Thursday, March 10, 2016

An Interesting Time for a Writer, and Women's History Month

Left Coast Crime is over and the Tucson Festival of Books is coming up this weekend. I’ll be teaching a class on writing historical mysteries while I'm in Tucson, as well as participating in a panel with other historical mystery authors.* It’s always a boost to be around other writers. This is such a solitary life that sometimes you wonder if you're not just a voice crying in the wilderness. It's a mystery to me how a book ever gets written, to tell the truth. I've written books in the midst of personal crises that went on for months, but then found myself paralyzed when nothing in particular was going on with the rest of my life. But  however lovely it is to get out in the world, I must say that I’m beginning to get tired. And poor. As authors continually point out, you can’t help but wonder if all this travel and outlay and acting as free entertainment just for the exposure is really worth it. Especially when you can hardly find the time to finish your novel.

Things are changing so fast in the publishing world that nobody can keep up. How can one plan for the future? You can’t predict which of the numberless trends is going to have legs and which is going to fizzle out. We begin to understand the true meaning of the Chinese curse that that you should live in interesting times.

I detect a lot of fear about what’s going to happen, and resentment, because it seems that in the publishing world the authors are way down on the food chain, and no matter what format or delivery system comes out on top, the producers of the primary product will be the last to profit. (Rather like farming. Or the music biz.)

When J.D. Salinger, the famously reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye, died, he left piles, stacks, boxes, rooms-full of manuscripts that he had written just for his own enjoyment, any one of which he could have sold for an astronomical advance. He made the conscious choice to create art strictly for art’s sake. He was able to maintain this philosophy because the first book he wrote made him a millionaire. The rest of us can’t afford the luxury of such high ideals.  Sometimes I wish for the days when artists were supported by wealthy patrons.

I do like to tell stories, though, and will do my best to keep telling them however I may.

On another note, March is Women’s History Month, but since I write a historical mystery series featuring a female protagonist, every month is Women’s History Month for me. According to the National Women’s History Project, “the history of women often seems to be written with invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are often not included in the history books.”

Women’s lives – and I mean the real, everyday, down and dirty business of women’s lives, past and present – aren’t included that often in fiction, either. A traditional woman’s life has historically not been seen as very glamorous, or held much interest for those who didn’t have to, or choose to, live it.

But considering the things a woman often had to cope with in the past, we ought to be incredibly interested in their lives, if for no other reason than to make sure we don’t slip backwards and lose the rights and respect we’ve earned. Case in point: read Barbara Frandkin’s post, below.
Check out my TFoB schedule here

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