I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. I did briefly entertain a dream of being a cartoonist for The New Yorker, but then I found out that they actually expected you to know how to draw. Whatever, New Yorker staff. Way to crush a young girl’s dreams with your crazy insistence on talent. After that, there was a brief aspiration to become a tap dancer, brought about after multiple viewings of numerous Gene Kelly movies, but that hope too faded (if “faded” means when friends, family, and neighbors petition the Court to have you legally barred from performing ANY dance moves until you move out of state).
But after THAT, it was writing. My first (and only poem), however, did not inspire confidence as to my proposed career choice. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this was just another cruel example of Art Being Crushed by the Dull or “evidence once again that you’ve left your homework off until the last minute” as my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wiggins noted.
The rain comes down
Upon the ground
Will it ever stop?
I’ll get the mop
Now, I don’t know if this matters to your decision, but Mrs. Wiggins also had weird hair and smelled funny. I’m just saying.
Anyway, after realizing that I wasn’t going to follow down Sylvia Plath’s path, I focused on fiction. (BTW: Do you know how hard it was not to try and force a pun on the whole Plath/path thing? Hard, I tell. Very hard.) Around this time, I saw a movie called The Double McGuffin. It was a mystery with a bunch of kids in it (oh, and Ernest Borgnine, but I had no idea who he was then). One of the kids was very cute. Very cute. I had the rather brilliant idea that I would write my own mystery, get it turned into a movie, and then demand that this boy star in it. He would, of course, meet me, think I was really cool, come visit me, and ask me to couple skate at the roller rink, but – best of all – he would know how to skate backwards! And he wouldn’t ask my nemesis Nikki Baxter to skate at all! HA!
To prepare myself for this very realistic goal, I began reading mysteries. I read all the Nancy Drew books and amassed quite a bit of handy knowledge in the process. For instance, did you know that you should always carry a tube of red lipstick with you in case you are locked in an attic by the bad guys? Well, you should; because you can use the lipstick to write a cry for help on the attic window! Also, when locked in a room, a spiked heel makes a nice tool to break a window to summon help. I keep telling my fifteen-year-old son he should be ready to use these tips, but you know how today’s kids are – little know it alls who don’t want to listen to their parents.
Another factor in my love for mysteries was the promise of a satisfying resolution to a troubling problem. As I grew older, this increasingly became an important factor in my life, as I am that woman who can’t find her car keys. The ones right there in her purse. Resolution to a problem – even if it wasn’t my own – became a deeply held goal.
Anyway, when I began to think of writing my own mystery, I realized it would have to include certain elements. A brilliant plot, an innate attraction to everyone (especially Oprah), but that’s about all I realized. Pesky little details such a basic plot refused to materialize.
As I struggled to come up with something in the way of a viable storyline, the characters of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, kept swirling around in my head. It dawned on me that while there is no murder in Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of characters who certainly inspire murderous thoughts. (It also dawned on me that I might be losing my already rather tenacious grip on reality as who goes around with fictional characters swirling around in their heads? Whack jobs, that’s who.)
Anyway, I began to wonder, what, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? Or, if one day Charlotte snapped and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? These were the questions that plagued me (well, that and who invented liquid soap and why). I kept trying to figure out how I could work in the themes and personality clashes of Pride and Prejudice into a modern-day mystery. (I also spent a great deal of time in trying to determine just what is wrong with the little red haired girl on the Island of Misfit Toys. Is her dowdy housedress? Is it her hair? Exactly what is her problem? She seems perfectly normal!)
Then one day I was watching the news and – lo and behold – there was a story about a woman on the eastern shore who killed her husband at a B&B after they attended a Host-A-Murder Dinner. How perfect is that? (Well, unless you were her poor sod of a husband.)
Without haste, I set pen to paper and started work on my own book, Murder at Longbourn. (That is, if you accept “three years later” for an appropriate definition of “without haste.”) Of course, I have grown up a great deal since I first had my rather silly idea that my book would be turned into a movie and thus allow me to meet my childhood crush. I realize that such dreams are sweet but unattainable.
No, I now want my book turned into a movie so I can cast George Clooney or Hugh Grant.
Until that happens though, writing mysteries allows me to bring at least one “problem” to a satisfactory conclusion in my life.
Speaking of which, if any of you know what’s up with the red head, would you please let me know?