By Julie, still chilly in Somerville
My day job is running an arts service organization called StageSource. StageSource is 30 years old, and connects the theater community in New England in dozens of ways. It is a very, very challenging job, but incredibly rewarding.
Every two years we host a conference. This year it will be June 7 at the Boston Opera House, and the theme is “Who Are We? How Do We Tell Our Stories Differently?” Thirty years in, it is time for all of us to take stock,and think about our theater community, and how we want to present ourselves. (If you live in New England, like or love theater, or are an arts administrator, come to the conference. It is going to be great.)
As complicated as this is for the theater community, it is as complicated for mystery writers. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. We are already a genre, and within that, we create other subgenres, like “cozy”. Some things are out of your control–like how your book gets tagged for data collection, or where it is sold in a store. How you claim that space, and tell that story, is an individual choice though. Do you fight it, or embrace it?
When I started out on this writing journey, I fancied myself a “serious” writer, even though I read widely in the mystery genre. It wasn’t until someone asked me why I wasn’t writing mysteries, and I didn’t have a good answer, that I changed paths. Even then, in literary fiction classes, it was a risky move. But when I dropped a body, my story got better. When I added a mystery component, characters had something to talk about. And when I embraced being a mystery writer, I fell in love with writing.
Earlier this month I went to Malice, and was invited to the Berkley/Obsidian dinner. Sitting in that restaurant were some of my favorite authors, but I felt at home. We each had to get up and introduce ourselves, so I told them that I was Julianne Holmes, and my debut book, Just Killing Time, was coming out in October. Everyone clapped. For me.
How cool is that? Here’s the best part of the story when you are a mystery writer: other mystery writers are wonderful people. It is a great, supportive, and fun community.
I love that being a writer has become an integral part of my story. It isn’t my entire story. I am also an arts administrator, an arts advocate, and a teacher. But I have come to own the writer part of my story, and I realize it sure makes the whole package a lot more fun.
Writer friends, where does your work fit into your story? Readers, does your love of mystery fiction add to your own story?
I’m so happy for you, Julie! My fiction writing has pretty much taken charge of my story. I used to be a technical writer with mystery fiction around the edges. Before that a farmer with freelance writing around the edges; a researcher with essay-writing around the edges; an academic writer with journalism around the edges; a journalist with fiction around the edges;; a kid writing (bad) fiction as often as I could. But now I’m a full-time mystery fiction writer with everything else around the edges, and I love it.
Your four series also provide you with a ton of layers to your story! I’ve loved seeing you make this leap, and making it work! Very inspiring.
Congratulations on your debut book!! I love the cover.
I’m a reader and my love of mystery fiction has become a part of who I am. I’m thinking that means it adds to my own story. My friends and family know I love reading mystery books, so conversations with them involve which books I’m reading now or what I’m looking forward to reading in future. I’m a housewife and yet finding time to read as much as I’d like is a real challenge. If I didn’t have so many other tasks to get done I’d blow through books so much quicker. I’m happy for you that you changed paths and are now doing something else you truly love. That means more mystery books for me. ( :
The title housewife or stay at home mom never accurately describes the millions of things we end up doing!
I am so thrilled that I am adding “published a novel” to my story, but time is still such a crunch. (BTW, “yet find it hard to find the time”…no “yet” allowed.) For my reading, I am really grateful to the Kiindle app. No wait time is wasted. I always have a book with me. Last month I was sorry that my oil change took so little time–I had a chapter to go. Thanks for commenting!
Somewhere during my conference journey recently, someone said something like, “whatever you’ve done in your life, it has led you to where you should be.” It’s true. I’ve had many unrelated careers–and I use them all in my writing now. It’s as though I had been collecting the details for most of my life, so I could use them now.
Can’t wait to see your new book on the shelves!
Thanks Sheila! I agree, all paths diverge. And they come in handy–without layers to talk about, imagine how boring we would be.
I used my love of writing when I was director of marketing for a financial planning company in newsletters, print ads, radio and TV commercials. As a military spouse writing gave me some continuity with all of the moves. I love the vintage, suspenseful feel of your cover Julie! It’s a great book and I can’t wait for the world to get a chance to read it.
Thanks Sherry! I think that your background has made you really excellent at communicating, and also at getting along with folks. So lucky to know you!
I love your cover! In her short life, my mother always wrote in between raising four girls on her own. It was never for publication, but I think some of that rubbed off on me. I started writing seriously as a stay-at-home mom, then as a police secretary, and now full-time. I don’t think I could do anything else. Except maybe tile and grout bathrooms. I’m getting pretty good at that, lol. (Yes, we’re in the middle of another project.)
