Why write mysteries?
When readers ask, I usually tell them I write mysteries because crime fiction today has greater breadth and depth and quality than any other type of novel being published. And it’s true--crime fiction deals with all times, all places, every variation of the human condition, every social ill and grace note of redemption. It’s practiced by writers fanatical about the sometimes-forgotten craft of storytelling; writers who labor like kobolds in the mines over plot and characterization, setting and language. I revel in being one of them. But that’s not the real reason I write mysteries.
When I’m hanging with writer friends, I’ll sometimes say I write mysteries because they’re one of the few genres in which an author can reliably make a living. According to Booksense, mysteries account for 40% of the fiction purchased in this country. Mystery lovers flock to conferences to meet with authors and talk about the books they love. Libraries consistently report mysteries among their best-circulating collections. In an economy that's taken the axe to many independent bookstores, mystery booksellers from coast to coast are thriving by supplying their customers with the newest fix for their jones. But truthfully, that’s not the real reason I write mysteries.
Just between you and me, I’ll give you the real reason: sheer bloody-mindedness. I started a science fiction novel once. There was a dead body on the floor by the end of the first chapter. Another time, I made a lot of character notes for what I hoped would be a literate study on the effect of materialism and constant striving on a modern marriage. But then the husband took out a contract on the wife, who ended up on the lam after he was whacked by mistake. Once on a book tour, I stayed with a lovely family in a quintessentially middle-American town in Ohio. They have nine adult children, and I thought, wouldn’t a novel based on them make a delightful reading experience about enduring family bonds? Then I started to think, what if one of the daughters was killed? And her husband was the prime suspect? What if one of the brothers was a police officer, being kept off the case? And what if someone else in the picture-perfect family had wanted her dead...?
So that’s it. The reason I write mysteries: no matter what the character and situation I conjure up, sooner or later, somebody gets plugged. Thank heavens I have the outlet, because who knows what might happen to a murder-minded author who can’t keep killing people on the page? Hmmm...something to think about.
Julia Spencer-Fleming is the Agatha and Anthony-award-winning author of the upcoming One Was A Soldier, the seventh Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery. You can find her at Facebook, on Twitter, and at her Reader Space.
One Was A Soldier is available for preorder at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million Borders Powell's Books and your locally owned independent bookstore.
Thank you, Julia. I think we're all quite glad you turned to mystery writing. And, maybe your husband and other family members are too!
The release date for One Was a Soldier is actually April 26. But, Julia was kind enough to send me three Advanced Readers Copies to give away right now. So, three of you will have the chance to win it, and read it early! So, you need to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subject heading should read, "Win One Was a Soldier." The body should include your name and mailing address. Entries only from the U.S. please.
This contest will end Thursday night, Feb. 17 at 6 PM MT, when I usually end my contests. So, you have four days to get your entries in to be one of a small group who can find out right now what's going on with Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. Good luck!