By Tracy Kiely
The mystery writing community has a justly deserved reputation for being incredibly supportive. Both Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America are excellent groups that provide endless support for new and established writers. Even the writers I’ve encountered one-on-one at the various conferences have been wonderfully kind. They are always happy to meet a new writer, read a new series, and help a fellow writer in any way. There isn’t a lot of ego amongst our ranks – at least not any that I’ve noticed.
Now, as to why mystery writers as a whole tend to be this way is well…the answer is, dare I say it? A mystery?
Sorry. Crappy pun. But, it fits.
I have heard that other writing communities aren’t so welcoming or friendly. I should point out that I don’t know this as a fact. I have never been a part of any other community so I couldn’t swear to you that the Romance writers don’t poison each other’s tea or that the SciFi gang doesn’t reenact Star Trek battles with real weapons. I’ve just heard that they…might.
Now, why is that? Well, who really knows? All I can say is that I would grow a tad testy if – day after day - I had to write about pure, glowing love, longs walks on the beach, and soulful glances that always climax in a mind-blowing ecstasy of (ahem) emotion. And I know I’d definitely snap if I had to write about extraterrestrials, the space-time continuum, and the intgrinsic difficulties of intergalactic mating.
It would be like hosting a-never-ending holiday meal – one of the big stressful ones, like Thanksgiving. Only you’d never get to the part where you hide out in the kitchen and finish off the rest of the cooking sherry while sternly reminding yourself that it’s only once a year. No, instead you’d have to keep smiling as you serve up the mashed potatoes and listen to Aunt Gertrude loudly whisper that they are a bit lumpy “but what can you except from a woman who doesn’t make her own gravy?” And when the two nephews – a.k.a., Thing One and Thing Two – burp their thanks, you’d be stuck yet again. Unable to do anything other than quietly murmur a sarcastic “how proud you must make your parents.”
I think mystery writers are nice because we get most of our aggression out in our work. The clerk at the grocery store who wanders off mid-transaction to take a call from her boyfriend? Well, she ends up drinking the poisoned wine by mistake. The Frenemy who cheerfully snaps a picture of you when you have the flu and posts it on Facebook? She gets stabbed in the back. The old boyfriend who cheated on you? Well, he gets stabbed anywhere you think is appropriate.
By the end of the day, most of life’s petty frustrations that can pile up to create a sour mood are wiped away. They are dead – embodied in the characters they represented. We are only left to hit “save” and let out a sigh of contentment.
One of my favorite authors, Marcia Talley, was once asked why she writes mysteries. She paused and then said: “Frankly, there were a lot of people in my life who needed to die.”
I think we can all relate to that. Especially after the holidays.