Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Damned if you do...? by Cathy Ace

Q: Have you written about any controversial issues or created controversial characters in your books? Do you raise issues of conscience or do you steer away from moral questions?

I (usually) write about murder, so I’m only too well aware that every word I write is connected to a clear moral/social/ethical question about how one human being taking the life of another should be viewed, understood, and dealt with by society. That’s big. That requires the consideration of matters of morals, and conscience. It can certainly be controversial.

As an author with a background in psychology, and writing mainly books which deal with motive for murder, as opposed to the procedures used by police services to detect and apprehend a killer etc., I tend to tackle matters of morals and conscience rather than law enforcement issues…focusing readers’ minds on why suspects might have wanted to do it, and how they might have done it, rather than the detail of what happens after who did it has been identified.

Which is not to say I don’t like to flirt with issues that cause a reader to think about what they believe should happen to a killer once they are unmasked. But – and it’s a BIG but – when I am writing traditional (Cait Morgan) and cozy (WISE Enquiries Agency) books I know, understand, and honor the “contract” I have with the reader about the expectations of the type of books I write: both parties expect there to be a suspension of disbelief, and even a suspension of detailed discussion of matters of penalties for crimes, allowing us to focus on the matter of sleuthing through the puzzling clues surrounding a crime.

That said, I have discovered (to my surprise!) that Cait Morgan is quite controversial: she smokes (and is always trying to give up); she’s hugely judgmental of others (never herself, of course); she’s overindulgent when it comes to food and alcohol; she’s never wanted children; she’s not a fan of cleaning her home; she’s kept her maiden-name after marrying Bud Anderson.


None of these aspects of her personality/behavior were gifted to her with the idea of making her controversial…believe me, if I’d wanted to court controversy I could have done so (and still might, though it’s unlikely I’d do it through the sub-genres I’ve mentioned).

But this highlights an overarching point I want to mention: what might be controversial to some, will not be to others, and vice versa. Even motives for (fictional) killing can be “understandable” in some readers’ minds. The question then becomes, of course, even if it’s understandable, is it forgivable? And, should it go unpunished?

I’ll let you ponder…

If you'd like some pondering fodder, you could check my books for controversies I didn't even know I'd written about: CATHY ACE CRIME WRITER

And...a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who decided to give my latest Cait Morgan Mystery a read - I really appreciate it. Launching a book during what are STILL "unprecedented times" is a bit of a challenge, but this has turned out to be my most successful launch to date; THANK YOU for that! 


Brenda Chapman said...

Good post, Cathy. You are right that what is controversial for some is not for others, and it can change over time. I kept my maiden name (at my husband's suggestion) at a time when most women were not. Now, the practice is common. Murder, of course, is never acceptable.

Cathy Ace said...

Yes, Brenda, the "not taking his name" thing is a topic I didn't realize was even warm, let alone hot. "Controversy" is slippery!

Catriona McPherson said...

The smoking thing. I saw a "drug abuse" warning on an episode of The Big Bang Theory and thought ???? It was wine.