The name of this blog reminds me of my Regency-writing days: I wrote one titled Mayhem and Miranda (actually, my editor came up with that title as I was stumped), and a collection of Regency fairytales is now in ebook form as The Magic of Love (see http://www.regencyreads.com/).
Long ago, back in those Regency-writing days, a reporter for the local (Carlsbad, CA) newspaper asked me whether it bothered me to be writing in a genre that didn't normally include graphic sex scenes. I unwisely told him, "No, I'd rather do it than write about it." (Ah, youth!) He put hardly anything I said into the article, but of course that bit went in. Very embarrassing.
Nowadays, I'm more likely to be asked why I write cosies, mysteries without graphic descriptions of violence. It would not, I feel, be appropriate to say, "No, I'd rather do it than write about it."
The truth is, I don't like to read graphic violence, so why should I want to write about it? It's not that I hide my head in the sand—I read the newspaper every morning and that has enough nasty stuff in it without adding fictional nasty stuff to the mix. I get it over with at breakfast so that by lunchtime I've got over it (there's a nice bit of English idiom designed to confuse foreigners: get it over with/get over it). I do most of my fiction reading in the evenings. If I read graphic violence or psychological suspense, I can't sleep.
When I write, what I'm writing stays in my head 24/7. I don't want people I don't like hanging out there, so I write about pleasant people. The main (point-of-view) characters, Daisy and Alec, Eleanor and Megan, are like friends—I hear this from readers, too. Even my villains are rarely downright evil. Those who are, I can cope with as I don't spend much time with them—each is one amongst a whole bunch of innocent suspects, the more the merrier.
Still, there is an essential contradiction between writing about murder and avoiding descriptions of violence. So why write mysteries? For me, it's less about solving a puzzle than delving into motivations and relationships. The mystery part is there to give the story shape.
After all, terrible things happen in real life, but life goes on. As I told my son the first time he went to Europe without me, "Things will go wrong. Just remember that they'll make great stories when you get home." He told me that thought came in useful several times! It's something I learnt from my mother, by example, not precept. For instance, her wonderful story about the time she got food-poisoning in India. The hotel sent for a doctor. He came, he examined, he prescribed, and as he left, he bowed and said, "I will pray for you."
So, Daisy finds a body, she feels sick, she helps (meddles) in the investigation, but when it's all over she still has her family and friends and the book can end on a cheerful note.
Hence the last lines of SHEER FOLLY (the 18th Daisy Dalrymple mystery, just out):
"I'm sure I don't know what the aristocracy are coming to!"
and BLACK SHIP (the 17th, now out in paperback):
"The heck with seltzer!" he said recklessly. "Pour me Champagne!"
Turn out the light and go to sleep with a smile on your lips.
Blog: http://theladykillers.typepad.com/the_lady_killers (my day is Tuesday)
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