I was invited to contribute an essay to the Washington Post’s The Writing Life series and <a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/08/12/ST2009081202447.html”>here</a> it is.
This same week, I received a copy of The Lineup, a book in which crime novelists write about their characters’ origins. Most of the pieces in the book are straight-forward; writers such as Lee Chil, Michael Connelly and John Connolly explain when they found their character/calling. Mine is a mock profile of Tess Monaghan, as it might have been written by “Laura Lippman” in her feature-writing days. Look for it this fall.
Meanwhile. I was struck by something Lee wrote about his decision to eschew the bandwagon of PI fiction. Lee and I published our first books in the same year, 1997; twelve years later, he is a #1 bestseller and I am . . . not. Lee wrote against the trends, as he saw them; I cheerfully joined in, creating a PI character that fit within the prevailing traditions. Lee observes that most crime series were “soap operas,” and then hastens to add that he has no problem with soap operas. But, again, he chose to challenge the trend, writing about a rootless character with no ongoing relationships. It’s a good essay, as are all the ones I’ve read so far. My only quibble is that Lee makes it look like anyone could be Lee, if one would just sit down and noodle through a few things. My hunch is that for every Lee Child who analyzes the current crop of fiction and decides to strike off in a new direction and achieves amazing success, there are 1,000 others who attempt to do the same thing without the same results.
So, to recap: Tess, not dead. Me, on the mend. Lee Child, makes it look easy. What else has everyone been up to?