what I need to write. I am writing it how I need to write it.
I am writing lies wrapped in truth and wet with tears.
Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo
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Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT, all of which have been nominated for International Latino Book Awards. POEMS OF MY NIGHT was also nominated for an Elgin Award. Her recent collection of poetry, INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH explores true crime, that of the epidemic of missing and murdered women in the United States. Her modern day horror retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale, CHILDREN OF CHICAGO was released by Agora Books in 2021. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Master of Science in Marketing, a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Business Psychology. Cina was raised in inner city Chicago, where she lives with her husband and children. Find her online at www.cinapelayo.com and on Twitter @cinapelayo.