Dec Q&A (2)
Q, Liz asks, on behalf of several people: The Martinelli novels explore queer themes and issues in a highly textual way, but similar themes arise in the Russell novels, not just through the obvious presence of lesbians, but in the subtext. Is this intentional, or merely fortuitous?
(We’ve found it highly rewarding to apply queer theory to the Russell books. Hours of fun. Thanks!)
A: Queer themes and issues, huh? Iâ€™m not sure what you mean by this, although certainly, you can catch glimpses of gay men and lesbians in most of my books, some central, others in the background. Russell may move through a society made largely of white people, but that doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s entirely monochromaticâ€”regional differences and varying sexual orientation are two ways of showing the texture of a society. And if, as research suggests, ten percent of human bodies are born wired to respond to their own gender, thatâ€™s a thing that should be reflected in fiction as well.
Q: Edna asks, Have you read the work of Mary Renault? If so, what do you think of her mid-career switch from plain fiction to historical fiction? As a writer of both, what do you see as the advantages/disadvantages?
A: I am a writer of genre fiction, mostly crime with one venture into fantasy. Within the crime genre, police procedurals and historical mysteries are two, as it were, neighborhoods I spend time in. But mainstream fiction? I suppose FOLLY comes closest, but even that is a suspense
Thatâ€™s the problem with classifying fiction, isnâ€™t it? Relatively few books slot neatly into the divisions.
Q: Recent comments:â€œI’m a lesbian mom raising a young daughter with my partner in the midwest, and was salivating to hear about Kate & Lee’s life in SF as parents. Unfortunately, I really didn’t feel like I got itâ€; â€œIt appear[ed] that you didn’t really want to write a Martinelli and could only do it if you could also bring in Holmes. I did enjoy it but I think the reading audience of Martinelli books may be different to those who love the Mary Russell novels and possibly you are diluting each novel for the readerâ€; â€œNo Russell till ’09? Have mercy, Laurie, I’m an old lady after all!â€; â€œWhat will be necessary to put on the table to negotiate (reads bribery) to put a sequel to CALIFIAâ€™S DAUGHTERS sort of up the line?â€; etc.
A: To my amusement, I find that my Cunning Plan of varying my books from the beginning, and thereby establishing myself as a crime writer and not just a writer of series X or Y, has not been entirely successful. Clearly, a series is a black hole, and the longer the series, the weightier its pull on the affections of readers.
But what happens when there are two black holes in the universe? Does the one begin to pull at the other (ie, Russell beginning to pull in Kate Martinelliâ€™s world?) Does the bigger one swallow up all the energy in an authorâ€™s universe, leaving the occasional blip of a standalone to escape its pull?
Iâ€™m sorry there wasnâ€™t enough Kate in ART OF DETECTION. Iâ€™m sorry there wasnâ€™t any Russell at all in it; sorry, too, that CALIFIAâ€™S DAUGHTERS (paperback original, pseudonymous) hasnâ€™t brought in enough to pay my car insurance, much less my mortgage, and so will only find a sequel when Iâ€™m free of economic considerations. And Iâ€™m sorry you wonâ€™t find Kate, Mary Russell, or Dianâ€™s ancestors in TOUCHSTONE.
Some writers find enough freedom within a series that they donâ€™t need to break away from it. Others of us chafe just a little, and remind ourselves that when readers care enough to want more, itâ€™s a sign weâ€™ve done something right.
If only I could give up sleep, I might manage a more efficient writing scheduleâ€¦