Writing Under The Influence (of Good Role Models)
I was flummoxed for a guest post topic until I went back to the interview I did with Mysteristas last year during the launch of my debut, The Black Hour. I noticed that, somehow, I’d not answered one of the questions put to me at that time.
I think I skipped it last year because I wanted to think about it before I answered—and then didn’t see it before I sent it off, dusting my hands, done and done.
But that’s a great question. I know I meant to answer it, so…why not answer it now?
Chris Coake is an award-winning author who now runs an MFA program at the University of Nevada, Reno. But before that? He was the *other* really good writer at my high school. (We also went to the same college.) Writing is a lonely job. You have to take your leave of the actual human beings who want to spend time with you and go spend time with fake humans you’re creating on paper. I think it helps to have a person in your life doing the necessary work of writing, showing you how the job works, how much effort it takes, how much time. When Chris’s extraordinary book of short stories We’re In Trouble came out in 2006, a lightbulb went off in my head. Oh, you have to write to be an author! And so I started writing, seriously, for the first time.
When I met Terence Faherty in 2008, I was pretty sure I was in the wrong place. I’d been assigned to his mystery-writing group at a retreat I’d been invited to. One problem: I didn’t write mystery. Oh ho, how wrong I was. The retreat, hosted by the wonderful Midwest Writers Workshop, was less than 48 hours. By the time I left the retreat, I was a mystery writer who had just rewritten the entire first fifteen pages of her novel. I had a mission: read mystery novels, join mystery-writing associations, go to mystery conferences, meet mystery people. Put me in the mystery group, baby. I was home. (Also, you should be reading Terence Faherty. His newest book, The Quiet Woman, is a fantastic mystery/romance/Irish ghost story.)
Scott Blackwood became the director of my MFA in creative writing program at Roosevelt University while I was already a student there. I had a great experience in my program, don’t get me wrong, but when Scott showed up, it was like the entire program around me leveled up. He was an award-winning novelist (read the beautiful See How Small), a teacher, a working writer in every sense of that phrase. That’s what I needed at that very moment, to see what a life as a working writer looked like. It looked hard, you guys. But, again, having a role model helped me understand what it would take from me to keep writing and publishing even after I went back into the workforce.
Bonus influencers and also a cheat because they’re related to me: My nieces, Jesse and Addison
I only met these crazy ladybugs seven years ago. That’s when they were born. They don’t write. Yet. What they do, though, is remind me what kind of writer I want to be, what kind of stories I want to tell. Little Pretty Things, my latest mystery, is dedicated to them (and their mother, my sister) because the book is about girls and young women and the ways in which they can harm (and maybe redeem) each other. Someday, when these girls are old enough to read the books I’ve written, if they want to, I hope they’ll enjoy the messed-up, strong, wronged, funny, sometimes delusional women characters that I so like to write. And, maybe, just maybe I’ll influence them to do whatever it is they most want to do.
Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Her second book, Little Pretty Things, is out now. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. Lori is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Originally from Indiana, she now lives with her husband and dog in Chicago. Visit her at LoriRaderDay.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter at @LoriRaderDay.