The appeal of domestics

I just finished reading an article by an author of a gritty novel set amongst the sex trade and the criminal justice system. Police procedurals, private investigators — perennially popular.

International thrillers. Choose any of the following: elite-squad military incursions, government or quasi-government spy conspiracies, continent-hopping criminals gangs. Always great.

But my no matter where I might stray, I’m always drawn back to the domestic suspense story. I find them enthralling, and I gobble them up as fast as I can (with periodic breaks for ocular health).

Why do I feel that way? Why do I find them endlessly fascinating?

Because home is where you let your guard down, and you’re vulnerable.

Because these people, your close family and friends, are the ones who know those secrets you hide from the world.

Because the stakes are so high. Your heart is here. You’ll go places you wouldn’t normally go.

Because this is the petri dish where all the variant bacilli of human nature and all its pathologies are on writhing display, in technicolor.

It’s timeless

Many mystery-thriller sub-genres come and go, peak and ebb. And they’re always a delight. And here I am leaving aside whole worlds (literally) of other book genres. Whatever type of books you like to read (or write), you’ll have fellow fans and enthusiasts.

But I love that I can pick up a decades-old domestic suspense book (whatever it may’ve been categorized as in its time) and the dynamics, the scheming, the hidden secrets … all those delicious ingredients … are still fresh and bewitching.

And you?

What’s your reading passion … and what draws you to it so?

Photo credit: Photo by Matt Jones on Unsplash

Writing to a soundtrack

rock band in performance

Sometimes I’m asked if I listen to music while writing. Especially by people who’ve read of other authors’ habits. Stephen King, for example, famously listens to hard rock.

I work to loud music — hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites — but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out…When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.

– Stephen King, On Writing

It’s tempting. Like right now I’m working on a book set in the late 1970s. Why shouldn’t I crank up selections from the melange that was that decade in music: folk rock to proto-punk to hair bands. The Jam. Sappy stuff that made it to the Top 10. Gotta-move R&B. Post-break-up Beatles. I could — trust me — go on and on and on.

But for me, the music is so evocative that I get lost in the recollection, the feeling. I remember hearing it on the radio. Who I was hanging out with. Where we’d go to hear it. Alluring phrases. My own dreams spoke aloud. My anger given voice.

So I can’t listen to that sort of music while I’m writing. In between sprints — great, perfect. Just not during.

But silence (which is never really silence because of a condition I have) isn’t optimal either. So I drift between Baroque or late Early Music through to jazz, opera, or good soundtracks. Occasional hops to Turkey, Mali, Senegal, or Spain. So many choices.

This morning it was a loop of Barrington Pheloung’s Inspector Morse bits.

The best place to write

den with fireplace

I wonder if you’re like me. When I was Thinking About Writing (before I actually was writing more than a few pages here and there), I’d daydream about a writing nook. It’d have a sleek laptop. Stacks of books around. (I must’ve been born in a library; physical books — beside their other merits — comfort me by their presence and easy accessibility.) There’d be a plush old couch with pillows of velvet and Turkish tapestry. And a cozy lap quilt. To one side I’d have the cast iron (yikes, it’s heavy) typewriter I picked up at a second-hand store. A cup of tea or coffee steaming on the table.


But of course…that’s the point. Perfect for a daydream (even if your particulars differ from mine). Perfect for procrastinating (“Sorry, can’t write properly and in a dedicated manner yet because I don’t have all my accoutrements.”) I wonder if these published authors ever wrestled with that same demon. From reading that post, I’m thinking…no. Like Stephen King (a fact you will have learned if you read his excellent On Writing), even a cramped laundry space in a trailer will work.

And I really love to write. Exploring characters. Weaving a story. Wondering what the hell should come next.

After wrestling for too long with insecurities and those evil bastards in your head that will question your every move when you travel into unfamiliar territory, I am writing. Mostly I write using a not-so-new iMac at a desk that works equally well standing up or sitting on a tall stool. Sometimes I take my iPad and a bluetooth keyboard to the living room or the garden.

I type, but am intrigued by those authors who dictate; I don’t know if that’s for me. And I’ve just picked up Joanna Penn’s The Healthy Writer as she’s invariably full of good advice and I want to steer my habits in a sustainable direction.

What about you?

I hope you’re not still stuck in the “everything must be perfect before I can pursue my goals” mode.

There’s a quote from years ago that applies here. “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Adapted for writing, “The best place to write is the one you use.”



Photo by ptrikutam on Unsplash