Join us this week with Guest Blogger Robb T. White, author or Dangerous Women and Perfect Killer.
People often ask, what’s my attitude towards “creative writing”? Well… It’s an ambivalent attitude. I see it as both therapy and addiction. It takes me out of my self and away from my consciousness of this world, my own limitations, my failures as a person, and being trapped in the bubble of my own life. Who can see the world as it is and not feel overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, impatience, and loathing? Writing anything removes you for a while from the sordid and the tedious both. It’s ironic for me because I despise actors as the some of the most useless of human beings on the planet. Yet to be involved in creating and deploying fictional beings across an imaginary landscape invented from one’s own mind is a joy, sometimes indescribable, comparable to a junkie’s fix. (That is, when it goes well.) But to what purpose? Indie crime writers don’t make money and there’s no fame to speak of. You can get some kudos from readers on Goodreads and Amazon, which I admit are flattering for the moment, but there are the negative critics (bloggers and readers) to offset them. It’s like running in place: some exercise for the body but you go nowhere.
What about crime writing? Now this is… niche writing, rarely more than entertainment of a low-brow sort, although some crime fiction is superior to so-called literary writing. I’ll take a third-rate crime novel over a formulaic academic or mainstream novel any day. Marlon Brando once said there’s nothing that turns the stomach faster than some celebrity talking about him- or herself on late-night TV. Nothing’s changed. Novels about middle-class relationships don’t interest me unless done with a scalpel as in Tirza, by the Dutch novelist Grunberg. I once devoured true-crime paperbacks, lamenting that the majority were so pedestrian in style despite the flamboyant subject matter. It isn’t that every criminal per se is complex. Far from it. Most are obtuse, empathy-deficient, and lacking in the emotional layering of ordinary people; they deserve the contempt society has for them (namely, prisons). Crime fiction, however, comes with an expectation of larger-than-life characteristics, plot violence (a kind that affords a “new” view of reality, not just cursing, stealing, and killing), and gutsy rule-breaking in narrative point of view. Both Dostoevsky and Camus qualify as crime-fiction writers in that sense. Besides, no one disputes Milton’s Satan is more interesting than the dullard “hero” Adam.
What writers got you writing? I’m still enamored of my usual favorites, those beautiful writers like Thomas Harris, Martin Cruz Smith, and David Lindsey. I should mention the anti-influence of those other writers, whom a reader can cull from any New York Time’s bestseller list. Those Christie imitators and the endless Dreck of cozies cranked out like spoiled sausage ever since. If you crack open ten novels from the mystery section of any library shelf or supermarket rack, you’ll see in 9 what’s waiting for you from the first page on: the same dull writing, cute plot escapes and solutions, chatty (or comfortably nonconformist) narrating, and stockpiled banalities.
Lissa: Thanks Robb. I have to say, I agree on all points. Screw boring books.