Thursday, October 15, 2009

All the gory details—or maybe not

An elderly man came over to my desk in the library a few weeks ago and said, “I didn’t know you were a librarian and wrote books too.” I was a bit surprised, because I had no idea who he was, and wondered how he knew either thing about me. I explained that I was a library assistant but said it was true that I write mysteries and I added something about wearing different hats while I do my different kinds of work. Then he asked me a question that has had me scratching my head every since. He said, “Why do you write such gruesome books?”

I mumbled some sort of answer, he moved on, and I got back to work cataloging and getting new books ready to be covered, etc. I have to work very fast because I’m only part time and due to budget cuts and people cuts, I have more work than ever. So I didn’t really think about the incident for a few days.

But now it’s on my mind. My first reaction to the question is, “I don’t write gruesome stuff—I write for Avalon and it’s against the guidelines. Gory descriptions are to be avoided.” The opening scene in my latest book is the closest I’ve ever gotten to gruesome. I have no idea if that man read it.

My second reaction is, “I write mysteries because I like to read mysteries. The stories that pop into my head are generally in mystery form.” That makes sense, right?

My third reaction, and the one that I’ve been agonizing over, is why do I only write mysteries? There are plenty of books that I’ve enjoyed that aren’t mysteries. Could I write one of them? Should I try?

One genre I’ll stay away from, to everyone’s benefit, is romance. That’s way too hard for me. And I have tried writing other genres. I’ve tried historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, capers, middle grade fiction, screenwriting, and, most recently, suspense. All these are completed books. So far, however, only the mysteries have been published.

So why do I write these “gruesome” books? Because they sell. And I can be proud of them when they do.


Sandy Cody said...

Like you, Joani, I write mysteries. Also like you, I do it mainly because I love reading them. Fortunately, so do many others. Why are people entertained by a story that deals with death, usually a violent death? I think it's because a good mystery has at its heart the same elements of any good fiction: the classic struggle between good and evil and suspense.

Elisabeth Rose said...

I suppose that comment is the mystery writers equivalent of the bane of the romance writer--'So, you write bodice rippers.'

Perhaps he thinks you're going around murdering people and enjoying it LOL

Edna said...

I like your books also, even though someone does not like the type of writting you do they should not tell you so to your face. I like almost any type of book except non-fiction and I like to get carried away when I read and not read about things that I see happening in this old sinfull world.


Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about my genre--historical romance. I have tried other genres, and they just don't work for me, though I love to read them. Sometimes I think I don't write in other genres so I can have something to read that I'm not constantly trying to edit or correct in my head.

As for gory details... I had to watch that in my next Avalon coming out, where my heroine is a doctor. Circumspect about a Caesarian delivery? I wasn't even sure they'd let it in, but not a word.

But, please, Joani, keep writing your mysteries.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

My question to this man, "What gives you the right to be so judgmental and rude?" I would have said that only in my head--but what DOES give him the right? I LOVE mysteries! Keep writing them and ENJOYING what you write, Joani.