The Unexplainable

I love it—the unexplainable, that is.
Here’s the thing: so much about this life that’s enjoyable is unexplainable. The pull you feel to study engineering, your longing to live in a certain part of the world, or the time you’re walking down the street of a huge city and your eyes suddenly find another person’s and you just suddenly know, in the midst of the crowd, that this person will have some meaning in your life. Maybe you can explain some things, but this? Nah.
It’s the same with the “paranormal.” I find it fascinating for so many reasons. I would be a skeptic and often am—except that I’ve had some unexplainable things happens to me in my life. None of which I will go into here. (Sorry.)
Intellectually, one of the many things I find curious about the paranormal is how it really cannot be proven. I know about the paranormal investigators and so on and even watch some of those shows. But I never see or hear what they are talking about. And when I do there’s an explanation—mice, a weird air current in the room, and so on. But. When things like this happen to you, you don’t exactly need proof, do you?
But, as I said, I love the unexplainable.
This is why I use the paranormal in my books. I’ve been asked about the paranormal element in my first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. Is Bea’s husband really haunting her? Or does she just miss him so much that she imagines him? And if that’s the case—how powerful is this thing we call imagination? Can it make something seem so real that we actually wield it into existence? I wonder.
I’m not a “paranormal” writer, meaning I don’t have paranormal characters (like werewolves, vampires, fairies, and such) in my books. But what I try to do is entertain possibilities. In my next book, SCRAPBOOK OF SHADOWS, there will also be a bit of a paranormal element, treated much in the same way. It’s a different situation and element, completely, but it does entertain possibilities.
As a reader, how do you feel about that when you’re reading? Do you want hard cold answers? Or is okay to leave some unanswered questions?

Five Questions for Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh is at the top of my list of wonderful-talented-friendly people I’ve met through social media. We bonded over 140-characters-or-less musings about our children. Little did I know what a gifted writer she is. I ordered her book, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, read it,  and was blown away by the stunning, poetic, haunting story. And I was not the only person to note how wonderful this book is. Among other things, it was selected as a Target Breakout book. (Check out her reviews.) I found that not only is she a friendly sort on Twitter, but that she is also an amazing writer. If you haven’t read the book by now, you simply must. Enough said.

I give you my five questions for Therese Walsh:

1. I loved your first book. One of the many things I loved about it was the “paranormal” thread in it–even though I wouldn’t call it a paranormal book. It’s kind of like life in that sometimes these things happen–inexplicable–and there you have it. It fascinates me. And I think you handled it beautifully. It didn’t feel gratuitous or forced in any way, like in some other books I’ve read. Was that thread a part of your first draft of the book? I’m curious about how that idea was worked into it.

Thanks so much for your kind words!
Yes, the thread involving the Javanese keris was in the first draft of The Last Will of Moira Leahy. It came about as a fluke. I decided that the protagonist, Maeve, would win an item at an auction house. I’d already compiled a list of antiques–items that would reside in the antiques shop that would become a part of the story. The keris was on that list; it was an interesting looking item, and I decided it would lend itself to unique descriptions in the first scene. A friend of mine read the scene and asked if the blade would play a part in the rest of the book. It sounded like a smart idea, but I didn’t know anything about the keris. After researching it, I felt like I’d landed in a goldmine. Javanese mythology and mysticism guided a lot of the story–and character development–after that point.
2. Can you give us any clue about you next book? Where are you in the process?
I’m thick into revisions for the next book. As happened to me with Last Will, this new story didn’t fully reveal itself until the draft was finished. Revision is the time I go back, get rid of the threads that didn’t really support the story’s main message, and strengthen characters and the story theme.
It’s just like me to write a book that’s difficult to describe in a few sentences, but I’ll give it a try. On the surface, this next work is the story of two very different sisters on a week-long trek through the wilds of West Virginia to try to find the end of their dead mother’s fairy tale. Below the surface, it’s the story of two sisters struggling to come to terms with one another and–on a bigger scale–the meaning of life, death, and hope following their mother’s probable suicide.
I like to keep it light.
3. One of your other “babies,” along with writing, is one of my favorite writing websites, Writer Unboxed. It’s a group effort, I realize. But how much of your time goes into helping out with it?
It depends on the week. I’m very active in the upkeep of Writer Unboxed–from little things like approving comments, to big things like adding and updating contributor pages and arranging guest posts–as well as the Writer Unboxed Facebook community. It’s been especially busy lately as my fellow blog mama, Kathleen Bolton, and I are pursuing a new project that will expand the site. This Secret Business on top of recently adding five new contributors (Keith Cronin, Crystal Patriarche, M.J. Rose, Chuck Sambuchino, and Yuvi Zalkow) means we’ve been very busy.
4. We first “met” on Twitter and bonded over “Tweeting” about our children. I wonder how you handle that balance between mothering and writing. Any advice?
“Family first” is going to sound cliché, but it’s the best advice I have to offer in this realm. Obviously the ideal is that your family is there to support you–your husband does his share of household tasks and your kids leave you alone when the office door is closed. But when family needs come knocking, listen. This might be because someone is sick and physically needs you, or it might be that someone is mad-bored and missing Mom; both are equally worthy of shutting down the computer for a few hours and taking time to be something other than Writer. It’s important.

