The Men in My Writing Life - Kathryn Lively
Every time I agree to guest post on a blog about my latest mystery novel, DEAD BARCHETTA, I feel I should insert an apology somewhere. This work represents about six years of my life. I began outlining the story sometime in 2005, and while attending a RushCon - the largest annual gathering of Rush fans in the world - I offered up for their charity auction the opportunity to become a "guest character" in the book. The winning bidder, thankfully, was very patient with me, considering I had told him I expected to have a draft for him within the year. Six years later...
The draft I had promised him, too, was to have been markedly different from the book that is available now. In the early stages of planning DEAD BARCHETTA, I had a different title in mind...and a different character. Since my last mystery, PITHED featured a male protagonist/sleuth, I wanted a female character for my next work - specifically a female musician. Around this time I'd read so many kick-ass, tight-pants wearing heroines that left me awed, and I wanted to create a persona readers would enjoy along with the likes of Stephanie Plum. I'd cross Joan Jett with Anita Blake and really turn the mystery genre on its back!
Problem was, I'd get a chapter or two into the first draft and...nothing. I'd hit walls and blockades, I'd fine something on television, then the baby would need my attention and I set Kick-Ass aside to pursue other ventures. Yet for years, the book remained in the back of my mind and I'd occasionally jot down a line of possible dialogue in my work notebook, and keep sticky notes that reminded me to steer the plot in this direction and that.
After a few years of this procrastination (and thankfully that winning bidder never checked up on me), I came to accept that the reason I could not get the book off the ground was because the main character didn't suit the story. More than that, the character's gender didn't suit. Now, this is not to say that I have trouble writing female characters, but I find perhaps I have an unconscious tendency to take on challenges. I am not male, therefore I find more comfort writing male leads because I enjoy learning from readers whether or not I did it correctly.
After my first novel, LITTLE FLOWERS was published, an interviewer remarked to me how well I had personified a supporting player, a detective investigating the crime that happens in the first chapter. I thought at first he had complimented me on getting all the procedural activity correct, but he implied that the character seemed real to him, and he was surprised that a woman had written him so well!
Same with PITHED. Granted, the sleuth Andy Farmer is based upon my father, so I had 30 years of knowledge base to work with there, but again people let me know how much they loved Andy.
As for DEAD BARCHETTA's Lerxst? He is probably the son I never had. He emerged slowly from my writing subconscious and came into character as I began working with younger men in my day job. Having the environment to inspire me helped shaped Lerxst as a man, while conversations with my closest friend (a sometime musician, who is also male) took care of the nuances. Once Lerxst came to life, the story followed rather quickly.
Does this mean I should only write male sleuths? I don't know. I do find, however, it is getting easier to do, and that means the next challenge in my writing career is to write a lead female. I'll let you know how that turns out.
Kathryn Lively is an author of mystery. Please visit her online at http://www.kathrynlively.com or view her author page at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Kathryn-Lively/e/B004FW06U8/) and friend her at Goodreads (
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To read my review of "Dead Barchetta", just click HERE.