"Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at gravemaking?"
RO: I guess violence, specifically gun violence, is on a lot of people's minds in light of recent events. Fortunately for me, I write cozies - yes there is murder and mayhem, but also heavy doses of humor to lighten up the action.
My victims are more likely to get struck by lightning on the golf course while sabotaging a rival's sprinkler system (haven't used that but you get the idea..) than to be blown away by a 9mm. How do you deal with writing about violence and murder...especially at a time like this?
JAN: I was thinking about this all week, but I wasn't so much thinking about gun violence as much as the glorification of all violence. No question that's what our culture does. It's easy to blame it on video games, television and movies, but I think all storytellers play a role. My stuff isn't cozy, it's gritty and realistic. There isn't any gun play in Yesterday's Fatal, but life is still pretty cheap. I don't deal with serial killers, mental illness or even crimes of passion. My bad guys are all pretty logical. Yes, I can come up with a hundred rationalizations why its okay, but I'm not sure it is. And
I'm really tired of hearing everyone pass the blame off to someone else - gun laws, mental health inadequacies, media, campus security, instead of people agreeing that it all has to be addressed. I've got kids on college campuses....this one is going to haunt me for a while.
HANK: I read a draft manscript from a writer who is going to be great sometime soon. The person is new to the mystery-writing world, and although is still "finding her pins," as Hallie always says, the writer is going to be really good.
But in the first page of the ms., something blows up and 700 people are killed. Then the main character goes home and has dinner. I said, you know, you don't have to kill 700 people. That would be tragic and devastating, and the main character would be scarred and harmed forever.
She wouldn't go home and have dinner, unless she were in shock.
The writer said--it doesn't matter, we don't know those people. I said yeah, but if it were real, someone would know them. Why isn't it just as suspenseful to have the bomb almost go off? And almost kill 700 people?That's even scarier and more suspenseful.
Now trust me, this person is a really good writer. But I'm haunted by killing hundreds of people. Even fictional people. Without a wince. (Am I a wimp here?)
Did you see Stranger Than Fiction? When (and I won't give anything away, but it's a fascinating movie)a mystery novelist played by Emma Thompson is haunted by the characters she's killed, because she suddenly thinks they might be real?
Although..one more thought...the remarkable A. O. Scott (in a very thoughtful NY Times article) says most adults easily know the difference between real and make-believe.
HALLIE: An interesting idea that it's okay to kill people/characters that you/readers don't know. Scary.
I remember my very very first radio interview back in 2000 I was asked if I thought that people who committed all the terrible crimes in today's world were getting their ideas from murder mysteries. I said that world of most mystery novels is one in which you can tell evil from innocence, and for the most part justice is served. If only the real world were that way.
Having said that, I sometimes wonder if we don't numb our audiences to murder and mayhem.
There's violence in my books. And plenty of shades of gray in terms of good and evil. But I hope I never kill off a character without a twinge.