Joyce, I love that your mother was such an inspiration. She sounds like an amazing women. You must think about her a lot while you are gearing up for your publication later this year!
I like tiling and grouting too! It is very satisfying.
I am a mystery reader. I’ve always been a mystery reader. And I don’t see that changing.
But like you, it’s one part of who I am. There’s my Disney side, my ultimate Frisbee side, my mud run side, my TV side. Many of these things feed my reviewing side. It’s the mix that makes people more interesting to me.
Of course, the mix can also really take a tole on your time when you want to dabble in all of them at the same time. That’s what your book is really all about, right? Killing Time as in making it stop progressing forward so you can do everything you want to do each day? No? 🙂 Seriously, can’t wait to add your book to my read shelf in October.
Thanks Mark! The combo of who we all are makes us interesting. I haven’t done a mud run, but have always wanted to try. Need to get back in shape first, but it is on the bucket list.
Love this quick blurb, julie. So interesting to know your “simple” journey…drop a body, add a mystery, suddenly your passion becomes your love. Ah, life. If only the answers were presented to us waaaaaay earlier.
LOL Gavin. It is how I stay so calm and focussed–I kill people on the page.
Congratulations, Julie! I love the cover of Just Killing Time!
Reading mystery fiction not only changed my life but rescued and reshaped it. It snuck up on me. It drew me in very cautiously after hearing an interview with Robert B Parker (followed closely by one with Tony Hillerman) on Radio station WBUR in Boston. I was a graduate student and, although I didn’t know it at the time, my studies were dissolving my sense of self.
I walked down the street to the COOP from my rooms at the dorm and picked up a copy of Robert B Parker’s most recent book. My intention was to fill the time riding the M2 shuttle from the medical school and across the Charles River to the college in the square—not enough time to study but plenty of time to be bored.
I found myself reading that book at a speed I thought impossible for me. This might make you laugh, but I’ll risk it. Until then I had no sense, no understanding, that reading didn’t have to be a chore. I knew there were stories that people loved that were printed up in books. I was ignorant, however, about the ease that would be there for me while reading a novel that took my attention away from my environment.
When we were about 185 smoots across the MIT bridge, I felt myself getting anxious. I knew that I would have to stop reading my book, and I didn’t want to! This was new to me. I had to stop reading my crime fiction mystery novel. I used to be happy for an excuse to stop reading. When I look back at that very moment, I realize I was having something like a panic attack. School was going to take my new drug of choice, reading mystery novels, away from me.
I couldn’t let it do that. I’d like to say I used willpower or even something more intellectual to deal with my newfound interest. But I didn’t. Instead I read my new objects of obsession whenever I could and even when I shouldn’t. I was almost hit by cars on the way to church. I bumped into the monument walking across Cambridge Common, because I couldn’t stop reading. When I got to church I ran in the office and copied the last pages of a book I couldn’t finish before I got there. Then I slipped them into the folder with my sermon and read them as I sat in the chancel as if I had nothing else to do during the service.
I learned that I had been studying far too much. Nothing collapsed. My term papers and exams were written and handed in on time. My presentations were presented. My supervisees were supervised. Sermons written and delivered. My counselees were counseled. Therapands were therapized. I was certificated, licensed, and graduated. I commenced.
Then I had to drop it all when I became disabled.
But! I had my Robert B Parkers and Tony Hillermans.
I came out west and discovered writers’ blogs.
Wicked Cozy Authors.
Jungle Red Writers.
Writers Who Kill
It wasn’t easy.
But I had my books.
My new kind of books.
Now I’m writing.
Hello and thank you.
Reine, what a wonderful post. I am thinking about my father who, for years, only read non-fiction and didn’t understand that my mother, my sister, and I loved reading so much that we ignored what was going on around us. A couple of years ago he picked up an Agatha Christie. He is newly converted to the reading tribe, and a full fledged member. Last summer was his Spencer summer, and he loved it.
I love your description of Cambridge–I pictured exactly where you were. I am going to the ART tonight–will toast you at dinner beforehand.
Julie, thank you. It’s connecting with the universe when you wake up like that. Please say hello to the spirit of David Wheeler tonight. I miss my old Theatre Company family so much! I recently read he was only 37 when he started that theatre group in the Hotel Touraine in Boston. Time. Time. Time.
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