Sunday, May 17, 2009

Would Louise Ure Lie to You?

I am so pleased that our guest blogger today is one of my favorite mystery authors, Louise Ure.  Her first novel, Forcing Amaryllis, won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel.  Her second, The Fault Tree, has been nominated for both a Mary Higgins Clark Award and a Macavity Award. Her latest is Liars Anonymous.



I am, and always have been, a liar. 

Of course, I prefer to think of it as a gift for fiction. 

As a child, if I was late coming home from school, it was never because I’d dawdled or stopped to play with friends. It was because I’d found a stray dog and had to travel two miles out of my way to take it home. By the second telling (and today I’d call it the second draft), I had saved the dog from a sure death ground under the wheels of an out of control pick up truck. By the eighth telling  (and this would be the publishable version) I would have safely delivered the dog of a litter of six puppies and found them all homes, including the runt which I gave to a little blond girl who was dying of tuberculosis. See what I mean? Not exactly a lie. More like an embellishment. Well, maybe an acre-sized embellishment.

Soon I was ready to move on from this oral tradition of storytelling to that of the printed word. When I was seven, I put together a story collection oxymoronically called “The True Book of Fairytales.” There was a piece of fruit as the protagonist in each episode, and at the end each one died, and I quote, “a horrible and painful death.”  Like the Proud Orange who treated all the other oranges like servants, so he was skinned alive, torn apart while he screamed, and then wrung out for juice. I was a budding fatalist.

With this kind of storytelling as background, I set my sights on the perfect career. Horror writer? Nope. Advertising. Now, I know that advertising is not really lying, it’s just retelling the facts in a more favorable light. So, for a quarter of a century I sang the praises of cruise lines and long distance phone companies. Shake ‘n Bake and Clorox and Henry Weinhard’s beer. I even worked with Michael Jackson when he wanted to be a Dancing California Raisin, although if the agency had known about that flayed and dismembered orange from my youth, I’m sure they would have put me on some other account instead. 

And that brings me, with about a mile and a half of dirt road detour, to my mystery writing.

I don’t write a series. While each of my novels is set in Arizona, each is a stand alone with an entirely new cast of characters. Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times gave me the perfect response to use when asked why I write stand alones: “Unrestrained by the housekeeping duties of a mystery series, Ure uses the freedom to push her themes to their limits.” My first book, Forcing Amaryllis, won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel. The second book, The Fault Tree, has been nominated for a Macavity and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

 The third book, Liars Anonymous, came out just a few weeks ago, and that brings me right back to where I started: I am a liar. 

Several years ago, in a weak moment, I decided I didn’t want to be a liar anymore and I was looking for help in curbing this addiction. You know what? There was no Liars Anonymous. Sex-addicts get help. Over-eaters. Drinkers. Gamblers. But there was no twelve-step program for liars and I thought there should be. So I made one up, and I made my protagonist a member.

I liked the idea of a narrator who not only lies to others, she lies to herself. 

But what would this story be about? That’s where the second idea for the book came in. My husband and I were watching TV one night and saw an OnStar commercial. You know the one, there’s an accident and the airbag goes off and the OnStar operator is connected to the car and says “I see you’ve been in an accident. Do you need an ambulance or a tow truck?”

But all I could think about was “I wonder how many dead people they talk to? How many times they say ‘I see you’ve been in an accident’ and there’s no reply. Or better yet, what if they made that phone connection, and then heard a murder take place?” So that’s what happens in Liars Anonymous and here’s how it opens:

“I got away with murder once, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn’t do it. Well, not all of it anyway.”

The book has gotten great reviews so far … in fact, a grand slam of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. That’s a feat that’s been done before, certainly, but four-out-of-four stars is rare enough that it goes beyond even once-in-a-blue-moon status. I’m sure there will be a review someplace down the road that has one of those memorable “I read this book so that you don’t have to” lines in it, but in the meantime, I’m delighted.

I’m hard at work now on the next novel. I’d like to tell you that the words are coming trippingly through the keyboard. My characters talk to me and I don’t even have to think about where the book is going. That I’m so self-disciplined that I keep my butt in that chair until I’ve come up with 2000 words a day.

But you already know me better than that. You know I’m a liar.


Louise's web site address is



Charles benoit said...

"I am, and always have been, a liar."

That one line told me everything I needed to know about your writing style, your sense of timing and ability to surprise the reader. And it sold me on your book.

(Side note - I've been blogging about the similarities between the ad world and the author world and your blog today is a perfect example of many of the things I've been trying - less successfully - to say.)

Louise Ure said...

Thank you, Charles!

Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen brought up the link between advertising and writing at the presentation there last week. I agree that we learned alot about our craft from advertising. In my case, it was vicarious learning; I was not a copywriter, I was in account management. But that background surely helps me write the openings to a blog or a book. It's like a 30-second commercial or a billboard for our work.

Donis Casey said...

Charles wrote an entire entry about billboard skills just a few weeks ago. You ad people!
Anyone who hasn't read Louise's books had better get on the stick. She comes up with some of the most interesting protagonists I ever read. In Fault Tree, she's a blind auto mechanic!

Louise Ure said...

Donis, thanks for the opportunity to chat here at Type M For Murder.

And I would rather be knee deep in disease and go bald=headed from a burning fever than to ever have to write another book from the point of view of a blind person, as I did with the blind auto mechanic in The Fault Tree.

Some things are better just done once, n'est-ce pas?

Charles benoit said...

nothing wrong with bald-headed...