Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tipping my hat to Mr. Mosley by Cathy Ace

Discuss a source of inspiration you’ve derived from a black American author. How has their work affected yours?

I only had to think about my answer to this question for a millisecond – the answer is:

WHO? Walter Mosley

WHAT? Well, quite a lot, actually!

I think the first Mosley book I ever read was Devil in a Blue Dress…though I might have come to that one later, via a route I set off on because of another of his Easy Rawlins books. 

The most recent was Down the River Unto the Sea. In between I have a read not all of his books, but quite a few (he’s written dozens, as well as short fiction, non-fiction, plays etc. etc. talented!). 

He’s recognized as a master of his craft, and a voice that speaks for many who cannot speak for themselves…at least, they can speak, but might not be heard as readily as he is.

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop organised by Sisters in Crime at Bouchercon 2016, in New Orleans, where he spoke as one of a number of authors tackling the topic of “Writing Our Differences--Doing Diversity Right”. He did a great job – laconic, informative, laser-sharp, and offering truly practical tips, as well as sharing his views in a more general way. It was an honor to meet him. (Yes, I was all tongue-tied and flapping about…and a bit jet-lagged 😉 )

If you haven’t read his work, dive in! Even though I’m no purist when it comes to reading the first in a series first, I do generally enjoy reading authors’ works in order because I can see them develop as a writer (which I believe we all hope we do/will). In the case of Mr. Mosley, the development is evident, and (to me) is expressed in the way in which his writing becomes more layered, and tackles ever-more-challenging and complex topics, as the years pass...yet he seems to make it look easier to do with each volume. Incredible.

That being said, this week’s question is direct – how has his work affected me? Well, overall it made me realize that I need to work at my writing (because he’s very good, and I have a long way to go!) which is a critical inspiration for any author. 

But, beyond that, my response to today’s question can be distilled into one thing: I recognized in his writing that it’s important to write relatable characters, rather than likeable ones, and that relatability doesn’t rely on race or ethnicity…it exists beyond those markers, because we are all human beings, with the same basic needs and desires. The way those play out differs dramatically in his work, of course, but they are at the core of who we all are, and that’s where the focus should be to allow a reader into a character’s mind, rather than building barriers to the reader’s understanding. Walter Mosley is a great writer, regardless of the color of his skin. 

I tried to learn from him - I continue to try to do that – and I try to create relatable characters. If I manage to achieve that, I have to thank Mr. Mosley, in part, for the inspiration to do so. Thank you, Mr. Mosley. 

To reach my website where you can find out more about my work, click here. 

1 comment:

Susan C Shea said...

Agree - The first time he introduced Mouse, my jaw dropped. But I have never forgotten the character!