Mistery novels, fantasy books, apple purées and the pursuit of happiness
If I had to choose a favourite literary genre, I suppose I would have to say it is the mistery novel. At least it is the genre I have read the most of, if we exclude Stephen King, who is a genre all by himself and that genre is genius. I remember being seven or eight years old and reading The Famous Five and Trixie Belden books by the dozen. I remember being nine, with a broken leg, stuck at my grandparents unable to go to school and coming across Sherlock Holmes, and becoming obsessed. I also remember devouring my dad's Agatha Christie's books by the age of ten, wishing I could be Miss Marple, or live next door to Poirot. And I do remember being eleven and spending a whole summer in the company of Bertha Cool, Donald Lamb and Perry Mason. And I never stoped reading mistery novels, nor do I believe I ever will.
But when it comes to writing, that is the genre I never dabbled my hand at. Oh, sure, I always have plenty of ideas for the most gruesome, weirdest murders. Trust me, after having read through Crime Library during the year 2006 - don't ask - I am quite familiar with mankind's darkest side, and feel my imagination can take me places I most times don't even want to imagine they can exist. So I could come up with the killings, and the characters, but I could never for the life of me come up with the motives. Nor the way the story should evolve. So I never even thought of jotting down my own murder mistery, not even when I was starting my first attempts at writing.
I think I started writing short stories when I was on second grade, and I quite remember my themes were always fantasy centered. There would be trees coming to life and taking a bunch of children on a journey through the universe, there would be fairies dancing under a full moon, and magic doors onto enchanted realms, there would be gnomes whose houses were redcap mushrooms and buterflies that could spread a magic dust on you and make you dance as if you were Anna Pavlova - yes, she was my childhood idol! Fantasy was always the genre I felt more comfortable at writing, along with science fiction, since by twelve I was reading alot of it. Star Wars, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Duran Duran's video for The Wild Boys, all stemmed up inspiration inside me, serving as basis for many short stories ripe with spacecrafts, love affairs, laser guns and the appropriate lingo, of course. By thirteen I was sort of an expert on said lingo. And had by then come across Anne McAffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern, thus awakening inside me a long lived fascination for dragons and riders and magic users and dwellers of magical worlds. I cannot tell you how many times I wrote different versions of the novel I am currently writing, and I cannot tell you how many times I trashed those writings.
By the time I reached adolescence, with all those hormones driving me nuts - and I was boy crazy, trust me, and no shame whatsoever - I was writing poignant (read ridiculous) love stories and very bad poetry. I had moved away from science fiction and fantasy, discovered that wonderful world of Stephen King and gone on a russian binge reading. I could quote the last chapter of Dostoievski's White Nights by heart, along with Florbela Espanca's sonnets. I was dark and moody, and I felt things - as one is bound to do in one's teen years. I was teen angst impersonated, and my writings reflected that in a very badly written way. But I never stopped reading my mistery novels, and Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, N'gaio Marsh, Georges Simenon were my household names along with the divine Mrs. Christie. And yet it never crossed my mind writing a mistery story. Not even a short one.
During college I held a very long love affair with Ernest Hemingway - don't we all? - and Fitzgerald, as well as Yukio Mishima, love affairs that still persist, and endure. But I found myself reconnecting with fantasy lit, which I had somehow steered away from, in the form of Arthurian novels, that led on to my search for other writings with similar thematics, but not necessarily arthurian. I came across Brian Jacques and his Redwall series, and that world has made its mark deeply inside of me. Supposedly these are children's books, where animals are the main characters, but let me tell you that these books have taught me more about honour, love, fealty, courage and being an all round good person than many other grown up classics ever did. I also delved deep into the world of Anne Rice, seeing that with my vampire obsession - Dracula is to this day the book I have read more times, followed by the 3 Musketeers - I was craving for an immersion inside a vampire world. I came out lacking what I was looking for, and so I created my own vampires. Eventually, I jotted down my first novel, aptly named "Melissa" - King Diamond, anyone? - and populated with vampires, written in english. Although it is a bunch of crap, the main idea is pretty good, and it has some valid points. Perhaps one day I might redo it.
So fantasy became what I most wrote, be it in short stories, be it in another try at a novel that breached into the world of the occult, be it in the novel that was never finished but what's been written of it being some of my best work. Vampires were always present, along with other supernatural beings and occurrences. Always nodding towards horror literature, influenced by Clive Barker in some of the content and Mr. King in form. But the truth is, we tend to go back to what our childhood gave us that was so good, and the dragons of my childhood fairytales kept calling me, side by side with details I recalled from Anne MacAffrey's books, and one day I just gave in and started writing my current novel, for my son most of all, as a kind of heritage, or homage. And still, I kept reading the elusive mistery novel - I hardly ever guess the culprit right! I read more mistery books than I read fantasy novels, which sounds crazy, seeing that that is my genre of choice to work on. But it has not been a question of reading preferences, it has been a question of writing abilities, I guess. And yet, just recently, as I sat down editing a chapter on my novel, my mind kept being haunted by other dialogues, other characters, other stories. All of a sudden I had a mistery novel in my head, from start to end. Everything, including the motive. And I felt a need to pen it down.
Much like this snack, a simple apple purée, reminiscent of my childhood, when I would gobble down bowl after bowl of this whenever I was sick, the story is simple, the motives are age old, the crime is obvious enough. But there are some twists, of course, like on this apple purée. A hint of vanilla, a splice of cinnamon. An unexpected turn of events. I figured life's too short to not try for something, so I went ahead. Anyway, if I end up giving it up after a few pages, there's no harm done, as I am writing this one for me. So now I find myself even more pressed for time, juggling my hours away from my son and my husband between photographing, editing and working on this blog, and the writting of two very different stories. But the muses do with us what they want, and as long as they want me to tell the story of how a certain lady got herself involved in the investigation of an alleged crime that took place eight years ago, while I still chant the adventures of a pair of twins who cross over to a fantasy world filled with magic and dragons, I am the muses tool and do as they bid of me. As long as I have apple purée in the fridge to serve as an easy, fast snack that doesn't take me away from my laptop way too long!