Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Why I Can’t Just Read a Book Anymore

Last summer, when I was struggling quite desperately to complete Fire (a writing lesson learned the hard way: think hard about the lives of your main characters before committing yourself to living inside their heads for two years. If their lives are sad/scary/strange? You’re in for a rough two years), I asked a couple friends for mystery recommendations, because I needed to read books that had no relation whatsoever to what I was writing. I desperately needed distraction. A friend recommended the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters– and I got hooked, fast. What is more comforting than a Benedictine monk in the 1140s who keeps an herb garden, brews medicinal concoctions over a brazier, goes to Compline, Matins and Lauds every day, and solves murder mysteries? I’ll tell you what: nothing. Nothing is more comforting!

Here’s a passage from the one I’m currently reading (tiny bit of background: a married man has just been found murdered in the abbey infirmary; Hugh is the sheriff):

“And I,” said Hugh ruefully, “must go break the news to his widow and daughter, and make report to the lord abbot, and a sorry errand that will be. Murder in his own enclave!” (from Dead Man’s Ransom)

Hee hee ho ho! Come on, Hugh. Do you really think the lord abbot is going to be fazed by a murder in his enclave? This is, like, the twelfth murder in two years! (You’d be amazed at how often people are murdered in and around Benedictine abbeys. But don’t try it when Brother Cadfael is around. Nothing gets past him.)

Anyway, so, the idea behind reading mysteries, as I said, was to distract me from my writing. But that never works for long, and so now, of course, the mysteries are working on my writer’s brain and I’ve come up with an idea to write a mystery series with a YA protagonist in a magical realism world. Like Nancy Drew, except awesome, and magical realism. And NOT 450 PAGES LONG THESE F#%$ING FANTASIES ARE KILLING ME.


I don’t actually know if I would like writing mysteries. They require a lot of detail-control, and detail-control stresses me out sometimes. We’ll see. I have three other books I want to work on (I mean, besides my current revision of Fire and the writing of Book 3) before I get to this, so I guess I’ll just wait until, umm, the year 2016 and see if I’m still interested in the mystery idea then….