Monday 24 October 2022

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Small Talk With Strangers


One of the things I've learned over the years of being a writer, and then a published author, was that there are always going to be times when you have to try and make small talk with strangers. Whether that's about your job, or whatever you're working on, the questions come, and sometimes you avoid them by being vague and making noises about just being a writer with books out and everything and other times it's just not possible.

I have plans to talk about the awkward questions of being an indie author next week, so I'll avoid some of the big ones here, but I do want to talk about the questions and small talk that come about from writing crime, mystery, thrillers and other similar genres. Now you may not know this about me, but I don't get out much. Usually my months pass along in a similar fashion. I write, I record videos, and I take time off to read in bed and the like. I go to my monthly hospital appointment and that is, usually, that. However, these past few weeks I had a friend staying and we went out quite a lot, so I got all my socialising done for the year!

When most people see me, they see the wheelchair, the oxygen and they automatically assume that I'm either unable to work (which I am in a conventional job) or just unable to do much. I've been really lucky in that writing has been such an amazing passion of mine, and has also allowed me to work while not having to put in the hours and time that I would need to do in a conventional job. I set my own hours, I work when and if I'm up to it, and if no work gets done for a week or more, then no one is going to fire me. I am my own boss, and while it has its downsides, it's also a big positive.

But because of the visible disabilities and because I generally have B, my best friend and carer, with me when I'm out and about, people make a lot of assumptions, and then it inevitably comes up that I'm a writer and published author. I get the usual questions about what kind of books, and whether any of them have hit the bestsellers list, but when I get to the point of saying that I write young adult and also crime, some of them get really really quiet.

I don't know if it's just the fact that I'm writing young adult and am in my forties, or whether it's because people don't realise that teens love the crime and mystery genre, or some other factor that I've not thought of yet, but people really do start to wonder *how* an innocent looking disabled woman could be thinking up stories and plots about dead bodies and killers and all of that stuff. They don't understand how I could think, and write, such dark stories, and actually enjoy it.

I've gotten some strange looks. I've gotten some weird questions. I even, years ago, got asked if I realised that by writing about a drug overdose in one of my earlier novels, that I might be perpetuating the idea that teens should do drugs. It didn't make sense to me then, and it still doesn't make sense to me now, but it sure does make things awkward when I'm trying to just pass the time and hold a conversation with someone. Now 90% of the time, they are the ones that ask, and I'm always happy to talk about being an author and the books I write, but I have gotten to that point after seventeen years published and over twenty as a writer that I start to inwardly wince when said questions come up, because there are only so many times you can be asked whether you like writing dark fiction, say yes, and then get that weird look because of it.

As I've talked about before here, (piece found here) I honestly believe that we need to be writing about the dark sides of humanity. I don't mean there should be graphic scenes for the sake of it, and of course not everyone likes that kind of thing, but there are always going to be people who need those stories, who need to know that their struggle and such have not be stricken from the record and ignored. I will keep writing my dark stories and celebrate them because I'm not ashamed of having written them.

Now there may be some who disagree and think that while of course it's okay for me to write them, I shouldn't be doing so to the audience that I do. I remember once while I was getting my hair did, one of the helpers was talking to me about this and that, asked what I did, and winced at the thought of kids reading about crime. She even said that she didn't think it was appropriate. I smiled and nodded, because it wasn't the place or time for me to be saying that crime happens to teens too, and they love solving mysteries too, and that I'm not trying to recruit them to a life of crime.

Either way, you all know my stance on it. I will write the stories that call to me, and there are those readers out there who need to hear them, who need to feel seen and assured and get the ending that they want. I will say I suck at small talk though, I mean, I don't think anyone actually likes it, but for me it's just not fun, and maybe that's another reason why staying inside and talking to friends is the better way to do things for me!

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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