One of the pleasures of being a writer is that we get to live other lives. If we can imagine that life, we can step into it. Past, present, or future, we can go there, we can be that person. This is also one of the perils of writing crime fiction. Most of us have lines we will not cross, lives we shy away from describing because to even imagine that life fills us with dread.
Even those of us who work in criminal justice-related fields find some types of crime, some offenders, some victims more than we can handle. We might prefer not to write about child victims or serial killers. We might cringe at the thought of describing domestic violence or sexual assault. What we feel comfortable writing about reflects who we are and what we believe. But our perspectives may change over time.
I don’t think of myself as a “cozy” writer because I deal with social issues that may make my readers uncomfortable. But, I am also unlikely to offer graphic descriptions of violence. Or sex (I’d rather not have colleagues, students, and unknown readers laughing as they read my efforts). On the other hand, one of my favorite characters appeared in the fourth book of my Lizzie Stuart series (currently being reissued). That character – Lizzie’s long-missing mother Becca – walks on and steals the show. She is a femme fatale. She’s the kind of woman who turns every head in the place. She’s cold-blooded. More than one reader described her as “the mother from hell”. I had a slow build-up in the first three books to get to give Lizzie a reason to look for her. I can’t wait for her to make another appearance. Becca was fun to write because she was an enigma. Maybe one day I’ll even try writing a short story from Becca’s point of view.
But I prefer being in the heads of Lizzie Stuart, my Southern crime historian, and Hannah McCabe, my Albany, New York police detective. I’m enjoying getting to know Jo Radcliffe, my former Army nurse who returns to a village in upstate New York.
My Lizzie Stuart series began in the present but eventually was in the recent past because time was passing slowly in the series. The year now is 2004. My Hannah McCabe books began in the near-future (2019) but will soon be in a parallel present (which lucky I planned for with an alternate reality). Jo Radcliffe served in World War II, with the first story about her set in 1948. I mention this because I have discovered I prefer not to write books or stories set in the present. Now that my Lizzie Stuart series is being reissued, I can happily step back into the past and catch up with her – more time with an old friend whose life provides me with surprising insights on my own.