Sunday, July 26, 2009

Secret of Success

"I write happy books about good people."

- Janet Evanovich in an interview in the New York Times.

I love that quote and I suspect it's a quote to live up to as a writer.

There was something else in her interview that intrigued me: She said her murder mysteries are about family. Her heroine, Stephanie Plum, is not a genius, but she relies on a group of friends, family and associates (and a little luck).

It is probably true of any kind of story but it is certainly true of murder mysteries that the story is really always about something else. It’s not about the murder – those are a dime a dozen – it’s about the way the character finds a way through life, or about right and wrong, or about friendship or about family. (Lonesome Dove, for example, was not about the West, it was about friendship.) These are the things that truly interest us, that we understand and want to understand. The horror of murder, the details of the crime and the puzzle that has to be solved are all trappings. They interest us too, but in the end they are arbitrary. What touches our hearts and minds is something else.

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