Monday, September 15, 2014

Sisters in Crime Blog Hop

Today I'm joining the Sisters in Crime Blog-Up. This is a very loose round robin of writers talking about books and reading and writing. You don't have to be a member of SinC to participate, and I've tagged at the end of my piece another writer who is not a member. If you want to participate, or learn more go to

SinC has offered several questions for bloggers to choose from and I've picked three. The first is one that comes up in different forms.

If someone said, "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?

The problem with this statement about preferences is that it suggests it is acceptable to draw an arbitrary line between books according to gender. The line could just as easily be drawn according to date of publication, birthplace of the author, time of story, setting, number of pages, type of book binding, or any other category and all would be equally irrelevant and invalid. A devoted reader looks for any of a number of qualities in a book but gender of the author isn't one of them. I look for a good story, well written, with intelligent insights and interesting characters. The idea of dismissing large numbers of books because the author doesn't fit into a certain category means only that I'm missing a large number of books I might enjoy. The arbitrary line makes me narrow, not a person of discerning taste.

My second response is specific to mystery writing and crime fiction. It is not possible to read the best in this genre without reading books by women. Women have been major figures in this genre since the beginning. Seeley Regester, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Agatha Christie, Craig Rice, Ngaio Marsh, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron, and hundreds more have explored and developed the crime novel since Edgar Allan Poe.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

I'm reading three books at the moment. I'm reading PASSAGE TO JUNEAU by Jonathan Raban, a nonfiction book about sailing from Seattle to Alaska, and one of the most fascinating books I've yet encountered about the ocean, Indians, sailing, and history. I'm alternating this with one of my regular efforts to get through a classic, which today is SWANN'S WAY by Proust. I'm hoping I won't peter out this time. And third is a mystery for which I'm a beta reader, the fourth in a series set on Beacon Hill. I've loved the first three, so I'm confident I'll love this one too, but I'm reading it to find flaws or weaknesses, which is different from reading for pleasure. The mss is by Kathleen Valentine, whose blog link is given below.

If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

This kind of question usually elicits standard responses--persevere no matter what, write what you know (or what you love), focus on craft, and the like. All of these are worthwhile, but anyone can give this advice. I have mentored several writers over the years. In my view, mentoring means more than having a casual conversation about writing, and there is no one word of advice I would tell every beginning writer. But each writer comes to a point where she or he isn't sure about how to move ahead. I don't have the answer either, but I have a better sense of how to find it. I know what questions to ask.

To answer in a way that is useful for readers of this blog, I think I would tell a beginning writer to write what you want to write, and when you are uncertain how to move forward, look at other writers you admire, talk to the ones you know or meet at events. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and support. Writers, especially mystery writers, will stop and spare you a few minutes of their time and more of their experience and wisdom.

As instructed, I'm tagging Kathleen Valentine at

So that participants' posts can be publicized through social media channels, SinC asks that we tweet our link using the hashtag #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational (if you are on Twitter), or email directly (if not on Twitter).


  1. Hi, Susan,

    I like your thoughtful responses to these questions. We are friendly with a doctor who is an avid mystery reader. When I offered him one of my novels, he gave it back to me, explaining that he doesn't read women mystery writers. And I soon discovered this was quite true. Can work the other way as well--although I think female readers are more open-minded. This is one reason many women who write mystery and crime fiction use initials, to deal with closed minds.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Jacquie. I understand the use of initials and pseudonyms, but as we know, many readers are missing some terrific stories and exhibiting a narrow-mindedness that they wouldn't believe true of themselves in any other area of life.

  3. Great subjects. I would also add, with regard to advice for new writers= join [or form your own] critique group as this helps with motivation, learning the craft of writing, improves productivity and also helps with isolation. [Could also join Sisters in Crime too, if that's not too much like promotion]

    1. Good advice, and I would certainly encourage anyone to join SinC. It's a great group.

  4. Thoughtful responses. I have to admit, though, that I favor books written by women although I don't look for them exclusively. Rather, I prefer stories with strong female leads.

  5. I also tend to pick up books by women first, but I have favorite writers who are men, and I would never want to read in only one genre. One of my favorite writers is in the LGBT community.