Tag Archives: book clubs

Murder on My Mind

“I’ve had murder on my mind a long time.” That’s what I told a book club recently while discussing “Murder in Madden.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved mysteries. My first books were the Nancy Drew series—I still have most of them. In the late-1950s, when I was a child, my allowance was 50 cents a week, but to encourage my reading, my parents gave me the extra to buy a 59 cents book, plus tax. I’ve been reading ever since.

As I grew older, I began reading books by Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and later, by Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now I read John Grisham, John Hart, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, and many other authors I’ve discovered along the way.

Until recently, I’ve never asked myself “why mysteries?” Why don’t I read great literature or at least other genres as much as mysteries? All I can say in my own defense is that I’m not alone. In fiction, thrillers are the number one sellers. I’m pretty sure it’s because the stakes are higher in a murder mystery than, say, in a bank robbery. Sure, the latter is a mystery, but losing money just isn’t the same level of thrill and danger.

One thing I really love about mysteries is the way clues come together. I am, by nature, a problem solver, and finding the bad guy or gal is the ultimate question to be resolved. I also love closure, and finding the perps brings the story to its rightful end. There’s something satisfying about having all the loose ends tied up and all the questions answered. But I also love the characters in a mystery, and how they use their wits to solve crimes. Oddly, though, I’m not that interested in police procedurals. I’m far more interested in ordinary people who defy the odds and discover what eludes law enforcement, or how ordinary people get caught up in something way bigger than themselves and manage to think their way out of it.

And, of course, I just love a good story. I remember hearing ghost stories as a child and how I loved to be scared. I read once where the human mind can’t distinguish between sex and fear. So, when you’re scared, you think you’re having sex. Wow! Who knew?

Anyway, now that I’m a mystery author myself, I really do have murder on my mind almost all the time. Every conversation, every event, every weird thing that happens is fodder for the next book. And, just so you don’t worry about my psychological state, I abhor violence as much as the next person—that is in real life.

Do you have murder on your mind, too? If so, let me hear from you.

The Joy of Book Clubs

Last week, I met with a book club in Prosperity, South Carolina. What an experience! It was such a pleasure to meet with a group of people who had read the book and who asked very insightful questions. In particular, they were interested in the characters and how they were developed. We had an enlightening conversation about the writing process.

Here’s what I learned from the book club discussion:

  • Never underestimate your readers. They may be reading for entertainment, but they put a lot of thought into what they are reading.
  • Characters trump plot. With the exception of the occasional (usually male) readers who want nothing but action, most readers want to experience the characters’ lives in an intimate way. They want to understand the characters’ motivations, fears, and joys. As my writing coach often said, plot springs from the characters being in situations. How they react to the situation creates plot. The book club ladies’ interest in character development just confirmed this assertion.
  • Readers interpret based on who they are, not on who you are. The French essayist and memoirist Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” The same is true for your readers. Their world view and values will determine how they see your characters, no matter what you do. It’s okay.
  • Being with this book club reinforced for me why I write—to connect with readers.

 

I’m looking forward to many more book club discussions about Murder in Madden and its characters, many of whom will return in the second book of the “Enid” series. Please contact me if your club is interested in a personal visit, Skype or phone discussion with the author at one of your club’s meetings.