News Flash: Liz’s lucky winner is Kay Garrett! Congrats, Kay, and please check your email.
Edith/Maddie here, still adjusting to the time change. But I’m not too bleary to welcome Liz Milliron with her latest historical Homefront Mystery. I love this series and particularly look forward to reading The Truth We Hide, which comes out today. One lucky commenter will win a copy of the book!
Here’s the cover copy: May 1943. Betty Ahern is studying for her private investigator’s license when a new client—Edward Kettle—hires her to clear his name after he was dismissed from his job at the American Shipbuilding Company. When Edward is brutally murdered, the dead man’s sister hires Betty to finish the original job and find the killer. The job hurls Betty back into the world of wartime espionage, but with a twist: Edward Kettle was a homosexual. Did he know something about underhanded activities at American Shipbuilding? Or was his secret life the motive for murder?
Once again, Betty must unravel the mystery, which requires uncovering truths that others would prefer to keep hidden—a job that threatens not only her morals and beliefs, but also her life.
“Growth occurs outside your comfort zone.”
That was what a friend of mine, who does endurance events, told me once. What she meant was that it’s only when we feel a little uncomfortable do we really push ourselves to change and be better.
Last year about this time, I signed the contract for books 4-6 of The Homefront Mysteries series. Which meant I had to start thinking of an arc for the books and an idea for the fourth book. I forget exactly how it happened, but an idea occurred to me of how I could both push my protagonist, Betty Ahern, ahead in both her chosen career and as a person.
The problem was, I found the idea rather daunting.
I wanted Betty to have a client who was gay. That wouldn’t be very challenging today, but the series is set in the early 1940s. The LGBT+ community was not just underground, it was submerged. People did anything and everything they could not to be discovered.
Not only that, but Betty is also Catholic. Pre-Vatican II Catholic. It would have been taught to her from a very early age that homosexuality is sinful. She’d be getting in from all sides. What better way to push her out of her comfort zone that provide a client who is the opposite of everything she’s ever learned was right?
I liked the idea, but I hesitated. Was I the right person to tell this story? I didn’t know anything about the LGBT community in the 40s. Sure, I wasn’t going to attempt to tell the story using the POV of someone in that group, but still. Could I do this?
This is where the power and beauty of Sisters in Crime comes in. I had conversations with Edwin Hill and John Copenhaver, both great authors in their own right.
Edwin Hill (left), John Copenhaver (right)
I told them my idea. Both supported me without hesitation. Not only could I write this story, I should. John gave me sources to learn about gay culture of the times. We talked about what I wanted the resolution to be – and what I wanted to stay away from. I began writing.
When I finished, I sent the manuscript off to my editor at Level Best. She liked it. But she questioned some of my choices. I’d touched on some hot-button issues. Did I really want to go there?
My heart did, but again, I was afraid. Maybe I’d gone too far and crossed the line I hadn’t wanted to cross. I reached out to John and Edwin again. And again, they confirmed I was on solid ground. Yes, I’d written some ugly truths. But they were truths. And they needed to be told.
Fiction is like that. As someone said, it’s a lie that tells the truth. And while I wasn’t part of the LGBT community, I had a right, and a duty, to tell that truth. Because before you can grow, you have to face facts.
Facts, the truth, are often uncomfortable. But as my friend pointed out, that’s where real growth begins.
Readers: What’s a time you found yourself in an uncomfortable spot. How did it help you grow? I’ll send one commenter an ebook or signed print copy of The Truth We Hide.
Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands, and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Pennwriters, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and The Historical Novel Society. She is the current vice-president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and is on the National Board as the Education Liaison. Liz splits her time between Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands, where she lives with her husband and a very spoiled retired-racer greyhound.