If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Who Would Write a Mystery When She Doesn’t Read or Like Them?



Isabel Allende, that’s who. The famous and bestselling literary novelist has written a mystery, Ripper, that’s just been published by HarperCollins and is already climbing the charts.  It’s getting publicity and reviews all over the place. In fact, National Public Radio just did an interview with Allende in which she states that she doesn’t like mysteries or crime fiction and doesn’t read them, but her agent was in a panic when Allende announced she was retiring and suggested she write a mystery instead. (Presumably because it would be so much less work than her usual novels?)  Interview available here

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/25/265246811/author-interview-isabel-allende

Allende said she looked at three best-selling mysteries that year (2012), all by Scandinavian authors, “Stieg Larson and Jo Nesbo and that kind of people,” and decided she hated the darkness and violence, so she would turn the whole genre on its head and write a “tongue-in-cheek” mystery that is still “faithful to the formula.” “My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever,” Allende said. “It will be a young 16-year-old nerd. My female protagonist will not be this promiscuous, beautiful, dark-haired, thin lady. It will be a plump, blond healer and so forth.”

I know, I know. This blog has an audience of mystery readers and writers, so everyone is shouting about the various books with unconventional protagonists and characters that don’t fit her stereotypes. But she doesn’t read mysteries, so she has no idea of the diversity of characters, backgrounds, themes, and writing styles to be found within the community.

At least when J.K. Rowling wrote a mystery, it was because she read and enjoyed the books. She did her best to write a good mystery and didn’t give the impression she felt she was "slumming.” Other literary greats have written mysteries, often under pseudonyms, because they enjoyed reading them—for example, Benjamin Black (literary novelist and Nobel Prize candidate John Banville), Amanda Cross (acclaimed feminist scholar and professor Carolyn Heilbrun) . Many literary writers and professors and others of that ilk have the idea that they could just toss off a successful mystery or thriller in a couple of weeks, however, and have stated their contempt for the form in interview after interview as well as at cocktail party after cocktail party.

I have no problems with Allende choosing to write a mystery. This field is blessedly wide open and even more blessedly welcoming. My problem is with the patronizing, contemptuous attitude she displays in this interview. (Even sadder because her husband is a writer of crime fiction.) “I’m not a fan of mysteries,” she says. And that’s fine. We all like different kinds of books. But why then write one? If her agent was so panicked by her decision to retire and she wanted to assuage that fear, why not write another of her own books?

What do you think about this phenomenon?

18 comments:

Gayle Carline said...

I think I don't need to add to her, or her publisher's, coffers by purchasing her book. Other than that, I think we needn't mention her name again.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Once again the adage there is no such thing as bad publicity comes to mind. My TBR pile is too high to worry about Allende.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I haven't read the book, but I'm surprised she didn't reveal her attitude within its pages. It's hard to write a book you don't like. It makes me wonder what she was trying to accomplish: To ridicule a genre by proving a non-mystery writer could do it just as well as authors whose specialty is mystery, or cashing in on her popularity by writing in another genre?

I won't condemn the book until I've read it. Its a good exercise to stretch your writing skills by trying another genre, but not if your heart isn't in the writing. I haven't read Rowling's book either because I feel as though some of the bestselling authors are just cashing in on marketing statistics.

Revealing a bad attitude seems counterproductive. Retiring may have been the better solution.

Warren Bull said...

The attitude Allende showed is not new. Some people draw a heavy line between literary fiction and crime fiction. It is hard to imagine writing well and trying to please a general audience except for writers like William Shakespeare.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Excellent decision, Gayle.

Linda Rodriguez said...

The thing is, Jim, that it's not bad publicity for Allende. It's just publicity that confirms a lot of people's biases against a genre they've never read.

Linda Rodriguez said...

EB, I haven't read it yet, either, and probably won't--although I've been a fan of her other work. NPR also did a review of her book, and the reviewer ended with the sentence, "My first reading of Allende feels somewhat like having been introduced to a celebrated ballerina in a bowling alley; she may not be landing strikes with each throw, but her grace and control while doing so speak volumes about her other skills."

Linda Rodriguez said...

Warren, I know this short-sighted attitude. I come out of the academic and literary world. But if one has such contempt for the genre, why write in it?

I have always read widely across genres, including literary (which is really just another genre with its own conventions and expectations). Probably the only one I truly dislike is porn. I don't really have contempt for it because I know it's hard work to write even a bad book, but I don't want to read it, at all. I certainly wouldn't look at 50 Shades of Grey's success and decide to "toss off" a porn book.

Shari Randall said...

I read the article you reference, Linda, and I felt the same way. Sigh.

Good idea, Gayle!

KM Rockwood said...

I suppose it's possible she was exploring her own prejudices (in an unfortunately public way) and is still trying to decide what she thinks of mysteries and crime fiction. She is, of course, an accomplished writer, so perhaps she was able to produce a quite readable book. I think it was unfortunate that she limited her research to one sub-genre.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Shari, yes. So sad.

Linda Rodriguez said...

KM, I think I wouldn't call it research if she read three books. Even Scandinavian crime fiction that's translated into English (a very tiny subgenre) has more variety than she seems to have found.

She is a fine writer. I've long been a fan of her books, but I'll not be buying this one.

Sarah Henning said...

Ughhhh. Her attitude is just horrible. Mystery is a great genre and, really, what's so wrong with being beloved/commercial/popular? Just because readers love genre fiction doesn't make it any less of an art form.

Linda Rodriguez said...

This is an old, old divide, Sarah. When Dickens was popular, the literary elite screamed because his work was bought and read by poor and working-class people (who often pooled money and got the one literate person in their group to read it aloud to all of them). They favored Thackeray, who was aristocratic, unlike middle-class Dickens. At its very base, it's all about (perceived) class.

Gloria Alden said...

Like you, Linda, I read literary books as much as mysteries, but I would neither write nor read porn. Her prejudices should have been kept to herself, and if she didn't read mysteries or crime novels, how does she know that with a good writer, a good book can be produced?

Unfortunately, these prejudices carry across all fields of artistic endeavor. Norman Rockwell was looked down upon by all the artistic elite although dearly loved by the average person, but now suddenly he's considered to be a great artist. The same prejudice exists across different musical preferences, too.

I won't be buying or reading her book, either, because of her arrogance.

Kara Cerise said...

It’s odd that she would make comments like this when her husband is a crime fiction writer. I’d like to think it was just poor word choice on her part, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. How sad.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yeah, Kara. I was thinking I sure wouldn't want to be in that marriage--with one partner looking down on the lifework of the other.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yes, Gloria. Of course, Will Shakespeare was looked down upon by the university and aristocratic writers in his time and accused of pandering to the masses. Time will tell. they're writing scholarly books about Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and others now.