Monday, January 7, 2013

Staying ahead of the curve

 by Meredith Cole

Sue Ann and I decided to celebrate the New Year with a Criminal Minds switch and now we'll each be seeing the blog from a different point of view. So Monday is my new spot. Usually I cap off the week on a Friday with a lot of "what he said" and "she's brilliant"--but now I'm the first one out of the gate. No pressure or anything...

The question this week is whether we put pop culture or current references in our work, or do we fear that we'll date our books? The answer for me is yes--and no.

Let me explain. My Lydia McKenzie books exist in a fictional Williamsburg, Brooklyn where there are places that are a bit like actual places, and people that resemble people that are living--but have been altered enough to not be completely recognizable. I have lots of fun inventing silly artists, horrible bands and trendy spots. I do mention fashion a lot, but that strangely enough doesn't seem to get me into trouble. Fashion never seems to change much any more. It just seems to repeat and revolve around and around like a puppy chasing its tail until what was out is quickly in again.

Lydia doesn't mention reading the latest best seller or listening the latest hits. Instead she's a mystery fan and a film noir freak. She likes vintage clothes and is disdainful of pop stars. So I get to skip over mentioning anyone that might be completely "hot" this year and totally forgotten next (Brittany? Brittany who?) and might make my book feel dated. This is also good for me because my pop star knowledge is a bit spare (especially when it comes to reality TV).

The books also exist in a late 90's never land, before the luxury condos and the Whole Foods came to Williamsburg. They happen before NYU put a dorm there, and before the rent got so high all the galleries moved to the Bowery. For me the neighborhood will never be so cool again as that time, partially because I will never be that young again. They exist in a time when I was a young film maker and had just moved to New York. I can never go back to that time so I just visit with Lydia from time to time.

6 comments:

A. T. Elle said...

This is a very good question and a great response. I am contemplating setting the year for my first novel in the mid 1990's because I want the reader to appreciate my protagonist's investigative intelligence and not sit there wondering why she didn't use such and such to solve the crime. On the other hand I do want some technological advances but I find myself avoiding pop culture because I don't want seem dated. I wonder if being dated is unavoidable and if so, is there a right way or a wrong way to be dated without becoming a cliche'?

lil Gluckstern said...

I like what you say about the 90's. Everything seems more hard edge these days. More expensive, more complicated. I'm looking forward to your next book

Reece said...

Welcome to the Monday rotation, Meredith! It must be nice to be able to go to your "happy place" of late 90s Brooklyn in your writing. Was Brooklyn a foodie hot spot in the 90s or did that come later?

Meredith Cole said...

Great question, A.T.! I think you can be "dated" if it's not really minor stuff (who will remember the Kardashians in 5 years?) but classic stuff. At least that's my strategy...

Meredith Cole said...

The food was pretty good, Reece when I started living there! But a lot of the really upscale places came later (unless you count Peter Luger's, which has been there forever!).

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I like the yes and no response. While my books are contemporary, I really enjoy reading books set in a different time. It feels more like an escape and if it's a time that is part of my own history, it's like a walk down memory lane.