I've been waiting for the right time to grab the fabulous Nancy Martin as a guest blogger. Today is release date for her new book, Our Lady of Immaculate Deception, so it's the perfect time to welcome her to my blog. I think you'll appreciate her look at a new type of female character. Thank you, Nancy.
And Now, For Something Completely Different . . .
By Nancy Martin
A friend gave me a book he described as “the mystery writer’s mystery writer,” so I read it eagerly. Good mystery, excellent use of setting as theme, but jeez, the detective? What a sad sack. Family issues, an improbable love interest, a boss who hates him for no discernable reason even though he’s relentless about pursuing the bad guys. When I reached the description of his stress-induced diarrhea, I nearly gave up.
That’s when it hit me. How come male protagonists can have diarrhea, and they’re considered un-put-downable? But if a female detective so much as forgets to feed her cat, readers have hissyfits.
When are we going to allow fictional women to be as flawed and human as men?
I’ve been studying the twisted female character ever since my husband got hooked on TV’s Nancy Botwin, the drug-dealing suburban housewife of WEEDS. (Does he watch because he harbors some deep-seated wish that one Nancy could be traded for another? Egad!) When Nancy is abruptly widowed, she discovers she can’t support her family in the style to which they’ve become accustomed, so selling weed to her fellow townsfolk seems like a logical career choice. Quickly, however, she’s “in the weeds”—in deep trouble for her actions. She’s a strong protagonist who solves problems by her quick wits—even if her moral compass is broken. She’s funny, too. Perhaps it’s her humor that mitigates her moral slipperiness?
Despite all my years of experience with readers who like their mysteries genteel and their sleuths even more so (Nora Blackbird is just about as genteel as they come) I wanted to come up with a genre-busting “bad” character for my new mystery series.
So I created (http://www.nancymartinmysteries.com/abt_roxy.html) Roxy Abruzzo, a former mafia princess who—after her family goes to jail—has to fend for herself in a tough neighborhood. With a big mouth, big hair and a bad attitude, she decides to support her teenage daughter by doing “favors” for her uncle Carmine, an aging crime boss. In other words, she’s a single mom who’s a mob fixer. Between jobs, though, she helps people who can’t go to the police when they’re in trouble.
Is Roxy a good girl? No. She’s deeply flawed, and she acts out in socially inappropriate ways while she solves crimes. She doesn’t get diarrhea, but she has some equally unpleasant characteristics that are going to give cozy-only fans the vapors. But—as with many male characters--it’s her struggle against her own mistakes and difficult past that’s as important as her detecting. She’s going to learn and grow.
In the first chapter of OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION, Roxy steals a priceless statue. (After all, what red-blooded girl can resist a handsome naked man?) But the statue’s disappearance triggers the murder of a philandering tycoon and an international art scandal, too. Roxy’s caught in a big mess of her own making. To get out of this thriller-like situation, Roxy uses all her wiles to investigate the depths and heights of her world. Plus there are other difficulties to cope with: Her teenager is probably smarter than she is. The father of her child has problems that make him an impossible life partner. And Roxy has what I’ll delicately call sexual issues resulting from trauma in her youth. Plus she doesn’t quite know the difference between right and wrong.
I think I came up with a dynamic character who’s every bit as unrestrained as her male mystery counterparts. She’s free to act in ways that make her exciting to read about. Will you like her? Maybe not. She’s not for the faint of heart—readers who only want to read about nice girls.
Do you think her time has come? Or should fictional women always be genteel?
Thank you, Nancy! I, for one, am looking forward to "meeting" Roxy!
Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels, including the award-winning, best-selling Blackbird Sisters. She serves on the board of Sisters in Crime and received the 2009 Romantic Times magazine’s award for Lifetime Achievement for mystery writing. Check out her website at www.NancyMartinMysteries.com
Our Lady of Immaculate Deception by Nancy Martin. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312573720 (hardcover), 320p.