I’m a Complex Writer

Alright, I admit it. I’m a complex writer.

The older I get, the more complex my characters and storylines become. I like a multi-layered plot, and characters that have just as many layers to them as well. I enjoy reading books like that, and as I become a better writer, I tend to write the types of books I like to read.

I tried my hands at writing my first mystery with my 2022 book, The Answers You Seek. I enjoyed writing that book so much, I decided to try it again with my most recent book, A Scenic Hills Summer. I will be the first to admit I missed the mark with this one when it comes to calling it a “mystery.” A true mystery, in the reader’s eyes, is one where the criminal or killer is not revealed until the very end and the reader spends most of their time trying to figure out who did it.

In A Scenic Hills Summer, I actually reveal who the killer is just a few chapters in. I stole this technique from one of my favorite books, Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs. Init, we meet Buffalo Bill early on and spy on him throughout the book. It’s his motive that we are left guessing about while we wait for the lead character, Clarice Starling, to figure out who the bad guy is.

So, apologies for marketing my book early on as a mystery! Instead, I’ve been calling it a “psychological thriller” on Twitter. I like the sound of that much better anyway.

But recently, a reader reached out to me with concerns about the racism and stereotypes addressed in my book. She admitted she had marked my book DNF after the first 50 pages! (DNF stands for Did Not Finish) I politely pointed out that it’s the press and the police who are to blame for the racism and stereotypical topics in the beginning. The press blame a poor community for the murders, while the police refuse to investigate the murders because they involve the poor and the LGBT community as well. This is the whole reason my protagonist, Colette Birzhan, shows up and starts her own investigation! The blurb on the back of the book even explains this:

 The police have been slow to respond, and a local reporter suspects a serial killer might be stalking the city’s streets.

Unable to resist putting herself in front of a story as it unfolds, Colette Birzhan races to the Midwest to report on the case. She’s intelligent, provocative, and a proud trans woman. She’s also an award-winning investigative journalist for the New York City Tribune.

Having escaped the clutches of a small town years ago to become her true self, Colette yearns to tell the stories of minorities and under-represented people just like her. From seedy strip joints to private upscale men’s clubs, there’s no part of the city where Colette won’t go while tracking the killer.

Colette relies on the unheard, and often ignored, voices of the city to lead her one step closer to solving the case. When she teams up with a rookie hustler, the trail leads them to a quiet suburb outside of St. Louis called Scenic Hills.

And so the complexity lies there. My book not only tackles racism and homophobia, but it addresses social status and ageism as well. Each character in the book is affected in a different way and it is Colette who finds herself in the center of it.

But oh well. I respect the reader’s opinion. Like I told her, not every book is going to please every reader. If we all liked to read the same thing, there wouldn’t be very many books out there to read!


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