5. You knew this was coming, right? What kind of pie would you be, and why?

I spent more time thinking about this than anything else! My daughter said I would be a star fruit pie, because it’s unusual. My husband said I would be a pumpkin pie–both savory and sweet. My son decided on pecan, because I lean nut here at home. I think I’d like to be a dark-choco-raspberry-nut pie, because it sounds delicious. And maybe a little unboxed.

Thanks, Therese.
Thank YOU, Mollie!
If you haven’t already, please check out Therese’s website and book here and Writer Unboxed here.

Blending Genre

This is  the third stop on the Mystery Writer Blog Tours Ink.

This article is the third entry in a rolling blog tour on the topic of genre blending.  For the previous tour, please see Ryder Islington’s post on plotting. The details on all the participants in today’s tour are at the bottom of this post, as well as a link to the next article in the series. The next blog tour will be Wednesday and our subject will be our favorite reference books. It will start with Nancy Lauzon

Today’s subject: Genre Blending

The series I’m working on right now is squarely in the “cozy” mystery genre. For those of you who are not sure what that means, it’s usually defined as a  mystery  in which there is no graphic violence and sex. Many “traditional” mysteries fit that criteria, as well.

With SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, plenty of sex goes on, but it happens off-camera. The reader doesn’t see it or any of the gory details of the unexpected death, either. And there really isn’t enough of that sex to qualify it as a romantic mystery. And the romance strains in the book are sort of, um, un-romantic.  But this first book in my series has definite paranormal elements. But does that make it a paranormal mystery?

No. Because it isn’t a driving thread to the story. What moves it forward is the mystery. Unsexed up. With no graphic violence. So it’s a cozy. (A word I really don’t like, but there you have it.)

I hope the example of what my book is and what is not helps clarify the mysterious thing that is genre. It’s very often about balance—which thread is the most important thread  in the book?

So if you are blending genre, both genre elements should be of equal importance. Let’s take romantic suspense, a very popular genre of it’s own, now. But, it’s a blending of romance and suspense or mystery. The couple is in a situation because of the suspense. The suspense is ratcheted up because of this romance. Or vice versa. You can’t pull it apart because one element hinges on the other.

As far as I’m concerned, genre blending makes a good story even better, more complicated and layered.

Where it gets complicated for writers, first-time novelists in particular, is defining which thread is the most important so that we can represent our manuscripts to an agent, publisher, and ultimately reader, in the most accurate way possible. It’s difficult for us to see our  own work clearly sometimes. But if you take the time to study your genre, read a lot of books in that genre,  it will help.

What genre are you writing in? What do you like to read?

Check out what some of the other writers on the blog tour say about genre blending.

The next entry in today’s tour is by John Hines I encourage you to complete the tour, and jump in there and comment.


Below is a list of the participants in today’s roll. We’d love it if you could stop by each of them and read more about genre blending.