Friday, March 1, 2013

Handle With Care

By Sue Ann Jaffarian
When it comes to taboos in writing, I don’t believe in them or have any. Of course there are things I don’t want to write about – or read about. That’s my choice. But I have never put a DO NOT ENTER sign on any idea I’ve had for books. For me, it’s not about the topic, but how it’s handled.
I write humorous mysteries. On the unofficial mystery hard-boiled scale, my Ghost of Granny Apples series is considered cozy, meaning little to no sex and violence on the page. My Odelia Grey series is more soft boiled. Those books contain more violence and often more mature topics.
In Booby Trap, I dealt with a serial killer. In Twice As Dead, drag queens . Hide and Snoop centers around child abduction. In Secondhand Stiff, due out in December, I kill off a favorite character (and I’m sure I’ll get mail about that). And in my current Odelia work-in-progress, disabled individuals are being murdered. I’ve even injured beloved pets (Yes! The Horror!) Yet these are still considered soft-boiled and humorous mysteries.
It’s all about how the author handles the topic at hand.
Writers are like concert pianists. We need to know when to pound the keys and when to apply a soft touch. Or maybe we’re magicians utilizing a fined tuned sleight of hand. Whichever, I believe most topics, from child molestation to terrorism to bullying and mass murder, can be woven into even softer fiction with just the right touch and sensitivity, and without beating readers over the head with graphic scenes and descriptions. And rather than limit my list of interesting topics, that’s the path I choose.
I also must consider my readers. Both my Granny Apples and Odelia Grey series have a solid following with certain expectations. If, for example, in the middle of a Granny book I drop in a graphic beheading or rape, my readers (and most definitely my publisher) would cry FOUL! And rightfully so. That doesn't mean I can't press the envelope with an exciting and different plot line, just that I have to do it in a way to keep my reader's comfort level intact.
Speaking of pressing the envelope, hopefully I'll be doing just that in upcoming Odelia Grey books. The series will be ending with book 12 and I'm currently writing book 9. I'm leaving nothing on the table.
You have been warned...
And now for some blatant self-promotion:
My first Granny Apples novella, The Silent Ghost, will be released by Penguin Publishing on March 5th. This book will be offered in digital format only and can be purchased through your favorite e-book retailer.

1 comment:

Mark Baker said...

Yes, how it is handled is much more important than the topic itself.

Heck, Lisa Lutz wrote a delightfully funny book with a headless corpse. Leave out the graphic parts, and it works for a lighter book.