My sister in law, about a year ago, suggested that I should write a mystery about people and places I know. She wasn’t suggesting that hackneyed piece of advice, “Write what you know.” Or maybe, in practice, that is the advice after all. But the way she said it seemed fresh and realistic and usable! Of course, we were at the Elbow Room, absorbing a ridiculous amount of Stockholms. Doesn’t everything sound fresh and doable after a couple of those?
My husband has this idea, too, that I should write a mystery with my mother as the detective. She would be a cross between the neurotic Monk and the pesky Columbo– and then toss in the whole Greek thing. It’s a great idea, but if I have to write about my mom as a character I might just go absolutely bonkers. Maybe I’ll write about her posthumously. That way, she can live on in my head, if not in real life. I am SO not telling her about this.
But back to my sister-in-law’s idea! She thought I should write with myself as the investigator, amateur of course, with Fresno and the valley as the backdrop, and populate it with our family (extensive!) and my family (odd!), and our friends (musicians and miscellany). I put off this idea for the longest time– well, I’m being dramatic. A year. I put it off for a year. I wanted to travel to other times and places, just as I do in my favorite novels and mysteries.
Take, for instance, Soho Press and Soho Crime. I lovelovelove that all of those mysteries take place in other places– exotic places, to me. The mystery is always embedded in another culture, and that is part of the fun. It’s practically educational. I think that’s why the Larsson trilogy might be so popular– not that the series is through Soho, because it isn’t. The mystery is fine, but it is embedded in Sweden, and not a terribly stereotypical Sweden, either. That’s what I love about the Soho mysteries, as well. You aren’t given the stereotypical country and culture, but little details that really let you in, deep inside the country the mystery happens to live in.
So I floundered around with some countries and eras– and then it finally hit me. Two things hit me, really. The first was that the authors, most of the time, do or have lived in the country they are writing about. That’s why they have those details. I don’t have those details because I live here, in the valley. Duh. Therefore, I should write mysteries that take place in the valley. (facepalm moment) To somebody who is not me, the valley would be exotic. It’s California, after all! TV shows take place in California and New York for a reason– there’s a mystique to both of those places (among other places, obviously).
The second thing that hit me is that I’ve been incredibly stupid, all because I wanted to escape into a fantasy world in another country. What I should really do, then, to get my rocks off, is write a local mystery andthen go balls out and write a crazy fantasy novel concurrently. Then I can have both things at once. Ha! I would like to see that happen– I’m being facetious and serious. Who knows which one will win out?
And now I’ve finally come to my problem. My husband has pointed out to me that whenever I’m frustrated with a friend in real life, I kill them off in my mystery.
I wonder, is that normal for mystery writers? I could blame this all on my sister-in-law, since she’s the one who suggested verite, but really it is my own subconscious, frustrated with X or Y. I’ve tried created a fictional meanie who gets offed, but there isn’t the same drive to figure out whodunit. Who cares? But as soon as it’s a real person (or really a fictionalized version of a real person, or a couple people smooshed into one person) I really want to investigate. There’s a fire lit under my ass and the writing comes much more easily.
My husband thinks it is funny, and a little odd. “You can’t keep killing your friends when you’re annoyed with them!” he said the other day. and at first I thought, “Why not?” But now, I wonder, is he right?
Would I even be having this problem if The Elbow Room hadn’t made such tasty Stockholms, all of them in a row like that?