I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s something I haven’t declared openly, and feel tentative about announcing now. I think the time has come, though, for me to be honest. I hope that, in doing so, I can grow as a person and perhaps inspire others to grow as well.
Before I reveal my deep, dark secrets, I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself. My name is Elizabeth Roderick. I’m the author of an LGBT romantic suspense novel, Love or Money, and have just signed a contract on The Other Place Series, which is a contemporary new adult series.
Love or Money is a book about a young woman named Riel who is forced to run drugs for her corrupt brother-in-law, and ends up going to prison for it. After her release, she’s an outcast: a convicted felon, an outlaw, untrustworthy. No one will give her a second chance, or an honest job. She’s stuck in a hole from which she feels there’s no escape, and her only option is to go back to work for the brother-in-law who landed her in trouble in the first place. Despite these obstacles, Riel is determined to make an honest life. She wants to escape the gang culture, go to college, and find happiness with her true love.
So, regarding my dirty secret. I, like Riel, am a convicted felon. Back in 1999, I was convicted of delivery of heroin, and was sent to prison. So, all the stuff I write about in Love or Money— prison and gang culture, the serious difficulties with reintegrating into polite society—I didn’t learn about that stuff from T.V.
To say I’m thankful for my “escape” from the world of crime would be an immense understatement. But, in reality, one never truly escapes one’s past. It drags behind you like a peacock’s tail, heavy and hindering and nowhere near as pretty. Though my conviction was sixteen years ago and I’ve had zero legal troubles since—have in fact recently been able to vacate the felony conviction—I figure some people reading this are still making sure their firewalls and anti-virus software are intact, that I haven’t hacked into their computer and discovered where they live so that I can come steal their wallets. I’m used to this reaction. I’ve lived the last sixteen years dealing with it.
I’m better off than most ex-cons, though. I’m lucky enough to have a college diploma, Spanish language and typing skills, as well as family that supported me. These benefits enabled me to get a good job and pass as a reputable citizen after my release, because most jobs I applied for as a college graduate didn’t ask about criminal history up front. However, I’ve lost jobs, loans, volunteer positions, friends, and rental houses when people found out about my past. I’ve also been hauled out of the car and subjected to demeaning and frightening treatment by law enforcement, for the less-than-serious offense of going 30 in a 25 zone, when they asked me about my arrest record.
Again, I know some of you are saying to yourselves that this is no more than I deserve. I’m not here to say people shouldn’t be punished for breaking the law. What I’m trying to convince you of —and even more, to convince others in my position of—is that rehabilitation is possible for addicts, felons, and anybody that puts their effort towards it.
Writing books like Love or Money, as well as my other books about societal outcasts, has given me an opportunity to take a second look at my past and forgive myself for it, even make something beautiful and meaningful of it. When I write about a character who is dealing with poverty, abuse, addiction, mental health issues, or legal troubles, I’m able to identify with them, and root for them. I’m able to see that they’re a good person with a lot of potential, despite and even because of it all. I mean, you always root for the main character, right? So, in understanding my characters, I’ve learned to better understand myself.
I’m hoping readers will also identify and root for my heroines and heroes. I’m hoping my books might cause them to take a look at themselves, or at someone they know, and decide they’re worthy of a second chance. At the very least, I hope I’ll be able to entertain people with good stories, and be an example of an ex-con and recovering addict who has moved on and done something productive.
So, I’m not just thankful that I’ve been able to build a good, stable, honest life. I’m also incredibly thankful I have the desire to write, that I have something that makes me feel good about myself, and that has the potential to make others feel good about themselves. I’m thankful that Limitless Publishing gave me a chance at being an author, at starting a career that will accept me for who I am, not for who I pretend to be out of fear.
ELIZABETH RODERICK grew up as a barefoot ruffian on a fruit orchard near Yakima, in the eastern part of Washington State. After weathering the grunge revolution and devolution in Olympia, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, she recently moved to a small cluster of houses amidst the vineyards of California’s Central Coast.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and worked for many years as a paralegal and translator. She is a musician and songwriter, and has played in many bands, rocking some instruments she doesn’t even know the real names for, but mostly guitar, bass and keyboards.
Elizabeth writes novels for young adults and adults; short stories; and memoir which is way more interesting than it should be. Her stories are about love, death, gang warfare, and madness; her characters tend to be of the type that society generally shuns: addicts, convicts, and the mentally ill. She believes if people get to know these characters in stories and in real life, they’ll find them more likeable than they originally thought.
She applies Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo method to fiction writing. It often gets a little heavier than what she had in mind, but she chalks it up to forced consciousness expansion.