Writing Dark

Many thanks to Sarah for thinking of me for today. I had a few moments of pure bliss before realizing I was surely asked to sub here because I was the only left without a blog of her own.

It’s been suggested I write about my recent attempt to shift my focus from writing traditional stories to writing crime. Why the switch? If I look at what I’ve read over my adult years, it’s a pretty evenly split between literary and crime fiction. In the seventies, I read Ross MacDonald, Lawrence Block and Patricia Highsmith amont others. I also read the seventies so-called literary novels. You know the names. The same hold true today. For every book by Richard Bausch or Paul Auster, I read one by James Sallis, Ken Bruen or Val McDermid. I think the characteristic the books share is a darkness in outlook and a compelling narrative. What separates their placement on bookstore shelves is more difficult to define.

When I first signed up for a writing class in the late nineties, it was immediately made clear we were not there to write genre fiction. A woman writing romance was pretty much drummed out of the class despite the fact that her stories never failed to produce shivers of delight.  I was taught to write non-genre stories and I wrote them straight through four workshops and a stint at Breadloaf Writer’s Conference. And on completion of my studies, I had some success with publishing these stories though a large number sat moldering on my hard drive. These were often the stories I liked best–ones with  darker characters, stories where people did bad things and got away with it.

A breakthrough in my thinking came when my daughter, Megan, published her first novel. I began to follow what happened with her book, looking at the sites that mentioned it, reading blogs that reviewed or talked about it. There were interesting links on those sites and I followed those links to find zines that published stories like the ones on my hard drive. The ones I liked but the lit journals often hated. So I began submitting them, and the one that my first writing group hated will appear in Murdaland in the fall. The very qualities my writing group hated five years ago, made it appealing to Murdaland. It made their flesh crawl.

Sorry to be so long here, but I have just one more sentence or two to get out. I’m stronger now than I was seven years ago and I will kill people when it makes sense because I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. Now if I could just find a venue for the humourous stuff. Cause nobody in any group likes that. Did you guys start out writing dark or come to it over time? Were your first stories written to please an instructor, fellow writers or just yourself? How brave were you?