Several years ago, I was sitting with my critique partner at the Emerald City RWA writer’s conference and listening to the amazing Jayne Ann Krentz keynote. I was really interested in her talk because I have always wanted to have dueling careers… She writes under several names and I inspired to emulate her. She is one of the reasons why I write under TJ Brown and Teri Brown! Anyway, she said that even though her books are all across the genres, her themes are similar. My critique partner, (who had read both my adult and young adult books), turned to me and whispered, “Your books all have the same theme too. You write fish out of water books.”

Upon further reflection, I realized she was absolutely right. All my protagonists feel like fish out of water, as if they don’t fit in anywhere. Upon even further reflection, (hey, writers have serious internal lives, don’t judge!) I realized that I have spent most of my life feeling like a fish out of water. Think about it–fish have no legs, can’t breathe and are completely stuck in an inhospitable place. I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THAT FEELS.

Here’s why:

  • I was a literate girl with hippie leanings and I moved to in Alfalfa, Oregon in the fourth grade where all the friendships had already been set for years, maybe even generations. Enough said.
  • My brothers and sisters were so much older than me that I was like an only child. My only friends for a long while were books, which gave me a great big vocabulary and no one to use it on, and a huge imagination. (Okay, I was weird.)
  • Trying to fit into the geographical oddity that was Alfalfa, Oregon, I went along with the crowd a lot. The crowd was mean. This conflict made me pretty quiet which caused my friend’s parents to be suspicious. “That Teri is too quiet, I don’t trust her.”  It’s not like my friends were going to say, “She’s quiet because she’s afraid I’m going to turn on her and make her an outcast in the group like we just did with Michelle…” No, they wouldn’t say that. They would just tell me, “My parents don’t like you.” Which basically made me even quieter and weirder.


Like many writers, I took that feeling out on my writing. The Summerset women are all outcasts in their own way. Prudence was born of a different class, while Rowena and Victoria were raised as bohemians, which conflicted with the station in life they were born to. But my biggest fish out of water is Anna Van Housen of Born of Illusion. Anna was born to an ambitious, cunning woman in an era where ambitious cunning women were generally punished. Her mother took to the stage as a fake medium in both road shows and circuses. Anna became her mother’s assistant and partner in crime and if that doesn’t make you a fish out of water, I don’t know what will. Plus, Anna is a magician and a real psychic. This girl was doomed to be a fish out of water!

So what about you? Have you ever felt like a fish out of water? Do you have reoccurring themes in your writing?

Do the reoccurring themes in your writing make you feel like a fish out of water? (Click to Tweet)

@teribrownwrites on the pain of feeling like a fish out of water! (Click to Tweet)

Is Anna Van Housen from Born of Illusion a fish out of water? (Click to Tweet)