I am an inveterate mystery reader. I consume them as if they were chocolate, which, in case you don’t know, is on a daily basis. I’ve fallen off them a bit lately, but I can still read a four-hundred page mystery in a couple hours. Side note: When I’m flying, I like to read a mystery or two, then leave it in the bathroom of the airport or the plane. If it’s the latter, I like to imagine a flight steward finding it and taking it home. Anyway, I mostly read female authors and any authors of color, queers, and anyone on the fringe. A few decades ago, I decided to try to write one. Since then, I’ve written several, and most of them have a protagonist who is female, Asian, and queer. Black cats and taiji are prominent as well. In other words, they’re me to varying degrees.
I don’t have a problem with that because there are no books about people like me. I’m at least two standard deviations away from the norm in so many ways. I’m Taiwanese American, which, by the way, is a thing in and of itself. I am NOT Chinese, and I WILL correct you if you call me Chinese. That’s not what this post is about, however, so I’ll move on with difficulty. I’m bi, which for me means liking sex with men and women, but leaning towards partnering with men. I’m over forty and not married, so I have to start paying attention to those scare warnings about women over forty being more likely to be run over by a bus while fleeing from terrorists than to get married, but here’s the twist: I don’t want to get married. I never have, and I highly doubt I ever will, so joke’s on you! I don’t have kids, and I’ve never wanted them for even longer than I’ve never wanted to get married*. I’m agnostic, which makes me suspect to both believers and atheists. I lean towards believing there’s a laissez faire kind of god if there’s one at all. It created the world and then fucked off, becoming immediately interested in something else.
I have two black cats, well, one now. I adopted brother cats, Raven and Shadow, many moons ago, but Raven died this past December. I’m still adjusting, and in my current mystery novel, the main character has one black cat (a girl) whose brother cat had suddenly died. My writing is therapeutic to me, and I’m working through my grief by writing about it. I can change and shape what happens in my fiction world to a certain extent, though my characters refuse to talk to me if I make them do things that are egregiously against their nature, and by writing about my grief in the fiction world, I feel as if I can get a handle on it. In real life, I’m mostly numb about it, but there are moments of intense grief. Shadow is much more vocal now than he was while his brother was alive, and I think it’s because he relied on Raven to do all the communicating before. Shadow is much clingier now as well. He used to be somewhat aloof, content to being on his own for several hours, before running up to me and demanding attention. Now, he’s constantly meowing at me from the other room, mostly on my lap as he is now, and I know he’s dealing with his grief in his own way. Interesting note: I discovered if I whistle in response to his meowing, he comes running to me. He’s never done that before, but I’ve never whistled at him before, either.
I have been studying taiji for eight or so years, and it’s helped me immeasurably. It’s become a way of life, though I’ve had to ease up on my daily practice and my classes in the last month because I had the worst sickness I’ve had in years. It’s frustrating because every time I have to cut back, I know I’m losing what I’ve already gained. I haven’t been able to do the sword or the weight set while I was sick, which means wasting precious time regaining what I once had. I know taiji is a lifelong practice and that I’ll get it back, but it’s still irritating. I did a full class yesterday for the first time in ages, and I was exhausted by the end. My thighs ached all night last night, even after eating an orange (good for lactic buildup), and I fell asleep hours earlier than I normally would. Since taiji has been such a boon to me, it’s natural that I want to share the good news, which is why I put it into my novels. My current protagonist is just starting to take classes, and it’s been refreshing to put myself back in the mind of a newcomer.
I don’t think it’s a bad idea to base my protagonists on me, but I do worry it limits me or that I’m writing the same story over and over again. I don’t think it’s a problem until I actually get published, but it’s something I’m aware of. In addition, I realized with my last novel that I’m moving away from the mystery aspect in my novels. I love writing mysteries, and I’m good at it, but lately, the mystery has become secondary to the story I’m telling and the characters of the novels. I like to write trilogies, and it was in the third book of my last trilogy in which the mystery became incidental to the story. I mean, the mystery is why novel exists, but the actual murder doesn’t happen until over a hundred pages into the novel.
An aside: When I start writing a novel, I already have the whole thing outlined in my head. I don’t write actual outlines, but it comes to me as a whole, usually, and then I flesh it out as I write it. So, as I was writing this novel, I knew which character was going to die, but I wasn’t in any hurry to get there. I was more interested in exploring the relationships between the characters, which is why it took me so long to get to the actual death.
In my current novel, the protagonist is doing some investigation, but not much. I know I have to wrap up the mystery angle, but it just isn’t important to me. The mystery used to be the center of the story, and now, it’s almost a distraction. That makes me wonder if I should forgo the mystery angle completely in favor of just writing a novel, no genre. The thing is, though, I like the mystery angle, even if it’s not the main focus of the novel. Life is filled with mysteries, big and small, and having a mystery gives me something to center the novel around. I suppose I could start a new genre, ‘mystery-lite’, if you will. I wouldn’t call it that, but that’s what it is in essence.
I’m nearly done with my current novel. If I were to follow my recent pattern, it would be the first of three books. I’m not sure I want to write another in this trilogy, even though I really like the main character. I have an idea for another novel in my mind that is more interesting to me, so I might tackle that next. In addition, I want to get my author’s blog up and running again. It’s up, but I haven’t added to it in quite some time. My original idea was to publish a chapter from a novel every week, but I let it languish after a few entries. The next novel I want to write would give me a great reason to resurrect my author’s blog again. Stay tuned for more details.
*I was 22 when I realized I didn’t want to have kids. Best decision of my life. I was in my late twenties when I realized I didn’t want to get married. I knew for sure by the time I was thirty that marriage wasn’t for me.