Catriona writes: When I was moving into my current house - middle of nowhere, just past the back of beyond - I described its isolation as "if you went outside and screamed really loud the neighbours would probably hear you" and wondered why the stranger I was talking to gave me such a speculative look. Today's guest at Casa Fatal, Lori Rader-Day, is just getting to grips with this concept: Not Everyone is a Mystery Fan!
But Lori's hardly helping. Her debut novel THE BLACK HOUR is tipping the scales horribly. It's such a top-notch tale it's got to be bringing more and more readers over to the twisty side. Here's Lori on the unexpected consequences of plunging into a life of crime and what she's learned from them.
Lori writes: A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sign stock of my debut mystery, The Black Hour, at my local Barnes and Noble. A woman arrived at the customer service desk for some help but got interested in what I was doing. She asked what my book was about. It had been a long day. I didn’t sugarcoat it. The Black Hour is about the aftermath of a campus shooting.
Now you should know that the violence happens off the page. I don’t think there’s a drop of blood shown. But I’d forgotten where I was—not in the safe confines of an independent mystery bookstore, not in the bar at Bouchercon, or at a Mystery Writers of America chapter meeting. I was talking to someone looking for some nice, soft novel with no hard edges. To borrow a phrase, I was talking to a Muggle.
She recoiled in horror. That’s fine. She was never going to buy my book, and if she had, she probably wouldn’t have liked it. Within a few days I was back among my people at Thrillerfest in New York, using this story as an illustration as to why I was so very happy to be back where I belonged, with my strange, dark, fun-loving clan of magic-spinners.
I’m so glad I found my way into the mystery community. [And we're glad you did too, Lori - CMcP] Mystery people aren’t like other people—and thank goodness.
Seven Ways Mystery Writers Are Not Like Other People, by Lori Rader-Day
1. You’ve forgotten what “polite company” means.
Dinner conversations used to be about what happened at work and who said what in the elevator or at school pick-up. When you’re a mystery writer, though, dinner conversations—or conversations anywhere—can devolve very quickly into the great ideas you had for where the body will be buried in your next book. Having drinks out with another mystery writer? Ask for another round before your waiter gets nervous and disappears.
2. You could knit, but why would you want to?
Remember when you used to do things for fun? Like sports or crafts or going to the movies? Kiss your hobbies buh-bye, because writing a novel takes up most of the time you used to have for everything else, including reading, which is how you became a writer in the first place. Have a family to tend to? Ouch, not great planning on your part. You might need to teach them to make their own macaroni and cheese so you can hang out a bit with your pretend friends.
3. You know what you like.
Being a mystery writer is a bit like going to Disney World. You used to get excited by the rollercoasters and by having your photo taken with Goofy. Now you just want to meet the bartender of the pub in It’s a Small World Germany. Mickey Mouse doesn’t do it for you anymore. Now that you’re a mystery writer, the things you get excited about and the people you really want to meet aren’t the big attractions for everyone else. Your interests are your own, and you don’t really care what the brochure says you’re supposed to want.
4. You choose writing again and again.
Speaking of vacations…remember vacations? I wrote 10,000 words of The Black Hour on a cruise ship. Because writing is what I like to do. But now that writing is what you’re required to do to make your next deadline, nobody gets to decide to write. Word counts first, fair food and lake lounging second. Of course, that’s if you get out to the lake at all. In my debut year, all my days off went to mystery conferences and book events. That’s unsustainable. I’ll be taking a real vacation—OK, with writing—next summer.
5. You eavesdrop on your own life.
Forget the Miranda Rights. Anything anyone says around a mystery writer can be used against them—and in your next project. If your friends don’t want to be put to use as secret, unpaid dialogue coaches? Tell them to stop being interesting and witty in a writer’s presence. It goes without saying, perhaps, that you eavesdrop on other people’s lives, too. They might actually have some criminal activity going on you can borrow.
6. You expect to be intrigued.
Maybe once you used to read books or watch movies without waiting for the dead body to show up, but that’s in the past. Once you’re in the mystery game, your expectations are different. They can still be pleasantly dashed or exceeded—it’s what we all hope for—but notice the word “pleasantly.” If a book has promised something it doesn’t deliver, that’s another adjective altogether.
7. You can’t be expected to listen the whole time, right?
Say you’re going undercover as a regular person for the night. Out with friends, maybe, a nice dinner, wine, laughter…and then the next thing you know, your significant other is shaking your arm. Where did you go? Oh, right. Somehow you managed to perform astral projection from the party to your current project. You’re still a mystery writer. The story takes you, and if your body pod is still seated at the table, let the world go on without you for a minute or two.
Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014). Born and raised in central Indiana, she now lives in Chicago with her husband and dog. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Time Out Chicago, and others. Visit her at LoriRaderDay.com